We have met Daniela Forti, an eclectic artist who has invented new techniques for the glass fusing process and realised breathtaking luminous sculptures. We have asked her some questions to learn more about her work and her poetics.
First Drops: Over the years, a lot of people have written about you in association to exhibitions or in interviews and reviews…. Which of them, do you think, has most effectively described your work?
Daniela Forti: Here are some examples … Each of these critical reviews identifies a specificity, a different viewpoint: I don’t want to prefer one to another, as I feel well represented by them all:
“The particularly prestigious decorative and artistic value of her glass creations stems from a fine and careful expression of a manufacturing craft, that has remained uncontaminated and pure over the centuries. These outstandingly executed pieces comply with the best traditional standards, they are performed according to exclusive designs, executed with great care for each detail, attaching the greatest attention to the process in each step of their production. For Daniela Forti, glass is a symbolic object of desire, it encloses a world built around light and its many reflexes, it is a material that is suitable to be shaped, forged, bent, bowed and modelled by her dreamlike fantasy”.
Daniela Forti’s art is the best one can admire in the field of glass. On several occasions, I was lucky enough to discuss some of her creations. Light and ethereal, they will captivate even the most sophisticated collector. Their only handicap: the usual discriminating prejudice against the medium of expression, as many still believe that creating with glass is a craft, not art: go and see this exhibition, then we might want to discuss this viewpoint further!
“Daniela Forti reinvents glass, simulating the inventions of nature in her shapes. Her technique enables her to reproduce drops of water, stalactites, ice, competing with nature in the most admirable and astonishing way.
The glass shapes created by Daniela Forti are surprising for the profound technical skill and are enchanting for their gracefulness. Her pieces are often inspired by the world of nature, often overcoming convention; they are built lightly but, despite their apparent fragility and delicateness, they are a truly forceful presence.
PE: What encouraged you to dedicate your time to glass art and what does it mean to you? What encouraged you to learn glass art?
DF: We met by chance, some 35 years ago. I was living in the centre of Rome, in the Monti neighbourhood characterised by the shops of artisans and just under my flat there was an artistic glass workshop. I got to know the owners by standing there for hours, watching the different stages of the process: this is how I fell in love with glass, it was love at first sight.
Transparent and enigmatic, hard and fragile, cutting and soft, rigid and fluid: glass identifies almost all the qualities and defects of human nature and needs to be crossed by light to express itself at best. Indeed, change the lighting and you change the atmosphere; lighting affects the perception of space and creates a mood.
PE: Which aspects of your work do you love most?
DF: It’s a difficult question to answer, I like all the stages of my work, especially when, as the hours go by, work turns into pleasure. Entire days spent turning an idea into something real and then the photographs, which are something I do personally, because they reveal something more than the eye can see, it is a constant surprise!
PE: Which difficulties have you encountered?
DF: The hardest part, and this makes me very unhappy, is being a glass artist in Italy. But, as the saying goes, no-one is a prophet in their own Land …
PE: Which themes inspire your artistic research? How do you develop them or do they change in time?
DF: I believe that my creative process is very much associated to nature, beauty, the harmony of shapes and especially the fascination of the mysterious underwater world, especially of jellyfish. They belong to the group of the coelenterates which is one of the most ancient group of multi-cellular beings that appeared on the Planet.
A curious fact that makes me think of the similarities that there are between glass and jellyfish is that some studies have ascertained that the Turritopsis nutricula jellyfish is potentially immortal, it actually rejuvenates more and more as time goes by, until it starts a new life cycle, a little bit like glass: it can be cast several times, each time originating a new life!
PE: Can you explain the technical specificities of some of your work, as if you were talking to someone who doesn’t have a clue about glass art?
DF: It is quite a complex technique to explain. Glass fusing is a very ancient glass processing technique, it was used by the ancient Egyptians and by the Romans. I define it as an alchemic process, meaning that you have to bear in mind a lot of different elements: the geometry of the design, physics and the rules of gravity, the chemistry of metals, oxides for colour, acids and finally the heat conditions in the environment.
The first step of the process is the design, that I will then reproduce on the glass assembled on a ceramic fibre top. I fire the glass in the oven at approximately 800 degrees and then I ensure that there is a long hardening process to avoid thermal shock (the glass would break), it is a rule that glass cannot avoid.
Once cooled, I put it back in the top of the oven on a metal net, bring the temperature back up and when the melting temperature is achieved I open the oven slightly to observe the gravity of the molten glass as it drops (this process lasts several minutes), then I step in and using some pliers I alter the position of the dripping glass.
Then there is the hardening process. Once the baking is completed, the grinding process removes the sharper edges and then the acid treatment removes all traces of metal; then there is the final stage, the photo shoot.
The glass I use is exclusively made in Italy, in the glass furnaces of Montelupo and Empoli, the crystal is from Colle di Val d’Elsa and then again glass from Murano and Padua.
PE: Is it important for you to make the artwork you design with your own hands? Would you entrust their realisation to others?
DF: It is essential for me to personally take care of each step of the process! My work is totally personal, it is a sort of alchemy, it is something I make on my own and with the greatest care. All my work is made according to my sensitivity, fully concentrated and alone, in total bliss!
PE: Which past exhibitions or projects have gratified you most?
DF: Winning the first prize in the “Miniartextil” international contest of Fondazione Ratti. I participated with what I considered an exciting piece. I remember that the welcome shown by the public and the critics confirmed that I had not been mistaken, encouraging me to continue my research.
“For the evocative and fine quality of the image, whose fragile, transparent “broken threads” made in glass rise out of an obscure base of shapeless fragments and poetically hint to the tension of a “mission”, that is as “impossible” as it is ethically necessary. Rossana Bossaglia, Luciano Caramel, Walter Valentini”.
In addition to this I was also quoted in a thesis in the Faculty of Design post graduate course of the University of Florence.
PE: Can you tell us about your upcoming exhibitions?
DF: A major project abroad, but I’m keeping quiet just in case!
PE: Do you like working on demand or do prefer to work based on a set project?
DF: I am a free spirit, making a piece based on ideas of others doesn’t gratify me.
I could imagine being part of a specific project where I am allowed full freedom of expression. In this case I could see it as an interesting challenge.
PE: How do you like to relate with your clients?
DF: The positive reviews I receive for my work are what most encourage me to continue. I especially like to get to know the feelings and reasons why the public is drawn to my pieces. Of course, the fact that the public buys my pieces is another thing to be proud of.
PE: What is your dream for the future?
DF: A major project that I am currently completing: an artists’ residence, a place of art, a workshop for various artistic disciplines in an 18th Cent. villa in the hills of Lucca, and to continue to dedicate my life to glass with the passion that has always been with me.
In the images selection of Jellyfish Collection by Daniela Forti