T SAKHI and the Murano glassblowers: exploring their sculpture and inspirations

Sisters Tara and Tessa Sakhi, born in Lebanon and raised in Beirut, discuss their design studio and latest project, undertaken for the Italian Glass Week in Venice.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Oct 25, 2022

The design studio T SAKHI, which is co-founded by Lebanese-Polish sisters Tara and Tessa Sakhi, premiered mixed media sculptural vessels, following three years of research and experimentation in incorporating waste metal from surrounding factories, in Murano during The Italian Glass Week. The exhibition took place at San Gallo Church in Venice, which is a relatively smaller church that dates back to the 16th century, and showcased 15 unique vessels, titled Jurat, which means "urns" in Arabic. As the exhibition's press release mentioned, “(the pieces on display) draw inspiration from glass history. The exhibition is organised in partnership with Le Lab, a new collectible design gallery founded by Egyptian art and design collector Rasheed Al Kamel, which is dedicated to promoting the most prominent regional Middle Eastern artists and designers.”

Installation view of I Hear You Tremble #11, mixed media, variable dimensions, 2022, T SAKHI |T SAKHI| STIRworld
Installation view of I Hear You Tremble #11, mixed media, variable dimensions, 2022, T SAKHIImage: Lorenzo Basadonna Scarpa; Courtesy of T SAKHI

T SAKHI is a multidisciplinary architecture and design studio, that has undertaken a very diverse set of projects, including small-scale architecture, urban installations, commercial and residential design, collectable objects, scenography, film and more. The press release mentions further, "The studio focuses on sustainability by recuperating waste and working with recycled materials to develop new materials, shapes and forms. They hope to inspire interaction and curiosity of our surrounding environment, the materials of everyday life and (our) notions of identity." The Sakhi sisters further expand on their raison d’etre, saying, “We want to provoke curiosity and stimulate the sense of touch and emotion through our work. We often experiment with raw materials and seek to decompose them by testing their strength and limits. This process makes our designs evolve spontaneously during execution, embracing surprises and accidents along the way. The techniques aspire a creation associated with chaos and form, randomness and precision, spirit and matter, and finally, natural vs man-made interventions."

Installation view of I Hear You Tremble #15, mixed media, variable dimensions, 2022, T SAKHI |T SAKHI| STIRworld
Installation view of I Hear You Tremble #15, mixed media, variable dimensions, 2022, T SAKHI Image: Lorenzo Basadonna Scarpa; Courtesy of T SAKHI

The studio is one to collaborate with a wide variety of craftsmen that have become masters of their local art forms. While the Murano glassmaking style of Venice is but one of these styles, the Sakhi sisters have also extended collaborations to metal and wood workers from Lebanon, Egyptian stoner carvers, and even artisans from Mexico. T SAKHI has spent the last three years experimenting with Venetian glassblowers on the island of Murano who in collaboration with the studio, utilised a diverse set of techniques in order to achieve stunningly new glass sculpture textures. The press release reveals, "The studio sourced various types of metal waste including aluminium, brass and copper from surrounding factories and infused them within glass. The process consists of working with metals in different states - powder, molten and chunks - and reacting them to different temperature calibers. The experiments resulted in a wide array of extra-terrestrial stone-like formations between the two materials. They also attained lava stone-like textures that allow light to filter through the translucent glass-metal material."

Installation view of I Hear You Tremble #16, mixed media, variable dimensions, 2022, T SAKHI |T SAKHI| STIRworld
Installation view of I Hear You Tremble #16, mixed media, variable dimensions, 2022, T SAKHI Image: Lorenzo Basadonna Scarpa; Courtesy of T SAKHI

Coming to Kameel’s Le Lab, the art gallery builds itself off of a deep understanding of the past, along with a courageous vision for the future of Egyptian and regional arts and design practices. With his understanding, and aspirations for the future of the art and design scene, Kamel’s vision for Le Lab is an ambitious one: he wishes to re-examine the very ways in which the art market classifies and engages with collective art. The Lab positions itself as part of "a movement questioning the boundaries created between art, design and architecture." They explain, "At Le Lab, contemporary and collectible design is a language; it tells a story of our historic past, tales of major societal events and the way in which they were perceived. It is a means to understanding our common humanity and the important regional and international influences on our heritage.” Le Lab questions the present contexts of regional arts, while continuing to lay the groundwork for a more influential and dominant role for it in the future. It allows for a great deal of experimentation and exploration within the untapped interstices of niche arts practices, and caters to three broad fields: art, design and architecture. The lab maintains a multidisciplinary approach, and collaborates regularly with the best and brightest practitioners from the region, whose works challenge existing perceptions of Egyptian art and promote an enriching exchange of ideas and influences. Le Lab finds a perfect metaphor for itself: they say that “we serve as a petri dish of creativity and discovery.”

Installation view of I Hear You Tremble #18, mixed media, variable dimensions, 2022, T SAKHI |T SAKHI| STIRworld
Installation view of I Hear You Tremble #18, mixed media, variable dimensions, 2022, T SAKHI Image: Lorenzo Basadonna Scarpa; Courtesy of T SAKHI

T SAKHI have already developed designs for two distinct tableware collections titled Nomads and Tasting Threads, in collaboration with Murano glass blowers. These are composed of early experiments with the style, and combine recycled metal threads with glass. They are best known, however, for their on-going collection Reconciled Fragments, which is a fantastic series of large and small tables composed of a variety of recycled and fragmented waste material, including both marble and stone offcuts, and metal waste from factories in Beirut. The series is also produced in Beirut, in collaboration with local Lebanese craftsmen. It was undertaken “in solidarity, and to encourage and promote local production and artisans.”

Portrait of Tara and Tessa Sakhi, photograph, variable dimensions, 2022, T SAKHI |T SAKHI| STIRworld
Tara and Tessa Sakhi Image: Lorenzo Basadonna Scarpa; Courtesy of T SAKHI

T SAKHI were drawn to the rich history of blown glass for the potential that the practice holds in conjuring up textures of excavated and eroded artefacts, along with stranger, more alien visions yet. Murano, which is the place where these pieces were designed and developed, is the material's epicentre of craft. The Lebanese sisters, Tara and Tessa Sakhi, drew connections between historical and contemporary practices, and shared knowledge of glassmaking between the Venetian lagoon and their own heritage, across the Mediterranean region, and from ancient Egypt to Lebanon. Production sites for glassware were found in Mesopotamia and modern-day Egypt and Syria, and reach as far as the Mediterranean in the Hellenistic age. The most common legend around the first discovery of glass, dating back to the Phoenicians, notes of the fusion of certain metals and sand to birth a new material. Perhaps one may find echoes of this alchemical marvel within the Sakhi sisters' works today, and many will no doubt discover a niche practice through their offering during the Italian Glass Week.

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