Laguna~B creative studio
Last Christmas, I received a special gift that came out of the furnaces of Murano: a Berlingot glass, a well-known piece of design that has belonged to the Venice lagoon aesthetic since the 90s and that was inspired by the homonymous French striped candies.
The object is branded “Laguna B”, the creative Venice-based company whose goal is to set the standards of excellence in the world of drinking glassware.
The luxury tableware brand signs “handmade quality products that last for generations” while combating consumerism and promoting responsible purchasing.
The history of Laguna B is relatively recent. The brain of the company is in Venice, in Dorsoduro head-quarter, while the productive heart resides in the furnaces of Murano.
Unlike the traditional Murano approach, however, which still centers its proposal around the local authenticity of the artisanal piece, as for the raw materials and the indigenous labor for the product certification, Laguna~B permeates the production with a contemporary and broader discourse:
We collaborate with local and international partners to carry out ENVIRONMENTAL, CULTURAL, and COMMUNITY projects benefiting Venice and the world.
From Laguna B website
The idea of contamination and constant innovation toward social, economic, and environmentally sustainable production methods is the magma of the company. For all intents and purposes, Laguna B is a multi-faceted hub that has already involved master craftsmen, artists, and designers who created prestigious collaborations with the company, as well as schools and universities, including among others an exchange program with an American glass school, the Pilchuck Glass School of Stanwood.
Laguna~B moves fast and in multiple directions, but it has not always been this way around the Venetian lagoon.
Since the 1200s, the master glassmakers were obliged to live in the Murano island and could not leave Venice without special permission. Many, however, managed to escape, exporting abroad their famous techniques.
Even in recent times, the slags of this approach continue hitting: this is the case of the artist and glassworker Lino Tagliapietra who landed in the United States in 1979, to initially hold a course at aforementioned the Pilchuck Glass School of Stanwood, and who dared “escaping” from the island of glass, which cost him the nickname of “the American” given by the locals.
“In California, young people paid and slept in tents to see me work the glass", he recalls during an interview, while talking about his worries concerning the depopulation and the loss of interest by the young generations of the Murano island in learning the ancient secret of this kind of craftsmanship. He pointed out a general tendency to abandon manual and artisan trades and, especially the absence of a real glass school in the lagoon.
So, while Murano is nowadays continuing to experience a downsizing of his furnaces and his age-old art, if not a crisis, Laguna~B is consciously steering the wheel to land it on a new way to conceive the glass industry, by melting the traditional culture with forward-thinking.
In our own small way, we've managed to get people of our generation excited about Murano.
Marcantonio Brandolini d’Adda, CEO and Art Director of Laguna~B
I had the chance to exchange a few words with Marcantonio Brandolini d'Adda, who, in 2016, took the reins of the company founded by his mother in 1994, Marie Brandolini d’Adda. Marie, a true icon for the Venetian community, was the author of the eccentric and recognizable redesign of the object that now stands as a symbol for the company: the drinking glass.
Marcantonio: “Laguna~B was born with my mother who starts reinterpreting the Goto de Fornasa, which was originally the glass that glassmakers blew at the end of the day, using production leftovers.
The colorful and chaotic glasses were the result of the geometries’ reshuffling and recycled patterns from other productions. It was a very functional product that they use to quench their thirst while surrounded by the strong heat of the owens.
My mother fell in love with these “everyday” cups and interpreted them with a design that became iconic over the years, in Venice first and then worldwide. She also designed other collections that later became pillars of the blown glass production as the Berlingot glass, but my mother's ambition was to keep up with continuous research in proposing solutions that could express the creative aspects of design.
In 2016 I took over the business by creating a young and dynamic team.
The goals and ambitions of Laguna~B then expanded.
Our focus is to be the reference point of tableware design, specifically for drinking glassware but this doesn't mean we can't think about other projects. We simply don't want to be identified as a company that only creates products, but as a company that has a positive impact on production as well.”
In this regard, Laguna~B collaborate with artists for developing glass objects.
For instance, one of the latest projects was the one of Francesca Albergo, an interdisciplinary Italian designer, who decided to investigate a happy (and healthy) sex life through the joyful expressive potential of glass. She designed artworks in the shape of sex toys produced then in Murano, by using traditional techniques”.
V: “As you were saying that Laguna~B wants to generate a positive impact on glass productions, is the value core of the company also in the sustainability of its proposal?”
M: “Laguna~B heavily invests in environment-related projects, which involve local and international partners to carry out environmental, cultural and community projects.
The first project to be funded by Laguna~B is Autonoma, the exchange program that aims to stimulate ideas and connections, by bringing people closer to Venice and making them passionate about the field of glassmaking.
The goal of Autonoma was to gather energies within Murano and allow this energy to bring out the island's identity, which certainly needs to be rethought.
But, as a matter of fact, the production itself can’t be defined as sustainable, in general. If we wanted to be truly sustainable we would have to stop consuming, projecting ourselves into a totally different reality than the one we live in. What we have done to get closer to the word sustainability is to promote projects as with the University of Padua. Laguna~B carried out research that analyzes our environmental footprint, and the release of CO2 from the products we produce, starting from raw materials, to get to their transport and processing. For example, Goto glass releases an overall amount of 2.5 kg of CO2 into the environment.
When you understand this fact you go back to improve the process and make it less impactful. I wouldn't use the term sustainable. You can just impact less and positively, within the industrial processes.”
V: “What do you mean with “the island's identity needs to be rethought”? The perception of the island from the outside is that of a historical institution.”
M: “Well, Murano no longer has a true identity because in the past it was strictly linked to the glass industry, while now it is associated with tourism and craftsmanship tradition, which is perceived in a very nostalgic way.
Meanwhile, the depopulation of the furnaces, together with the increase in energy prices, are greatly damaging the local culture and its economy.
So we decided to invest in a contemporary communication of the brand and of Murano.
Absurdly enough, we are not a Made in Italy brand. Today we are working in Murano, tomorrow we could be in Zimbabwe. In a certain sense, we're not abandoning the island, but we're not professing to be protectionist, we're not entrenched in our frozen tower.
In our own small way, we've managed to get people of our generation excited about Murano.”
V: “What about future projects?”
M: “From June, we will activate a more efficient furnace. Within that, Laguna B will produce just unique pieces designed by me together with Carlo Pitau, the owner of Pitau furnace, and a friend of mine, where we will install this energy-saving kiln.
The furnace has been studied in Holland. It is designed to reduce the dispersion of calories and therefore energy, a real challenge considering that for centuries glassmaking has always been the same in techniques and supplies.
We imagine it as the beginning of a new era that will make us aware of how the lagoon will answer this change and how we can apply new methods to large-scale productions.”
From the bottom to the top, Laguna~B's proposal is coherent in every aspect, as if it would melt together fragments of a multifaceted culture for making them coexist together.
The first e-commerce selling Murano product is theirs, and guess what? Every product contains a CO2 emissions label in the description. Even the website is built to be low-impact (at the bottom of every page the “weight” is reported just in Kb).
And what if you want to know closer to the lagoon life and know how glassmakers work? Laguna~B is put at the customers’ and clients’ disposal the LagunaBoat, so that everyone can experience the ecosystem of the Venetian lagoon and explore the island of Murano.
I have already booked a trip on it for this summer.