Though master of crystal and glass design Orfeo Quagliata, 39, has been producing his own transparent wonders for several years (he's been working with glass since age 12 and heads up Phuze Design), a recent collaboration with Swarovski Elements has led the Mexico-based artist to explore a more subversive side of the material. After the success of his initial partnership with the crystal leaders (he made five exclusive martini shakers for Skyy Vodka, like one that evokes Mr. Big's character and a lipstick tube, for the Mexico City Sex and the City 2 premiere), Quagliata's new work featured in a show at San Francisco, California's Velvet Da Vinci's gallery this month makes almost a 180. Celebrating both the beauty of Swarovski's crystals and showing a "lack of respect" by fearlessly grinding and melting the pieces, Quagliata's irreverence and a playful approach to material mark his sleek designs.
Among his more outlandish explorations in jewelry, glassware and sculpture is the aptly named "Crystal Death," a design inspired by gladiators' iconic morningstar weapon. This crystal implement is a prime example of Quagliata's tendency to transform something with negative associations (in this case, a piece traditionally used for killing) into a stunning work of art.
Quagliata describes the show's one-off designs (that inspired Phuze's new production line) as "coming out of necessity." While he primary occupies himself with beauty and combining unexpected materials, Quagliata also focuses on functionality. In the case of his geometric glassware, the cups are made from Pyrex (a sturdy heat- and chemical-resistant material) for those craving chic, faceted mugs for their coffee. Drawing from his work for the exhibition, Quagliata simplified the production design from tall glasses with elaborate handles to short cups with a single colorful knob.
Other offshoots of the exhibition include Phuze's Disco Line for which Quagliata removes the crystals' foil with acid and fills hollow pieces with them. Unlike standard jewelry with crystals fixed into settings, the Disco Line's pieces are "shimmering little worlds for the crystals to live in." A standout from the line's delicate rings, earrings and pendant-like pieces, the "Alpha Chain" contrasts the lightness of the crystals with heavy steel links.
For a look at Quagliata's one-of-a-kind pieces, catch his show before it ends 28 August 2011. Visit Phuze Design for a look at Quagliata's other jewels, like his glammed-up glass candy rings colored with ground crystals. Currently showing at Swarovski's booth for Accessory Circuit Intermezzo in New York, his work will hit London and Shanghai soon. While his pieces are now available for purchase from his London distributor, they will be sold at MoMA next year.