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Swedish designers, South African crafters team up to create Story vases

April 14, 2011 | 11:44 am

What I love most about these Story vases made of beaded glass: Although the collection was organized by a nonprofit and proceeds advance a social good, the vases stand on their own as compelling pieces of design.

It helps that the vases are lighted like a museum display, and it also helps that the venue is Spazio Rossana Orlandi, the celebrated Italian gallery that is exhibiting no fewer than four dozen designers during Milan's design week.

The Story vases are holding their own just fine. The collection, organized by the nonprofit Editions in Craft, pairs the Swedish design studio Front with the Siyazama Project, a program aiding marginalized women in rural South Africa.

To create the glass vases, the designers of Front interviewed five Siyazama women and compiled personal stories that included their dreams — dreams of flying in an airplane for the first time, of owning a house, of getting married, of having their work appreciated in other parts of the world. The Siyazama women then spelled out portions of their stories in beads wrapped around a wooden mold. When the beads were set, the mold was removed and a Swedish glassblower filled the void, created a transparent page for the women's stories.

The results are one-of-a-kind objects: The irregular silhouettes, the varied thickness of the glass and the occasional bulge protruding between letters create a wonderful effect. Because the piece is transparent, the portions of glass that fall between letters can look like a series of lenses, each refracting light with subtle variation.

Editions in Craft co-founder Ikko Yokoyama said the projects helps to revive a traditional art, to form a collaboration where both designers and fabricators are celebrated, and to generate income for the craftswomen. Each vase is 1,440 euros, about $2,100, and Yokoyama said a "tiny" fee goes to the designers and the bulk of the proceeds will go to the Siyazama women directly.

For a few more images from Spazio Rossana Orlandi, keep reading ...

The entrance to Spazio Rossana Orlandi's courtyard, where the green and white blown-glass light fixture is by the Canadian design and manufacturing firm Bocci.



The courtyard installation includes chests of drawers made of vintage suitcases, a design of JamesPlumb.


The courtyard is transformed at night and an epic table gets its finishing touches for a design week dinner.

-- Craig Nakano in Milan, Italy

Dinner table photo: Craig Nakano / Los Angeles Times

All other photos: Franco Forci / For The Times


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