8 May 2013

DESIGN: Giovanni Corrado, Worldly Lighting

Creative Director of Baroncelli lighting design, whose clients include Dubai’s Burj Al-Arab, Sandy Lane in Barbados and Aspinalls, London (for Vertu)
‘OUR glass is hand-blown in Murano, Venice, a miracle of a city where everything’s romanticised, but everything’s difficult,’ says Giovanni Corrado. ‘There’s little visible infrastructure, making it a logistical extravaganza. To transport a large work, we need to order a special boat with a crane, get it to the port of Mestre, and onto the depot...’

‘Historically, a maestro vetraio (master glassblower) was forbidden to leave the island of Murano for fear they’d share their skills, and to this day they rarely travel. It remains a place guarded by its insularity.’ Corrado traces the lead-adhered frame of an elaborate mirror. ‘An artisan said, lead was meant to stay on the ground, so how could he get on a plane? “The mirrors can go, I’ll stay here.”’
Corrado observes that Murano has followed a pattern of rise and decline for centuries. ‘The problem is, in a dip, skills get lost.’ That no young people work in Baroncelli’s workshop clearly concerns him. ‘The training is very long and very hard, and the work’s physically exhausting.’
In recent years, minimalism’s white walls and spotlights have proved the enemy of traditional Venetian glass. ‘The way to succeed is to stay relevant. So, instead of living in the Disneyland that is Venice, I travel to very new places. In Italy, everything’s about how great we were 2,000 years-ago. But that was 2,000 years-ago, so let’s get over it!’
Baroncelli have numerous clients in the Middle East, ‘and I love the possibilities of Dubai.’ Corrado also reveals an obsession with China. ‘Almost by accident I spent a week in Shanghai. Oh my God, this is the future, I thought: the same feeling I got when I first went to New York. We have to keep travelling and seeing. It’s not just one’s own reality which keeps moving forward.’
Although his workshop would ‘happily make leaves and flowers all-day long,’ Corrado relishes the unexpected. ‘I remember a client in Maui, Hawaii, who brought me a cocktail umbrella and asked me to clad their ceiling in larger versions using coloured glass, complete with froufrou’s and motorised pulleys to lower it when bulbs blew. We didn’t pooh-pooh that! In fact, we rarely impose or judge. I think you have to be serious about what you do, but you don’t have to be serious while doing it.’
Corrado claims clients’ requests can seem so outlandish that it could be easier to remove the notion of function in favour of pure sculpture. ‘I tell them: “I’d like to introduce you to my friends, gravity and electricity.”’
Although working with electricity, Corrado is infatuated with the outdoors. ‘I’ve always wanted to make glass and wood touch.’ He cradles a length of Cornish driftwood. ‘Looks like stone,’ he whispers. ‘My dream is to make an orchard from Venetian glass...’
For Vertu