Tradition and innovation: two apparently antithetical terms that come together, in perfect balance, in the glass creations of sisters Marina and Susanna Sent. They preserve the know-how of the thousand-year-old Murano glassmaking art and the values of the past and reinvent them through the search for formal and design essentiality.
2023 will mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of Marina and Susanna Sent, a company specialising in glass jewellery and objets d'art based in Murano.
Glass has always been a constant in the life of the Sent sisters. Both of their grandfathers were involved in it: their maternal grandfather, a Compasso d'Oro winner in 1955, founded the Nason & Moretti company in 1923. Their paternal grandfather, Guglielmo Sent, also started his business in the early 1920s, concentrating on enamelled glass decoration. Surrounded by these influences, after finishing their studies (architecture for Susanna and technical studies for Marina) the Sent sisters soon realised that their desire was to follow in the family footsteps.
"It all started as a game": Marina and Susanna tell of the fun they had in experimenting, in creating jewellery by combining techniques and materials and playing with shapes and colours. In 1993 they decided to leave the family business and realise their dream of creating jewellery, but also design objects.
The Sorelle Sent company is set in a fluid context, almost as liquid as today's world, characterised by constant and rapid evolution in which certain pillars stand out as the watchwords of their business.
First and foremost, experiment and research. Cutting-edge solutions and creative innovations always stem from a process of research, not only functional but also of values and meanings. From the very beginning, Marina and Susanna have sought to combine shapes and materials to create contemporary pieces inspired by the clean lines of geometry. From the first necklaces, made from existing classic glass elements and tied with their father's fishing line, to the most recent ones, the result of the mingling of different materials such as glass and plastic. The focus is also on the search for new solutions with regard to manufacturing processes.
They also turn their attention to the search for new solutions with regard to production processes: from the use of oxygen to experiments with hydrogen and in 1996 the technological transfer of a machine for pickling copper, normally used in goldsmithing.
The interest in bead and design objects production, which distinguishes the Sent sisters in the Murano glass art scene, is also part of this constant process of experimentation.
Essentiality and simplicity: the constant desire to reduce materials, shapes and colours is an expression of their identity and their desire to reinvent tradition with a minimalist approach. For example, the use of an oblong murrina simplifying the classic Venetian murrina to obtain elegant and contemporary jewellery with some traces of ethnic influences.
Emblematic is Soap, Marina and Susanna's iconic piece that has been imitated many times over the years, whose name obviously refers to the lightness and transparency of soap bubbles. The first to recognise the value of the Sent sisters' creations was MoMA New York, which became one of the most important dealers of their jewellery, displaying them in its bookshop in the 1990s.
In 2009, Marina and Susanna joined the initiative promoted by the Venetian association Fondaco, aimed at preserving the historical and cultural heritage of the city. They sponsored the restoration of the statues of the Virtues in the Doge's Palace: here too, the past serves as a source of inspiration, from the shield held up by the Fortress to an elegant red and black brooch.
Then, the restoration of a small 16th century space in the Sotoportego di Rialto, which is now one of their three shops, two of them in Venice and one in Murano.
But the symbol of this redevelopment project is the Spazio Marina and Susanna Sent, headquarters, studio and showroom in Murano. Located along the Fondamenta Serenella, in the early 2000s it was an abandoned building. Originally it was a cavana, an old boat shelter, then a distillery of the Venetian aperitif Select, forced to move its factories from Marghera to Murano because of the Second World War, and then the glass factory of their grandparents, partners for a short period.
Today, Spazio Sorelle Sent is a large loft in white-cube style, perfect for enhancing the bright colours of the exhibits. A small bridge spanning the façade, the ancient arched opening of the cavana and the windows on the upper floor maintain the dialogue with the Venetian area, combined with the more contemporary geometric and chromatic minimalism.
It is through those windows that sometimes, when the days are clear, the rays of sunlight brighten all the vases, jewellery and precious textiles on display, creating an evocative sunset atmosphere. Every day at Spazio Sent begins and ends with this constant contact with the lagoon: every day Marina and Susanna are there experimenting with glass, innovating traditional craftsmanship and creating new contemporary jewellery.