A CELEBRATION OF COLOUR AND TECHNIQUE

A 16TH CENTURY TECHNIQUE BROUGHT BACK TO LIGHT

A 16TH CENTURY TECHNIQUE BROUGHT BACK TO LIGHT

Sebastian Wrong is a man with a mission. Since rejoining Established & Sons in 2017, he has been tasked with figuring out what this much-loved, eccentric, experimental British brand might be able to offer to the wider world that isn’t already being delivered by other design brands.

Older, wiser, but with the same dedication to creative collaboration and production, Wrong opens up about the challenges ahead and his own product for the new collection, Filigrana Light, which brings a 16th-century glassmaking tradition bang up to date.

EST: The name of the Filigrana Light is a direct reference to the Venetian technique used to make it, but this is a decorative style that hasn’t been fashionable for quite a while.
WRONG: You see it usually in more historical environments in this slightly old-world, faded-grandeur kind of space, so the idea was to take this feeling and translate it through a contemporary object to draw attention to the purity and the beauty of glass filigree: the symmetry and the randomness. It is a special, magical technique.

EST: The technique involves adding canes of white or coloured, white-cored glass to the already molten glass before it is blown, and it has to be done by hand. Why did you decide to go down this route?
WRONG: I’ve designed lighting for years, but I’ve also nurtured a growing interest in glass manufacturing and the Italian Venetian techniques that are still very alive. Historically, for the Venetians, glass was a commodity, and this veining technique had intrinsic value – it was a currency. Filigrana was part of the process of glass making that was unique to this area and was very sought after. On Murano, they maintained a secrecy around its production. Objects made using this filigree were of really high value, and I like the idea of interpreting that for a contemporary context. This slightly spiral, candy cane effect emotes childhood and memory. So I have applied this to core basic shapes with very little design around it. Each light is unique because of the way it is made. It’s a celebration of colour and technique.

EST: Normally, you’d see this filigree used with clear glass. Why did you decide on a different finish?
WRONG: We’re doing three colours, black, red and white. White is very subtle, black is also muted but a more distinct effect. Red is very full-on and of course puts a colour tint into a room. To have these colours with the white canes, and then an acid-etched finished that makes it super matt and quite soapy, makes it much more contemporary. Visually, it’s very dreamy. I find the application of the colour and the variations of the lines very calming and quite hypnotic. It has a slightly other-worldly feel to it.

EST: Some of the other brands you’ve worked for have had a focus on high-volume sales, which wouldn’t allow for a handmade product like Filigrana Light. Is that something you’re interested in replicating at Established & Sons at all?
WRONG: No. Established & Sons is absolutely not that kind of brand. What I’d like to bring is a renewed clarity and definition for what this brand is going to be in this new chapter.

EST: What does that definition look like?
WRONG: The way I work is very intuitive and instinctive. So, I tend to avoid the kind of big manifesto, or the big picture, and rather focus on what we can do in a relatively tangible period of time. So, we’re considering what the collection has been historically and what the collection has become today and how to then build a collection for the future and what our next steps should be. It’s a combination of past, present and future and an incremental development of the collection. We need to protect the freedom for expression of creativity, but also ensure that the products are accessible, that they have a real purpose and can become part of people’s lives. We have a duty to deliver a product that is made to a particular standard with a prominent character. That’s really our
DNA.

EST: How do you balance being design director and the curation and development of this kind of collection with actually designing products? Is the thought process very different?
WRONG: The balance between the two is something that I’m not always comfortable with. Very often in the role of design director I would just see a gap in the collection that I could fill. Sometimes it was right, sometimes not. We are lucky to have, let’s call them contemporary icons of design – they are important pieces. And I am also really lucky because I was part of the evolution of those from day one. That means I’m not coming in with that legacy hanging on my shoulders and having to work out how to manage that in the right way. I don’t have that guilt. But I don’t have a clear answer to your question. Over the course of time, perhaps it will become clearer, this whole issue of how to operate on a number of different levels. I don’t exclusively design for Established & Sons now, so I am opening up and this is a different approach, being much more pragmatic, and working to a brief. We still want to give our designers huge amounts of freedom and we have an open mind, but at the same time, we are much clearer than we used to be about how we want to evolve and what that means for the collection.