Designers Tessa and Tara Sakhi: Our work is to create social and sensory interactions

In the works of sisters Tessa and Tara Sakhi, in the fields of architecture, interior design and urban fittings, there is a penchant for discovering and manipulating materials to create new ones, and a penchant for digging into history books for inspiration, which connects the past to contemporary life. The two sisters were influenced by their complex identities and the many places they moved to, which was reflected in their designs. And here they finally land on the Italian island “Murano”, where they established their “studio”. And now they show a group of pots inspired by glass, combined with metal, in a way that entices to explore its depths.
In the following interview, with Tara Sakhi, the sisters’ passion for the intertwined worlds of design is evident.

From right, Tara and Tessa Sakhi. (Photo: Lorenzo Basadonna Scarpa)

Your mother is Polish and your father is Lebanese, and you lived in Beirut, which was influenced by Western and Arab cultures; How is your multi-source identity reflected in your design work?

It is certain that the mixed roots, especially the heritage handed down to us by each culture, influence the hybrid nature of our work, and the questions we ask ourselves about the concept of identity and the question of belonging, with each new project that we tackle . Our father is Lebanese, and our mother is Polish, from Warsaw, and we were born in Beirut, where we lived our childhood and adolescent years, before moving overseas; I followed my university studies in Paris and then worked in New York, and Tessa in Milan. We have moved around a lot in our lives, so we feel that we belong to different cultures that merge their influences with each other on us. In 2020, we decided to move our design studio from Beirut to Venice, after the severe economic collapse in Lebanon. Living on this surreal island has always been a dream for both of us, at some point in our lives. And when he came to Milan.

Surprises and accidents

Are you considering materials that will support the work, influence the audience, or apply the concepts correctly, while creating the design?
We mainly focus on enabling our work, whether in architecture, design or urban sites, to create social and sensory interactions. For example, during design we test raw materials; Its strength and limitations, making the work evolve automatically during implementation, with all the surprises and mishaps that come along the way. We also strive to create designs through technology that express the interweaving of nature with human work, chaotic and specific forms, randomness, precision, spirit and matter… Note that the way of working depends on each project.

Is it possible to classify the majority of your works under the heading of confluence of the contemporary with the traditional?

yes; There is a hint of this in one way or another, because we always try to understand the traditions and cultural heritage, and look for ways to help preserve these aspects, as well as to adapt them to our contemporary way of life.

We always try to understand cultural heritage and adapt it to our contemporary way of life

consistent parts

Designers Tessa and Tara Sakhi, working on a set “Consistent Parts”

You received an appreciation for your collection of coffee tables entitled Reconciled Fragments; Do you intend to manipulate materials in the context of recycling?

The collection is currently on view at PAD London, in collaboration with Galerie Gosserez, and is the result of a search for new materials by collecting and recycling decomposing and fragmented materials for reassembly in another unit. We extracted the remains of the local factories that surround Beirut from pieces of stone and powder resulting from the processing of metals such as brass, copper and aluminum, spreading these remains on a flat wooden form to later achieve an organic form. The template looks like a canvas. Then we poured the resin into the mold and changed the textures of the different materials into steel, using a propane heating torch, to combine the different materials into one relief texture. After hardening, we cut the resin sheet to a thickness of 3 centimeters, carefully craft, cut the edges to 5 millimeters, and allow the transparency of the materials spread over the different layers to be visible.

Table “Coherent parts”

The above is a table top that rests on legs made of bronze, copper or anodized copper, each table is a unique piece completely handmade by our artisans and us.

A second table from the “Consistent Parts” group.

What are your current and near future projects?
We recently opened our first solo exhibition, in Venice, entitled I Hear You Tremble, which we designed under the auspices and partnership of a new gallery in Cairo, Le LAB. Our exhibition will travel to New York this November, specifically to Salon Art + Design New York. We are also currently working on a project in Alserk Avenue in Dubai that focuses on revitalizing public spaces and making them green and more interactive. We are also finalizing our fifth short film related to our “Consistent Parts” inspiration, and finalizing a residential project in Venice.

In “Morno”

From the “Tractor” group.

In sisters Tara and Tessa Sakhi’s first solo exhibition “I Hear You Tremble”, at Chiesa di San Galo, as part of the Venice Glass Week, their attraction to the rich history of glassblowing in Murano is evident. In 2017, the two sisters started a three-year research and experimental workshop with local glassblowers, on the island of Murano, Venice, to understand the properties of the material and the different techniques used in its development over generations .

“The Jars”, in the first exhibition of the two sisters in “Murano”

The question for the duo is: How can we break down the materiality of glass and rebuild it to obtain new materials? The experiments they carried out in the furnaces focused on testing the strengths and limitations of raw glass by incorporating other components into it, at different stages of the process, at different temperatures.

A shot after sisters Tara and Tessa Sakhi’s first solo exhibition “I Hear You Tremble” for “The Jars”, at Chiesa di San Galo, as part of the “Venice Glass Week”

On the other hand, it was essential to highlight the links between cultures and the common knowledge of glassmaking between the Venetian lagoon, the Middle East and ancient Egypt.
If we look at the history of glass, it seems that its first discovery dates back to 1500-300 BC, and to the Phoenicians, when they smelted minerals and sand on the northern coast of Syria, which led to the birth of this new material.
There is a series of 15 carved bowls inspired by traditional antique jars, friezes and other objects of blown glass placed in tombs for offerings in antiquity. During glassblowing, several techniques were applied. The aim of the exhibition, according to Tara, is to make visitors feel a sense of mystery about the artefacts with visual signs of contemporaneity through their look and feel, and to give an impression of artefacts excavated from a century ago.
Before the “pots”, that is, during the first experiments on Murano glass, the two sisters combined the metal threads obtained from the remains of the factories around their workshops with the final material. As a result, the new material was a patterned and asymmetrical fabric used in the design of the first Murano collection of vases called Nomads. Then the two sisters later found inspiration in traditional tableware, designing a range of plates and cups to match the Lebanese mezze feast. The group was titled “Tasting Threads”.
In subsequent experiments, the two sisters would visit local metalworkers in Murano at sunrise to collect scraps of aluminum, brass and copper, and transport them to the nearby glass furnace for testing, while challenging traditional techniques used in glassblowing and new materials. in collaboration with talented artisans and glass experts. Experiments have led to a wide range of configurations, in which glass cannot be separated from metal, allowing light to filter through the transparency of the new material, casting shadowy shadows.

in lines…
The collaboration of the two sisters, Tissa and Tara Sakhi, in the field of design began at university, when they studied together for a year at the “Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts” (ALBA) in Beirut, and they worked together on university projects. One day in 2015, the two sisters were offered a residential interior design project in Beirut; At the time, Tara was working in an office in New York, while Tessa was finishing her studies and doing an internship internship in Beirut. Tara says to «Madam»: «Our partnership was established, of course, but we did not consider this partnership to be a professional one to begin with. Little by little, the vision became clearer and focused on what we do together and actively build.” She adds: “The partnership represents a beautiful chapter and an interesting challenge in each of our lives. It’s more about brotherhood and creation together, not just a professional partnership.”

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