BCXSY’s ethereal In Between is a study in global design

Come Together

By Scott Indrisek

BCXSY's stunning In Between glassware set is contemporary globalization in action: A product line conceived by Dutch-based designers working in tandem with a Japanese studio whose principal artisan did much of his training in the United States and Italy. The ethereal collection was commissioned by Japanese design brand Inframince and produced in conjunction with Fresco, a glass studio in Osaka. While not specifically part of BCXSY’s ongoing Origins project, begun in 2010, it does share the same spirit of gung-ho material curiosity and experimentation. In Between is once more a condensed, collaborative apprenticeship in which the design duo (Sayaka Yamamoto and her husband Boaz Cohen) gives themselves a crash course in a specific, highly intricate craft. Previous iterations have covered weaving Bedouin rugs and Tategu, a style of Japanese wood joinery. For In Between, this meant spending two and a half weeks with the Fresco glassblowers—a welcome extravagance given the crowded calendar of a contemporary designer—studying their technique while brainstorming how they could utilize those talents for a unique project. “We were given complete freedom by Inframince,” Cohen says. “The only objective was to end up with a usable project—which was quite easy, because we try not to do things that don’t have a function.”

BCXSY’s design oeuvre is marked by subtlety and a consistent reimagining of materials, whether that’s foam used to make a vase or the housing for a clock, or ceramic plates that have been ornamented with the physical imprint of food. For In Between, the duo started from a fascination with how color is achieved in hand-blown glass, and they asked the blowers to use glass powder to create as many varied shades of white-tinted glass as possible. “We started putting the samples next to each other,” Cohen explains, which led to the underlying aesthetic of In Between: a subtle shift in gradation among the pieces, from purely transparent through to cool, ghostly shades, finally arriving at an almost wholly opaque white. “It’s an idea which is very simple and easy to understand—when you see it, you understand the concept—but it also turned out to be very, very challenging.” Even for a master craftsman, achieving the same graduated hue of white from set to set can be a struggle. (BCXSY initially planned a set with 12 gradations, but cut that down to a more feasible six.)

In Between by BCXSY Courtesy of the designers
Cohen and Yamamoto, both avid cooks and culinary aficionados, had long desired to undertake a design project that spoke to those interests. “We never had the chance to do a complete set, to work around the table,” Cohen says. In Between harnesses a full range of forms, from small drinking glasses to flattened plates, even including a chic, sleek glass muddler. It is significant that In Between was conceived of both as a refined set of exhibition-worthy glassware—which can be displayed, as it was in April at Spazio Rossana Orlandi during Milan Design Week, to show off the gradations to full effect—and a usable collection that takes on a new resonance in the private home. “In Milan, we put everything in the right order; you clearly understood what was going on,” Cohen explains. “But the minute it’s more mixed, placed randomly on the table—a white glass with a more transparent plate—most likely at first glance you wouldn’t even notice the differences. We really liked this idea, that you’d start pouring red wine and then start to see what’s actually happening there.”

In Between is currently available as a made-to-order set—not a limited edition, per se, but “by its nature, limited,” as Cohen says. It’s both an objet d’art and a supremely functional design piece that stands as a record of BCXSY’s time in Osaka.

“Collaborating with craftsmen is far from a new thing,” Cohen says, though he notes that many designers might spend a single day observing a new process or technique in a third-party studio. “What we realized is that giving time—which is a luxury, in many senses—makes a big difference. As a designer, it gives you the chance to react in real-time; it’s more dynamic.” That mentality—which so far has led to wooden tables informed by Irish boat-building techniques, a child-friendly bookshelf modeled on the see-saw, as well as embroidered tablecloths inspired by the holdings of the TextielMuseum in Tilburg, Holland, among other singularly unique pieces—is what keeps BCXSY’s practice so fresh. It’s about learning from the masters, be they Japanese woodworkers or Israeli weavers, and then taking that knowledge in entirely unexpected, inspired directions.

  • Text by

    • Scott Indrisek

      Scott Indrisek

      Scott is the executive editor of Modern Painters and the founder of Brant Watch. He lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, with two erudite cats.

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