Arts & Culture
Make Sure to See These Exquisite Glass-Blown Pieces at Art Fair Philippines
The collaboration for these works was described as "the dream team."
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In the imminent rush of this current lifestyle, where “instant” equates to efficiency and mass production translates to success, the niceties of thoroughly managed and meticulously planned craftsmanship and artistry are lost in a cesspool of copycat designs that flood commercial markets with uniform mediocrity.

It is in seemingly sleepy towns all over the world where traditions have been kept alive and exquisite. In the Philippines, weavers of Ilocos, the embroiderers of Taal, Batangas, and the wood craftsmen in Paete and Pampanga, to name a few, are some of the craftsmen who have preserved their generational crafts.

Delight, by Manahan and Pacinek

In Europe where time-honored craftsmen are honored and respected, some of them unnamed, their work is preserved in monuments, edifices, and homes, and passed on to the present generation, until a time comes when they feel the need to reboot and update designs, while keeping the techniques and principles of their craft intact.

In January 2016, while visiting the workshop of master glassmaker Jiri Pacinek, a Filipino team observed Pacinek’s collaborative art projects with Chinese artist Sun Liang, fashion designer Blanka Matragi, and glass artist Filip Houdek. Seeing the potential of Filipino designers participating in a similar endeavor, the team Spetakularis, composed of Stephanie Frondoso and Lay Ann Orlina, and its Czech partners Lucie Cerna and Jana Minolova, organized a search for possible Filipino designers to collaborate with Pacinek.

Zeroing in on industrial designers whom Frondoso equated with the present-day Renaissance man, “because they can draw, sculpt, create inventions, and most importantly, work with a wide variety of materials and crafts people,” by process of elimination, three names surfaced: Gabriel Lichauco, whose furniture pieces awarded him the Asian Star 2014 at Manila FAME and Singaplural International Furniture Fair Singapore, and at Maison et Objet Asia 2015; Stanley Ruiz, creator of interactive art sound while living in New York from 2005 to 2008 and later in Manila, fashioning “modern day everyday objects from raw organic materials fused together with machine-wrought processes and elements,” as described by Silverlens Gallery; and Lilianna Christina Manahan, awarded in 2014 as one of Six Young Asian Rising Designers at Maison et Objets in Singapore, and whose products, rife with literary and historical research, translate to whimsical, fanciful functional objets and furniture pieces.

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Pacinek and Stephanie Frondoso (kneeling) with the artists and the Czech team

In October 2016, the three designers accompanied by Frondoso headed for Lindava and Novy Bor, the glass-making regions of the Czech Republic, where intense work days followed with Pacinek, commencing at 6 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m. with just an hour break in between, following the typical daily work flow of the glass blowers.

Observing first-hand the style of the master they were working with, Lichauco, Ruiz and Manahan, who came prepared with drawings of their concepts, changed portions of their designs as befitting the craft’s technique. Lichauco, inspired by the blowpipes and barrels of leftover broken glass, created a sculptural piece of functional art. Ruiz, sticking to his aesthetic of using non-colors, combined the glass with wood, a material he is familiar with. Manahan edited smaller details and focused on those that could be enlarged and less fragile, but with a more powerful result.

The three designers experienced working in the European tradition of guildsmen. Pacinek introduced them to the best craftsmen in the region, each with a specialization, availing of their expertise in stained glass, witrage, and lighting design. All three had sculptural lighting pieces which were installed by Filip Houdek, a well-respected craftsman in this field.

Growth II by Ruiz and Pa?inek

Pacinek, who picked them up daily at 5:45 a.m., took the designers to meet a master engraver named Tesaj, one of the few left with the skill to execute historical cutting techniques. The designers were also taught the use of traditional engraving machines. Last November, Pacinek flew over to the Philippines with a portable furnace for a demonstration and exhibit of his work at glass artist Ramon Orlina’s Museo Orlina in Tagaytay.

Pacinek will be back this month for Art Fair Philippines. He will finesse the designs of Lichauco, Ruiz, and Manahan, which will be exhibited at the Salcedo Auctions booth, showcasing the meticulously crafted pieces born out of collaborative efforts of the young Filipino designers and Czech mastercraftsmen, underscoring the importance of perfection in disciplined craftsmanship, a rarity in this cut-and-paste modern world.

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As an organizer, Stephanie Frondoso described the collaboration: “It was a dream team.” Art Fair Philippines, February 16 to 19, The Link, Ayala Center, Makati.

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Tats Rejante Manahan
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