In Conversation with
Vissio, Glass Studio. Mexico City, Mexico
Vissio Founder Brian Thoreen's Studio. Courtesy of Brian Thoreen.
Vissio’s founders, Brian Thoreen, Hector Esrawe, and Emiliano Godoy push the boundaries of glass making with their seamless designs wilder than your imagination. You’ll find these brilliant creatives beneath a jacaranda tree in the heart of Mexico City, sketching designs that challenge the norm of size, form and utility. Through experimentation and collaboration anything is possible for the team at Vissio, a studio that we are dreaming to get inside of.
Hi Vissio team! We’d love to know a little bit more about you. What is your practice and when did you start?
Simple question with a tricky answer! Vissio is a platform to advance experimental design in glass. Vissio was formed in 2018, but we are allied with Nouvel the premier glass maker in America. Nouvel recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. The three founding designers, Brian Thoreen, Hector Esrawe, and Emiliano Godoy each have established design practices both under eponymous brands and via various collaborations. So it’s a range between 2 – 25 years depending on perspective. Nouvel initially suggested the designers do something more experimental for an exhibition and the collaboration went so well that we turned it into a partnership that became Vissio.
How would you describe your studio space?
Since we are a platform we have a pretty open ended or maybe even a “post-studio” approach to making. Our design sessions and meetings usually take place in one another’s offices, studios, or homes. The glass studio of Nouvel is where the magic happens. They are part of a parent company that is one of the largest manufacturers of high-end liquor, perfume and food bottles in the world with automated factories that spew fire and glass in machines akin to something out of “The City of Lost Children”. While on the Nouvel side, works are manifested in a choreography of heat by the artisans in a fully handmade process that makes one want to buy tickets and simply grab a seat and watch. The designers with sketches and rough ideas at hand, work with the master artisans in the shop to test, challenge and push the limits off what is possible with glass both in technique and concept.
Studio of Emiliano Godoy. Tuux Studio. Courtesy of Tuux.
Studio of Genevieve Lutkin. Esrawe Studio. Courtesy of Esrawe Studio.
Nouvel Studio. Courtesy of Vissio.
What is a favourite part of your studio practice?
Definitely working with the Nouvel artisans. They are so knowledgeable, technically gifted, and always willing to go with our crazy ideas. We would be nowhere without them.
When it comes to the studio, does location matter? Where would your dream studio location be if travel and money didn’t matter?
We have a pretty dreamy set up. It’s not uncommon for us all to meet at Héctor’s house in his beautiful garden in Mexico City, eat chilequiles under the jacaranda, talk and draw. Then we take the drawings we find most convincing to the glass factory and see if it works. Glass is a finicky material so sometimes it takes a few rounds of chilequiles to find the right solution. Location only matters so far. It’s important to find the space that is most conducive of making.
'Burnout'. Courtesy of vissiovissio.com
Have you got a key figure, moment or cross road that has changed or heavily influenced your technique?
The piece that was a real ah-ha moment for us was Precarious. We wanted to produce work that would get around the size limitations of glass that the ovens impose. We started thinking about how to elevate the glass. We found that blowing bubbles on these steel and brass plates allows the glass to meet the viewer more at their eye line without having to rest on a table top or a plinth. Conceptually this piece is also about fragility and balance, something that’s all on our minds these days. When we finished the work in its three different expressions, we knew we had something special, not just the work but how we worked with Nouvel. We wanted the collaboration between designers and the plant to extend beyond the founders. That was how Vissio as a design platform was born.
'Precarious'. Courtesy of vissiovissio.com
What is your design ethos?
We firmly believe in the power of collaboration and experimentation. Vissio was founded on the idea of removing the barriers to entry-level glass making, which are very high, in order to invite designers who don’t have experience with glass to experiment with the material. Ultimately, it’s about finding ways to get outside of the “group think” that has kept glass work pigeonholed as a particular craft. Retaining this craft is very important to us, conceptually as well as technically, but we feel it’s important to push the boundaries of glass-making. We want to employ Nouvel’s glass craftsmanship via experimental, contemporary design thinking. Pushing the characteristics of glass by combining them with unexpected materials and processes.
From forming initial ideas, to creating a finalised work, could you talk us through the processes that are used to bring your ideas to life?
As this is a collaboration and always different in how the process unfolds, I will speak about the initial collaboration between the three founding partners. Since the beginning all three of us worked really well together even though all of our practices are very different.
Normally we start by brainstorming ideas based on what we are planning, whether it’s for a specific exhibition or just a new random idea. This usually quickly leads to laughing and sketching some horrible ideas but always comes around to something we start feeling good about. Once we have a direction or concept we agree on, we start playing with models and finding colors and materials to work with. Because Hector and Emilaino have the most experience in the glass shop, once they are satisfied that we have something ready to bring in, we load up for the long traffic-filled ride to the factory and present the idea(s) to the shop forman. This point in the process inevitably comes with a lot of side-eyes and “are you crazy’s” before we settle on what they feel is a doable option for a test. Once the testing begins, that is where things start to open up. This is where ‘we’ working with ‘them’ start to learn from each other and find the nuances of what does and doesn’t work for our crazy idea and their skill. Everything always changes once we are in the shop and have the molten glass there in front of us doing what it does best.
Vissio team collaborating with Nouvel's artisans to create their collection 'Burnout'. Courtesy of Vissio.
Vissio team exploring design ideas for their collection '2 Bars 1 Glass'. Courtesy of Vissio.
Who would be your dream partner to collaborate with?
We have a long list that starts with Pierre Chareau (This is Brian writing this).
Is there a particular book you would recommend to creatives alike?
We like this idea - a Vissio book club! As for what creatives should read, just do a deep dive into what you love and what makes you weird. That’s where the good stuff is.
Whose studio are you eager to get inside of?
We have an even longer list that starts with Richard Wilson. (This is Brian writing this one too).
'Apricot Dream'. Courtesy of Vissio.