Jonathan Baskett is a busy travelling glass artist who I’ve known for a long time. He’s one of the first glass artists I met who was confidently interested in production glass. Over the years he has developed a huge range of glass lines working often with factories and studios around the world to get the products up an running. The clean, beautiful forms often have simple lines and sometimes they stack or fit together in groups of bright colours which is personally what I would fill my house with if Ange would let me. He was visiting artist while I was at University and went on to support me when I needed a studio space, which we shared for a number of years. He’s boisterous and fun and now lives with his lovely wife in Mexico city – here’s a little more about my friend Jonny B.
sugar shaker for fink!
Tell people a little about yourself. Where were you born/grow up?
I grew up in the outer suburbs of Canberra, Australia. It was a quite orderly existence I have some very fond memories of the time however I couldn’t wait to get moving and see the world.
What do you do now, is it what would you like to be doing?
I work with glass I love the material, it has many possibilities.
I have been very fortunate over the years to travel the world with this material recently to Mexico City as head of research end development at Nouvel studio. This was a fantastic time and I learnt a lot, about a lot but specifically semi automatic and full automatic hot glass and cold glass processing. It was fun time working on perfume and liquor bottles, glass jewelry production and unique work.
Hot shop at Nouvel
Bebol development at Nouvel
In early 2011 I moved to N.Y. to assist the start up and operation of Niche modern’s hot glass studio, this then merged into a design associate position with a lot of back of house work I learnt a lot about the operation and maintenance of a hot glass shop as well as all aspects of the lighting industry – all important for the next move…
arial view of Niche modern hot shop and surrounds
Beacon in winter
What does a typical day for you involve? Or a typical week? Is typical even a word for you?
There isn’t a typical day as such and I like it that way I work erratic hours. I love to have my work in progress around me so I can constantly pick it up analyze and review. When working for others I try to be as lineal in my thought patterns as possible often it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
What mediums do you like to work with?
In N.Y. I became very interested in perfume. My mother in law is a perfumer and helped me understand the complexities of the science. There currently doesn’t seem to be much awareness about scent as an art form but it is definitely a growing movement with modern perfumers moving in all directions.
I am also very interested in lighting and look forward to exploring this further.
Lighting protos NY
Where do you work?
Wherever I can!
In Australia I was very lucky to have my own small studio space this allowed me to work on larger and longer projects. When I moved to the factory in Mexico there wasn’t really a designated space for me at the work place. This forced me to re-consider my work practice including more online documentation and improving my “administration skills”.
In NY I lived the dream a work/live loft with a huge open space affording lots of natural light. It was an organic space constantly morphing for individual projects for lighting, tableware and perfume creation. My wife is a dancer and she would move the space around completely using it to practice choreography routines. It had a great kitchen and at night we used an old packing table to eat off. It was warm in winter and cool in summer I’m really going to miss that place !
Who or what inspires you most – at the moment?
I love Mexico City it’s a huge thriving cosmopolitan metropolis steeped in history but constantly changing and evolving, what makes the city beautiful is it’s soul and big heart. I like to get out and walk the streets to experience the city. There are some great artists, designers and architects doing some great stuff here. Mexicans are very generous with their culture and food and keen to share it with the world. You are never too far away from food in this gastronomical jewel if you are not eating you are either talking or thinking about it!
Central Mexico City looking out towards the volcanoes
Do you have a favourite blog and/or book to recommend?
Facebook (no joking)!
My life seems to be filled more and more with technical jargon – furnace manuals, lighting specifications, perfume formulas leaving little time for any pleasurable reading.
Last winter however I read a book called: Emotional branding by Marc Gobe. Sounds like a dry read but the content was great talking about reaching people by creating an emotional connection with our products instead of the ubiquitous.
Best thing you’ve ever made?
A living from my hands.
What is the coolest thing to do in your town?
To start the weekend I like to go to the Lucha Libre wrestling a short walk away from where I live it’s colourful, loud and surreal. Afterwards grab a bite and something to drink, discuss emphatically the game and see the night off at La Covodonga a Spanish bar/ cantina.
I like to visit the markets to buy my food fresh – and there are many in Mexico city from the flower market Jamaica to the more European San Juan specializing in exotic meats (including kangaroo) Asian produce and fantastic delicatessens with a wide array of European cheeses and meats.
Sunday morning (conditions permitting) is a trip to the Lagunilla flea market, which has been operating continually since the Aztecs.
Another interesting excursion is to take a tour on a Mexican style gondolier on the Xochimilco canals, a legacy of the extensive canal system created by the Aztec empire. No need to bring anything with you vendors on boats will side up to you offering anything from quesadillas, tacos, drinks or even live music last time we had a boat load of enthusiastic mariachis play requests for us.
Mexico city is vast there is a lot to do, it’s pretty high up in the sky (2,240 metres/ 7,350 ft) so don’t rush around it catches up with you. Take your time, talk to people, eat and relax for such a large city it’s surprisingly humble and peaceful.
And one awesome place to eat there?
My mother in laws house of course ! There’s always something on the boil and many many salsas to explore including the traditional habanero, de arbol, serranos and of course chipotles to the more essoteric vanilla, peanuts and sesame seed.
Seriously Mexico City offers the full gamut of cuisine from all over the world of all qualities, for me the best food is on the streets and at the markets is honest, creative and very good value – foods stalls offer everything from tacos, quesadillas tostadas, soups, tamales, ceviche, freshly squeezed fruit juice et al.
If I had to name one favourite place (and that is hard) it would have to be our local taqueria El Faraón (Oaxaca 93 Roma, Mexico City), great tacos fresh, clean, great servings and 4 amazing salsas.
Is there something you’re bad at?
Lots – time management, decision-making and dancing (something I will need to work on)
Did you ever want to be rich or famous? What drives you?
Wherever I travel I always enjoy finding local artists, designers, workshops, arteliers, studios and boutique stores selling the locally created it’s what makes travel fun.
I’ve always sought an audience for what I do as a maker I think that’s normal, fame would be great if it doesn’t compromise the integrity of my work – here’s the dilemma. I believe an artist or company looses something if it becomes too big and therefore famous – it enters the mainstream and while financial reward is almost certainly achieved the very quality that made the organization what it is somehow is lost in the process as the products loose their flair and become available to all. While there are certainly companies that can mange both fame and integrity the numbers are few.
There is a book I read recently called Deluxe: How luxury lost its luster by Dana Thomas which puts this very issue into perspective, as small designer/maker labels grow into international brands run by multibillion dollar global corporations. The handcrafted element of the business ceases to exist instead concentrating on profit generation at whatever cost – that’s not my idea of fame.
More than any other post – Jonny’s has made me so hungry I’m off to search for anything that looks half as good here in Montreal! Thank’s for your time Jonny, we can’t wait to visit Mexico city!