We have met Igor Balbi, artist, gallerist and creator of the In Glass We Trust movement.
First Drops: Exhibitions, interviews, reviews…which of them, do you think, has most effectively described your work?
Igor Balbi: What an interesting question! During the exhibition ‘Il Vetro al lume del XXI secolo’, Cesare Toffolo wrote about me and he was the only critic who really pinpointed the peculiarities of my technique, by talking of my incamiciato, or glass encased pieces, and not only of the blown pieces.
PE: What encouraged you to dedicate your time to glass art and what does it mean to you?
IB: It is my life. What motivated me was a sort of sense of duty towards my father. When I was young I wasn’t at all attracted by it, but working with glass made me fall in love and it has become part of my life, just as those who stand by me are part of my life.
PE: Which aspects of your work do you love most?
IB: The challenge of managing and controlling the material used.
PE: You come from a family of glass masters and during your training you worked with some of the most important Murano glass artists. Which of them most deeply influenced your training?
IB: Lucio Bubacco, he is a constant source of inspiration, as also Cesare Toffolo, with whom I have never worked. They are the masters I was inspired by. Also Alfredo Barbini, who I never met, for his genius. And then of course there are many more artists who I respect.
PE: Which difficulties have you encountered?
IB: The greatest difficulty, ensuring people understand your work, is due to the limited knowledge and dissemination of the culture of glass art, which is very much sector-based. In addition, this art clashes with bold commercial mechanisms. That is why ‘In Glass We Trust’.
PE: Which themes inspire your artistic research? How do you develop them or do they change in time?
IB: Generally speaking, the design of my surroundings. In particular, the goblet, the symbol of the Murano glass tradition, that I love to refresh. The goblet changes and evolves as I experiment and with the technical research I develop.
PE: Tell us, what is the revolutionary innovation of the Igor Balbi technique?
IB: It rationalises the lume glass blowing technique; the techniques I develop are a means, a tool that I develop to achieve a goal, a specific aesthetic result, beyond the traditional concepts of technique. It isn’t just a question of changing or amending an existing technique, it means contaminating, blending different areas and also different materials, for example. So it isn’t so much an innovation in the technique per se, although there is that as well; what is most revolutionary is the different way of interpreting the technique and relating with glass.
PE: Which past exhibitions or projects have gratified you most?
IB: They’re not exhibitions or projects, but the times in which I have found myself ‘contaminating’ the work of other excellent glass masters by working with them. There are three I can recall: Kristina Logan, Lucio Bubacco and Vittorio Costantini. In addition, the documentary that the Corning Museum of Glass produced about me.
PE: Do you like working on demand or do prefer to work based on a set project?
IB: Not at all. Part of the project has to come from me. I am not interested in merely realising and executing.
PE: How do you like to relate with your clients?
IB: I try to make them become passionate for what they see and to ensure they understand what it is all about, telling them about it with passion. The same passion I use when I make glass.
PE: What is your dream for the future?
IB: To be able to kindle a passion for glass in my son Italo, who I have named after my father.