A personal exploration of 90s nostalgia and the desire to challenge and update notions of common decorative object stereotype. A project to give a new value – that of the handcrafted artifact, complete with glamorous, fun and captivating – to objects considered of little value.
Souvenir is a collection of decorative glass objects – Tribals, Piercing, Nippy Egg, Clippy, Dolphin and Octo Pug – inspired by shapes and images, practices and suggestions of the Nineties, conceived by the designer Rini Giannaki and handcrafted in Veneto by the glassblower Manuel Crestani. The playful design, the choice of colors, but also the graphics and the emotional communication, are carefully designed to return a fresh, vibrant and lively image that goes beyond the most obvious vintage and retro practices.
The whole project started and as a personal exploration of 90s nostalgia and the desire to challenge and update notions of common decorative object stereotypes. This effort was simultaneously fuelled by a drive to utilise and explore a somewhat stagnant and contemporarily overlooked craft that is locally suffering market marginalisation by touristic monopoly.
The objects of the first Souvenir collection interpret the icons at the turn of the millennium trying to raise their usually perceived (“low”) value, applying to these elements, attributed to mainstreaming culture, “high” processes, often perceived as niche, therefore inaccessible.
The fusion of intentions between Rini Giannaki, a Greek designer who lives in London but knows Veneto well, and Manuel Crestani, a glassblower born near Venice who, after a period as a Milan based model, moved back home, home to continue to hone his craft, is confirmed by the choice of pyrex glass as base (a material usually snubbed by Murano glass blowers) and the appropriation of already existing 70s airbrush art onto which the souvenir imagery is incorporated.
We talked about it with the creative Rini Giannaki who founded the brand and curated this first collection in every aspect.
There's a lot of talk about vintage, now it's almost a banality. how do you get out of the obvious when you create something retro?
That's such a great question! Well for one I never saw Souvenir as a retro-throwback or as vintage inspired per se. Souvenir to me was always meant to be an exploration of “common” objects or themes (given heavily 90s referential) elevated to artefact standards via an often overlooked or contemporary-stagnant craft (glass blowing ). Secondly, as someone forever fascinated by the underdog, I very purposely try to challenge creative expression against the “safe” or the “obvious” . It's the least one can do when wanting to create anything original.
How did you choose the “icons” you worked on?
By digging up the (my) past. I wanted to hero shapes and signifiers that are relevant both to those that were around to experience them in the 90s and also the later generations that have revived them to retro icons; almost as second-coming. Ultimately I had loads of conversations with myself, but also with Manuel (Crestani, my glassblower), and we discarded quite a few ideas along the way that we didn't feel were either iconic or ironic enough.
Why the 90's and not vintage classics like the 50's?
In 1995 I was 15 years old, so personally I feel like I can address that decade empirically. I don't necessarily think that one needs to be a direct witness of an era in order to create artistic commentary around it, but I definitely feel that having lived through the 90s I am at least granted some sort of conceptual “right to audit”, I most certainly can't connect to the 50s in that same manner.
When you talk about objects that interpret icons “trying to elevate common meanings” what do you mean?
Challenge visuals and forms stereotypically classified as low or sub culture signifiers: such as tribal tattoo flash designs.
Why work with a glass blower?
Firstly and practically because I wanted to work with someone that could do something I couldn’t. This is the true sense of a collaborative effort in my opinion. Then because conceptually I wanted to literally infuse craftsmanship value to icons and themes of non high-culture. It’s a relationship I find myself exploring in most of my personal projects.
The Veneto region where I spend a good part of the year is particularly active in artisan tradition – unfortunately a good deal of that trade and talent is rarely put to use in contemporary projects and a lot of these artisans eventually lose interest in creatively expanding and updating their portfolios – and thus also their trade.
Is there more desire for memory or for the future today, in the post-pandemic era?
I think historically, but even just from a humanistic level, difficult times favour some degree of escapism. To that regard I see the need for an endearing reconstruction of collective memory over nostalgia in a post-pandemic era. And in extremis , in case we're not 100% out of said era, I think we can rely on memory as means of a much-needed aesthetic breather.