Tokujin Yoshioka, Patricia Urquiola and a host of designers are working in glass. Producing pieces that are as innovative as they are engaging and cleverly pushing the boundaries of glass manufacturing even by Italian standards. Glass and Italy are on par with pasta and Italy. Designers line up to collaborate with the famed Murano craftsmen, Venini to start with and now a new generation of makers including Glas Italia and Fiam Italia, manufacturers who have taken the centuries-old glass-blowing techniques and reinvented them using the latest high-tech processes.
Stepping back a few years to when it all began, Fiam Italia's innovative skills with glass are probably best demonstrated by the Ghost chair designed by Cini Boeri and Tomu Katayanagi in 1987 and made from a single piece of toughened 12-millimetre thick glass. Simple and incredibly engaging, it's a design that has slipped through the decades without aging.
Established in 1973 by Vittorio Livi. Fiam Italia is grounded in traditional glass making techniques assisted by technologies and materials that give designers the flexibility to create pieces previously impossible to realise. The Fiam Italia collection includes designs by a wide and varied group of designers from Ron Arad to Tord Boontje and Danny Lane, as well as well-known Frenchman Philippe Starck who designed the Caadre mirror in 1996 that is one of the group's most recognisable and popular designs. New to Fiam Italia in 2012 are the Macramé coffee tables designed by Lucid Pevere and featuring a hand-interwoven spun glass base that is textured and flickers beautifully in the light, the flexible LLT desks designed for the home and the office, and Italian designer Rodolfo Dordoni's Luxor Bistrot side table that pays homage in form to the work of the great Eileen Gray.
Also known for their strong collaborations with designers, this year Glas Italia worked with conceptual designers Tokujin Yoshioka and Patricia Urquiola whose more etherial approach is one honed by Glas Italia since its beginnings in the 1970s and their connection with Shiro Kuramata. Founded by the Arosio family in Brianza, Italy, Glas Italia is based on traditional craftsmanship counterpointed by the latest technologies. They invented the manufacturing process to produce coloured mirror-plated glass and worked with the Italian maestro Ettore Sottsass to make some of the most dynamic pieces using this new technology.
For Patricia Urquiola, this partnership resulted in the Crossing table created using a special three-dimensional polychromatic decoration to produce a weaving pattern by overlapping lines and colours. Like the ideas being developed in glass today, as you move around the piece, your perception continually changes.