Brimming with scented flowers, combined with a single bud or alone, like sculptures, vases are essential furnishing design elements. In the living area like in the least obvious spaces, design vases in all their shapes and lines adorn with elegance, merging functionality and style and show ideal to decorate the house, the office, public spaces and the outdoor. Vases have an extremely ancient history and thanks to their specific containing scope they have ever since been identified with such a wide range of shapes and usages, that trying to dig it out is like uncovering the Pandora’s box! A vase is generally an open container lending itself to be used as decoration for the house, in the form of flower holder, container, sculpture, or in general as a sophisticate furnishing complement for all spaces; even in the kitchen or dining room as a table or food accessory, in the form of a jar, decanter, pitcher, bowl or crockery of various types; until dominating the scene in the outdoor area as a container for flowers and plants, as a vase or cachepot for the outdoor, in the garden as well as on the terrace and the balcony.
Vases: containers with a high design and imagination content
Being a container for liquid and incoherent substances, vases must necessarily be made of resistant and little permeable materials, like glass or ceramics. Terracotta vases are the most used since ancient times, mainly because raw clay is easy to mold by hand or lathe and due to its resistance, once cooked. Over time, next to creative shapes, vases have been featuring a wide use of materials which has allowed to find, beside the classic porcelain or ceramic vase, also vases in metal, in often precious materials as it it is the case for gold and silver vases; or vases in stone or marble; still, in most recent times, plastic vases, or sacks in polymeric materials that provide for a contemporary and versatile solution to contain plants, in the form of pocket flower holders, or soft flower pots for street decoration. Depending on the material consistency, there are opaque or see-through vases, that can be lit from the inside, giving shape to light vases; these are vases with integrated light that, by using LED lights, can set new magical atmospheres. There are fabric, leather or wood vases that can serve as sheer ornamental items or as covering for other containers. In the domain of outdoor and street furniture an ever larger industrial production has witnessed the spread of cement vases or stone flower pots, heavy and fragile materials with a brutal taste, or of lighter wooden crates and metal flower pots, usually coordinated with seats and benches. By today the creativity of contemporary design has transformed the traditional vase into a decorative and furnishing element with countless shapes, materials and uses.
Vases: a functional object with an unmistakable shape and a multi-purpose one since ancient times
Being containers which primary function is to contain, carry or simply preserve liquid and granular materials, vases shapes and materials have through history been inevitably bound to the habits of the peoples who used them - whether they were sedentary or nomad - and to the materials available in the place where they were manufactured. In its original and traditional shape, a vase generally features a foot, a flat bottom working as a support base for the vase to hold straight, a body or belly, being the cavity where things are kept, from a recess called shoulder leading to the narrowing of the neck, that can be more or less long, and another enlargement at the level of the upper edge, called rim or lip. The proportions among these components as well as the materials and the possible decorations, normally allow to determine the origin and use of a vase. In the case of jars and amphorae there also are handles (respectively one or two), apt to handling, or spouts to pour the liquids; amphorae for transport purposes, the ancestors of barrels, feature a more tapered belly and foot in the lower part, so to wedge in more units and make them more stable while carried on a ship cargo. Amphorae (from the Greek ἀμϕορεύς meaning “being hold from both sides”) were mainly made of terracotta to transport liquid or semi-liquid foodstuffs like wine, oil, fish, honey, various preserves, etc.; they were equally exchanged among populations like the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Etruscans, peoples from the Magna Graecia and the Romans. Amphorae could also be supplied with a closure for conservation and transportation purposes, with a terracotta lid or a seal on the rim. In several local traditions it is possible to find many items with similar shapes and functions, of various shapes and names, as for instance in the local Italian tradition there are the “orcio”, “giara or “capasone”.
The vase as a historic and artistic document of civilizations and places
Through the trade of goods and food products, ceramic vases and especially amphorae have furnished the base upon which to document the history of the production of raw material in a specific place, together with the exchanges held by the local populations with neighboring or far away lands. In the past, the materials used to make vases were mainly terracotta, porcelain and alabaster; these are among the heaviest ones and were primarily used by sedentary peoples. Nomad peoples preferred metal and leather which were lighter and easy to be carried by a person. Thanks to the intrinsic characteristic of being a container measuring the space occupied by a body, in the past vases were also used as a unit of measurement for volume, as in ancient Greece time; but they were also used as a unit of measurement for weight and capacity by Italian traders, and especially Venetian ones, with terms that we still find nowaday in the various systems of measurement (ounce, pint, gallon) and of daily use in the cooking domain (spoon, tea spoon, cup, glass, etc.). The manufacturing and decoration of vases is also a form of art, which saw an origin already many centuries before Christ, in ancient Greece, or since VII century a.d in imperial China (as witnessed by the traditional Chinese meiping vases). Eventually, it is important not to forget the use in ancient times of funerary vases or funeral urns, boxes that still nowadays are used to preserve the ashes of the deceased person after cremation, as an alternative to body burial. Also sacred vases -normally made of metal or silver- have survived to this day, as a liturgical item that in the Latin ritual used to contain water for sacerdotal ablutions.
Crockery in dowries and ceramic, porcelain and glass collections
The term “crockery” generally encompasses different kinds of vases and containers, especially made of glass, crystal, porcelain, ceramic, terracotta, precious metals like gold and silver, or of a high historical value. This term refers to containers for the kitchen, among which vases, amphorae, bottles, glasses, plates, trays, cups, etc., but even to containers for decoration. Between the XV and the XVII century, the Italian ceramic production included pitchers and dowries made of polychrome crockery (renowned are the Faenza or Capodimonte manufactures). As for glass production, the work pieces of the lagoon glassworks, the famous Murano glass vases, are still timeless. Eventually, among the ornaments that adorned many of the wealthiest European families’ palaces, it is impossible not to mention the Chinese vases collections, sheer trophies of the increasingly popular trips towards the far East along the Silk Road. These vase were normally destined an entire room with silk tapestries that framed these precious porcelains in exotic atmospheres.
Colors, materials, surfaces and shapes. All the ways a design vase can transform and decorate an environment
As described, since ancient times vases have been filled, transported, used to set the table and especially to furnish. As of today, the latter tendency is ever increasing and the presence of a vase in the vest of furnishing complement has become a must of the indoor contemporary design, which is more and more attentive to every detail of the domestic and contract spaces and merges the furnishing and decorative purposes into an organic concept. Today, vases can create, alone or combined in tiny installations, more or less dense green scenery flats, or even, using specific systems and grills, full vertical green walls to enrich the internal spaces in continuity with the outdoor. Design vases are not mere flowers or plants holders, but are rather to be considered fully-fledged furnishing elements. Their production is ever more the result of a designer’s project delving into material, shape, surface, color and transparency and diversifying all these aspects. Next to the classic standing vases that can be placed on the floor as well as on cabinets or shelves, wall-mounted vases or hanging vases are increasingly gaining ground, especially in small spaces, and can be placed alone or in a composition to evoke far cultures. It is ever more so that unusual shapes and unpredictable colors give a new life to glass and ceramic vases, which are “classic” only for the materials and at times ancient techniques that characterizes them; they are rather innovative for the exaltation of their perceptual potential, like in the innate pictorial colorfulness of the countless decorations of ceramic vases, especially when in multi-units compositions, or of the Tiffany vases glass mosaics, or the fluidity, glow and newly revised vibrant texture of blown glass vases.
Not mere vases, but sheer pieces of art
Just like sculptures, marble vases that were till the threshold of the third millennium characteristic for their being hand-made starting from a tender rock block like Carrara marble, today are increasingly the outcome of computer-made geometries, forged into finished products by sophisticated, numerically controlled machines. Hence these are objects that can be replicated without loosing on the fine taste of a pièce unique, exclusive also in their innovative shapes emerged from the fusion between modern and classic lines, in the continuity of that timeless material filled with memory that is stone. Light and handy, available in several shapes and colors, plastic vases adapt with great versatility to both indoor and outdoor environments. They can be easily relocated to meet new furnishing requirements or even sheer functional needs, like it can be the case for flower pots requiring a specific exposure to sun for certain plants. With shapes borrowed from objects of common use, anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, phytomorfic, or even inspired by renowned works of art, sculptures, paintings, if not art creations themselves, vases pass from being plain decorations for the house to being fully-fledged objects of desire, for their being a design icon or because they belong to a “limited edition”. The example of an icon-vase is the famous Aalto vase, designed by Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino who drew inspiration from the lakes of their Finland, on the occasion of the competition launched by the Karhula-littala glassworks in 1936 for the International Exposition in Paris.
From the vase for the house to flower pots. Enjoy your outdoor with or without a garden
Flowers and plants can trigger true passions. Architecture and design have multiplied the domains and solutions to furnish gardens or outdoor terraces, and on the other side of the glass, winter gardens or green walls - inevitably recalling Boeri’s Vertical Forest - letting green and light enter your indoor area at the same time. As a matter of fact, outdoor vases and flower pots are still replaceable, as an alternative to the garden, to take advantage of a green spot inside your house or on a balcony. On the other hand, peculiar of vases for ornamental flowers and plants are the typical upside-down truncated cone or rectangular parallelepipedon shapes, pierced on the base and composed so to be filled with topsoil and to be combined with a cachepot or flowerpot dish. Stemming from the gardening and outdoor domain or destined to street furnishing, vases and accessories for plants encompass flower pots, hanging vases, tall vases, cachepots, crate-like flower pots, balcony pots and even light and handy modern sacks for plants in geotextile, which recyclable fabric favors the growth of plants and flowers for a perfect balance among, ground, air and water.
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