Meet the Maker: Alice Diaz de Santillana
Ahead of The Italian Glass Weeks, we speak to the glass artist Alice Diaz de Santillana, great-granddaughter of Paolo Venini.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you will be showing at The Italian Glass Weeks this year, and any new materials or techniques you have used to create these works?
This year I will be showing some of my largest work so far, inspired by Roman columns. All unique pieces, free hand blown, some engraved with different linear patterns. I love the idea of people interacting more with glass by touching it, sitting on it, being creative with it. Glass is a soft and smooth material and strangely has a warm and sensual feel to it. I have also danced freely with other type of sculptures, using very thick fascias of texturised glass. I love to use classical Venetian techniques in my work, there are so many interesting ones that are really worth being preserved.
What have been your main inspirations for this latest body of work?
I spent most of last year in Rome walking around the Roman Forums and looking at these amazing skeletons of the past. Architecture is fascinating, especially when it’s been consumed and aged by time and the natural elements. The way stone and marble react and change their textures and shapes, how they break or chip without ever losing their solidity and grace. With my larger sculptures I wanted to reproduce the feeling of walking in an Archaeological site made of glass elements. Transparent ‘ghosts’ of age and time. My other inspirations came from little elements of which nature is rich: insects.
Image: Alice Diaz de Santillana, Stili I, 2021. Free Hand Blown Glass, Engraved. Murano, Italy, 46 x 30cm. Courtesy of Alice Diaz de Santillana and Elizabeth Royer S.R.L.
You have mentioned before that you’ve drawn on skills that you’ve learned in Haute Couture — can you tell us a little more about this and the way it has influenced your practice?
I found so many similarities between Haute Couture and traditional glass making. The importance of teamwork and patience, every little detail is made with so much attention and it is always a collaboration of great knowledge, meaning also lots of tricks for special effects, and I find that fascinating. Glass is a very fragile element, like Couture fabrics, laces and embroidery, but with good care these materials can last for centuries. The transparencies, the illusion of lightness, the plastic three dimensionality that is achieved by layering different types of fabric often times resembles the process of glassmaking.
You come from a great legacy of artists and designers in glass, but clearly bring your own creativity and style to the medium; is there a dream project that you would like to realise or a new experiment in glass that has yet to be tried?
There are so many experiments that I am looking forward to working on. The next project will definitely be a large installation, as I am very intrigued by the idea of working around the concept of space, bringing more architectural elements into my work. I would love to create something for the outdoors as well, glass and nature are quite an interesting combination. I am very respectful of materials and history, I don’t feel an urge to push the material to necessarily create new things. I prefer to work around the idea of bridging past techniques with modern necessities, in order to create objects or sculptures that are free of the concept of time.
What are you most looking forward to at The Italian Glass Weeks?
I am always most curious about what the younger artists have created, how they are able to be quite free in their approach to the material, sometimes creating very interesting pieces that feel fresh and new. It’s always interesting to see how the past is perceived and interpreted with an eye towards the future. I like to see how a really old practice can be given a new life by a fresh perspective. I am also intrigued by the contamination that glass will have with other media, other materials. And of course, I want to see the big Venini light installations at Le Stanze del Vetro. My ancestors are always a great source of inspiration for me.
The Italian Glass Weeks take place in Milan from 10-18 September and Venice, 17-25 September 2022.