Breaking the Mould with Rebecca Hoyes

A new conversation between textiles and glass

Murano, Venice, known as the Glass Island, is a truly magical place where traditional and contemporary objects are made that reflect the world famous Italian craft excellence. These technically and aesthetically stunning pieces proudly hold onto their roots, dating back to the 13th century, but in the past years the Venetian glass has sadly been struggling to survive. Innovation as ever has become the magic formula to enhance the traditional traits that have made the Venetian glass so renowned. 

Breaking the Mould (BTM) is an open-ended research project led by AUT with a focus on experimental approaches to the traditional techniques of glass making, taking the Venetian glass as a starting point. The project consists of an international team of designers and a material scientist, with the shared goal of investigating the possibilities of introducing innovation to glass production, whilst respecting the identity of the Venetian tradition. Each project undertaken has been a response to the previous, forming a beautiful story of a process in progress. 

Following phase one BTM01, titled The Mould, where the mould itself was explored, British designer Rebecca Hoyes was invited to the project for BTM02, named Pattern, to research the possibility of using fabrics to create textures in glass. Hoyes’ thoughtful approach to design takes her all over the world, collaborating with artisans, designers and retailers to create collections that link craft and innovation, while celebrating the history of a technique. “It was an exciting challenge to use textile techniques in the creation of pattern with unfamiliar materials,” said Rebecca Hoyes.

At the heart of this project was the wonderfully rich heritage of Venice and by introducing new design approaches during BTM02 the team’s aim was to ensure its legacy lives on in a new and exciting way.  Hoyes was involved in the selection and interpretation of traditional Venetian textile patterns, looking into the archives and embarking on a journey of rediscovery and reinvention.

Starting from her London studio, Hoyes led a textile workshop, exchanging ideas with the creative team of AUT (Riccardo Berrone, Federico Bovara and Lucca Coppola) and designer Chiara Onida. Together they developed fabrics that would become the moulds to the blow the glass into. “There is something fascinating about making with a distinct process like that to create something new,” said Rebecca Hoyes. Experimentation was key and so by looking at industrial materials and processes from a new perspective the team was able to explore the sheer scope of converting a heritage craft into a contemporary offering. 

Working with industrial materials and manipulating them was the driving force behind the project, transforming our perceptions and starting new conversations between textiles and glass. Wooden frames were used as looms to construct the fabrics, giving the team the ability to work intuitively and quickly. Silica fabric and ceramic yarns, materials that could stand the high temperature of the furnace, were embroidered, laser-cut, stitched and layered to create a series of inspiring and resilient textural patterns to be transferred onto the glass during the blowing process.

There is something fascinating about making with a distinct process like that to create something new.

Set alongside the enchanting lagoon the team was immersed in the cultural heritage of Venice, working in a traditional glass furnace to transfer the textile experiments onto glass.  This fascinating process translated the look of glass, taking the drapable qualities of fabric and embedding these during the molten phase, giving the hard materials a more tactile and flexible aesthetic. The patterns designed were tested in the furnace and used in combination with wooden moulds and bespoke metal structures to create the shapes of the glass pieces.

In this contemporary approach to production, designers and makers worked side-by-side, exchanging skills and knowledge for alternative outcomes that would spark new ideas. “Collaborations result in unexpected outcomes. I went into this with a very open mind and feel it is important as a designer to remain curious and open to new possibilities,” explained Hoyes. 

Hoyes’ ability to interpret the context of a project and collaborate with innovators outside her own discipline made her integral in the creative process from design to production, London to Venice. The result of BTM02 was 10 glass vessels in clear and coloured glass with a raw and experimental aesthetic, showing the range of patterns sampled during the process.

Collaborations result in unexpected outcomes. I went into this with a very open mind and feel it is important as a designer to remain curious and open to new possibilities.

Working with craftsmen strongly linked to the heritage of glass making gave this project a real honesty where designs were thoughtful and considered, not only to the tradition of the techniques but to the community who has built such as strong identity. Designers are leasing new life into our wonderful archive of craft and design and it is projects such as this that will see time-honored processes gain a new identity for future design.

For more information, please visit www.breaking-the-mould.com BTM-02/ Pattern is a project by AUT: Chiara Onida, Anna Perugini, Marco Zito; External Designer Rebecca Hoyes; Glass Expert: Dario Stellon; Scientific support: Tommaso Cavallin; Production: Salviati Srl 

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