On a warm summer day during Session 5 of 2016, Artistic Director Tina Aufiero and Marcantonio Brandolini D’Adda of the Laguna B design firm in Venice met on the Pilchuck Campus. D’Adda came to study in Michael Hernandez’s neon course, Transforming Light, and was inspired by the immersive 360° experience Pilchuck provides for students. D’Adda quickly developed a vision of building a bridge from Pilchuck to Murano to foster dialogue between Pilchuck’s community and the world of Murano glass, with an incentive to carry the energy and motivation back to Murano that he saw alive in Pilchuck’s dynamic Summer Program.
D’Adda generously offered to support hosting two Pilchuck Scholarship students in Murano for a three week residency in May of 2017. The intention was for students to work with the local Murano Masters in a handful of diverse factory settings. The Murano Residency was supported by Laguna B along with six other glass factories including Wave Glass, Zanetti Murano, Gianni Seguso, Componenti Dona, Georgio Giuman and Gambaro & Tagliapietra. The recipients of the residency were the scholarship students of the 2017 Summer Program who received the highest rankings from this year's jury.
Pilchuck selected the top two ranking glassblowing applicants for the residency, Aya Oki and Andy Paiko, both of whom were already established glass artists and well known in the glass community. These artists were an excellent fit for the residency, which was so successful that Pilchuck and Laguna B will be collaborating again to create another opportunity for glassblowers in 2018.
Oki is originally from Japan and came to Pilchuck for the first time in 2006. Since then, she has moved to the United States and has attended Pilchuck five different times—twice as a TA and three times as a student. Passionate about learning new techniques and skills to apply to her work, Pilchuck was ecstatic to be able to provide this opportunity for her. “I would not have been able to come here without the scholarship, and it has allowed me to focus on my work and not other things in life,” Oki expressed.
“They do different things in Murano. I knew a little bit about the history there, but it was important for me to go there to see and feel everything they do. That really affected me because it is very different, especially in terms of their technique, their style, and how they work in their studios. Everything is different, so seeing new things inspires me and that inspires my new ideas for my work.
This particular scholarship provided Oki with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience Murano’s history and culture firsthand. “They do different things in Murano. I knew a little bit about the history there, but it was important for me to go there to see and feel everything they do. That really affected me because it is very different, especially in terms of their technique, their style, and how they work in their studios. Everything is different, so seeing new things inspires me and that inspires my new ideas for my work,” said Oki regarding the impact of her Murano experience.
Since returning to Pilchuck from Murano, Oki has taken a new class about reticello that will allow her to build on what she learned in Murano. She enjoyed applying her new techniques at Pilchuck upon her return, and wants to help other students learn those skills as well, which will be her focus when she returns as an instructor later in the summer.
We’re so grateful for the collaboration of Laguna B and Murano community in helping to facilitate the unique cross-pollination of ideas between our two communities, and look forward to providing more exceptional experiences for students in years to come!