Murano glass designs mesmerise in Venice exhibition

Murano glass designs mesmerise in Venice exhibition

Luca Nichetto curates ‘Empathic – Discovering a Glass Legacy’ at Venice’s Punta Conterie gallery (until 10 April 2022), featuring work by eight international designers made in Murano glass workshops

Italian designer Luca Nichetto presents ‘Empathic – Discovering a Glass Legacy’ at Venice’s Punta Conterie gallery (until 10 April 2022), showcasing the work of eight designers experimenting with Murano glass through colour, form and different techniques.

Luca Nichetto and Murano glass

Three figurines made of glass and inspired by Goldrake characters
‘Mecha’ by Luca Nichetto, one of three colourful glass robots evoking the designer’s childhood icons

‘Murano glass is my favourite material, and a key to understanding my design approach,’ says Nichetto, originally from nearby Venice. ‘From the tools most commonly used in traditional Murano glass craftsmanship, to exploring new techniques, many of my designs are inspired by glassmaking in Murano. I am lucky enough to have access to this universe since my early childhood, and today I incorporate Murano glass into more than half of my projects.’ 

Nichetto asked Ini Archibong, Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, GamFratesi, Benjamin Hubert, Richard Hutten, Elena Salmistraro and Marc Thorpe to each create a piece or small collection experimenting with glassmaking techniques, including blown glass, glass rods and cast glass, and letting memories and emotions guide their work. Each piece was brought to life by the skilled craftspeople of Murano, combining creativity and artisanal excellence. 

Eight variations on glass design

Tables made of round green glass tops mimicking the movement of water surface, with geometric concrete bases
‘Down by the water’ by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance

The designers’ interpretations are as varied and diverse as their backgrounds and signature aesthetics, from the colourful compositions by Benjamin Hubert and Richard Hutten to the craft-oriented vessels by GamFratesi, merging organic glass shapes with palafitte-like wooden bases inspired by the city of Venice. 

Ini Archibong’s piece recreated traditional African wooden masks (what he calls ‘four empathic and protective spirits that a person can encompass to navigate the earthly realm’) with intricate glasswork: ‘Knowing that there is a historic precedent of Muranese-African cultural exchange, it entertains the prospect of a continued dialogue between the cultures through craft and spirituality,’ he says.

Nichetto’s own contribution to the project featured armoured figurines from his childhood, while Elena Salmistraro’s mirror is flanked by reproductions of Gorgons’ serpents. Marc Thorpe recreated the colours of the lagoon in his striped vases, and the theme of water is also evident in Noe Duchafour-Lawrance’s pieces, small tables evoking the effect of water’s surface in impossibly neat detail. 

Glass vessels in grey, yellow and red, featuring wooden bases inspired by palafittes
‘Palafit’ by GamFratesi. The designers looked at the Venice lagoon and the city’s foundations, creating a small landscape composed of different forms in large blown glass lying on wooden sections obtained from bricole, the traditional poles that mark the waterways across the lagoon

‘As a designer, I have wanted to work with Murano’s artisans since visiting the island when I was younger, and I believe it’s important to support craft industries to ensure they don’t disappear,’ comments Hubert. ‘This project is about working with the local makers and helping to protect their irreplaceable expertise, as well as a desire to create an expression of the process that showcases the inherent qualities of glass as a material.’

Adds Thorpe: ‘We could consider this exhibition a tribute to the history, art and craft of Murano. However, this exhibition is actually a love song from Luca to Murano. The works sing, carrying with them an individual resonance of unbridled passion for the spirit of Murano, conducted as a sonate by Luca Nichetto. It is an honour to participate in this passion.’ §

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