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Diego Olivero’s Kaanch series transports traditional glass art to NYCxDesign 2023
Kaanch glass series by Diego Olivero Studio
Image: Courtesy of Diego Olivero Studio

Diego Olivero’s Kaanch series transports traditional glass art to NYCxDesign 2023

Adding to his oeuvre of collaborations with artisans around the world, Olivero conceives a series of sculptural objects and lamps with Indian artisans in New Delhi.

by Anushka Sharma
Published on : May 24, 2023

The contemporary design and art that permeate throughout the world today rest on a foundation of traditional techniques that have evolved over aeons. The intricate artisanship across cultures, however, lost its visibility and value somewhere in the process of industrialisation and the consequent practice of mass consumerism. Objects that swiftly came out of factories in throngs happened to be more ‘valuable’ and the slow, grounded craftsmanship retreated away from the spotlight. Notwithstanding its absence from spaces of international perceptibility and accessibility for years, the traditional craft is experiencing a revival with artists and designers reinterpreting its archaic semantics in contemporary tongues. What will ensue when the history of glass technology in India is injected into a modern-day ensemble of objects?

New York City resounds with its annual celebration of design, creativity and culture, NYCxDesign—echoes of which are heard around the world. For over a decade, the design festival, which returns every May, has attracted countless visitors to New York to immerse themselves in the cross-pollination of ideas and inspirations. For the design event taking place from May 18 to 25, 2023, New York and Guatemala-based Diego Olivero Studio conceive a one-of-a-kind series in cahoots with the Indian artisans in Delhi —translating their craft into collectable design objects and lamp designs. Dubbed Kaanch, which translates to ‘glass’ in Hindi, the unique series features the collaborative creations of glass art by the studio and the artisans created using Borosilicate glass. The collection partakes in Objects That Disobey, a design exhibition by Materiaaal. “My inspiration for the Kaanch collection draws from the vibrant colours of India, the surrounding environment's hues and scents, and the exquisite art of glasswork, which intertwine in the vessels,” says Diego Olivero, industrial designer and founder of his eponymous design studio.

Olivero’s multidisciplinary career is underpinned by creativity, craftsmanship and social consciousness. Specialising in sustainable objects, furniture design and interior spaces, the studio partners with artisans around the world to bridge handcrafted sustainable design with the global market. “The Kaanch collection represents a crucial part of my artistic practice, which involves collaborating with artisans from different parts of the world,” shares Olivero. “Through this collaboration, I constantly seek to explore and push the limits of techniques and materials, which ultimately results in the creation of innovative and idiomatic objects,” he adds.

Indian history of glass technology is layered, dating back to 1730 BCE. Borosilicate glass, on the other hand, is a German invention from the late 1800s—a special type of glass with a very low probability of thermal expansion, and a subsequent low chance to crack under extreme temperature changes. Its unparalleled durability makes it a highly preferred glass choice for projects ranging from high-end restaurants to wineries. Kaanch marks Olivero’s first foray with Borosilicate and his effort to interweave a material and art that are perched far apart on the historical timeline. “Throughout the process, we encountered numerous challenges as we tried to determine the best approach for creating each piece, from manipulating the glass to determining the ideal temperature, and even packaging the final product. Despite some setbacks, we were ultimately able to create a collection that we're extremely proud of,” explains the designer.

The Kaanch series takes cues from the opposing entities of chaos and stillness, noise and peace, colours and transparency, and connections and independence. The diversity sits lucidly on the compositions, taking the form of a dialogue between silent lines of transparent glass and vibrant squiggly elements and beads that protrude from them. Each piece reiterates the themes by adhering colourful glass gestures to empty vessels, culminating in 11 singular pieces—lamp design and sculptural objects—that beautifully express their many emotions. The alluring glass design objects make a strong statement in any space and sculptural lamps illuminate the ambience with their iridescent aura. “I was thrilled to collaborate with these incredibly skilled glass artisans with their historical knowledge of glass combined with their modern visions. These objects contain all the beauty, colours, flavours, noise, and peace that is India,” Olivero notes.

As a part of Materiaaal’s Objects That Disobey, the Kaanch series aims to reinvent the familiar, creating unexpected moments of thought, play, reflection, and surprise. Furthermore, the ensemble reinforces Olivero’s commitment to ensuring artisans’ visibility and pushing the extant boundaries of design. The designer now works on augmenting the collection with glass installations that captivate viewers by redefining material limits. The product designs by Olivera highlights the responsibility that lies with each creative professional to perpetuate fair trade practices and representation. Through international platforms such as NYCxDesign, the message amplifies and nudges onlookers to contemplate the global impact of design and the power of individual initiatives coalesced into a much larger wave.

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