Since 1967, Cuba’s sole state-run blown glass factory has focused mainly on producing center pieces and vases. Although developing the glass industry has always been an aspiration, the trade’s technological complexity has prevented its creation. It is a very exhausting job that requires “almost more dedication than it does technology
An apparent calm prevails during the day at San José between Pocito and Luz Este streets in the capital’s Diez de Octubre district. But when you knock on one specific door on this street, some neighbor is sure to warn you that you need to knock really loud if you want to be heard.
No one can imagine the unusual world that lies behind that closed door, or maybe they do, but they are probably unsuspecting of the wonders that it protects from prying eyes.
Noise, wind, heat and a team hard at work is the scene that greets us at Eduardo Viciana’s workshop. This man defines himself not as director or head of the project, but as “the generator of that music.”
Vidrios FD is thus named after the basic material they use—vidrio, or glass—and the initials of the names of Viciana’s three sons: Fabio, Darío and Diago. It has been active since 2012 and it is the first venture of its kind in traditional non-mechanized glassblowing in Cuba.
Since 1967, Cuba’s sole state-run blown glass factory has focused mainly on producing center pieces and vases. Although developing the glass industry has always been an aspiration, the trade’s technological complexity has prevented its creation. It is a very exhausting job that requires “almost more dedication than it does technology,” says Eduardo.
Arising out of this need, Vidrios FD gave way to a new trade, a new craft on the island. The Ministry of Culture gave the project its approval and helped out with the financing. The workshop was created almost entirely by Viciana, who considers himself self-taught.
His work team—a vital factor in this trade—is made up by Jorge Labrada and Patricia Godínez, his two young assistants; Liani Ortega, his public relations coordinator; and Diana Martinez, who is the owner of the house where the workshop is located and is responsible for attending to the furnace at night.
When there’s a large-scale job to be done, master glassworker Santiago Cruz Fabal, who taught Viciana how to handle glass inside the furnace, lends a hand.
Vidrios FD produces many utilitarian items, including bowls, glasses, pitchers, demijohns, ashtrays and incense holders, to name a few, as well as decorative products, like flower vases, centerpieces, lamps, bubble glass blocks, and more.
Designs can vary according to the method used: free-blowing or mold-blowing, as well as to the finish of the pieces, which can be transparent, opaque, solid colored, with colored veins, clear or textured.
One of the characteristics of this project is its sustainability, since it obtains its principal material from recycling, as well as reclaimed metal for their lamps. Other materials they use include plaster, copper, iron and steel.
The Cathedral of Matanzas, the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana, the Raquel Hotel in Old Havana, and the Paradisus Varadero Resort all display magnificent creations by Vidrios FD. Their productions can also be purchased at stores belonging to the Cuban Fund of Cultural Property.
They are currently working on several projects commissioned by the National Capitol, the José Martí National Library and hotels in Varadero and Cayo Guillermo.
Eduardo Viciana is, first and foremost, a creator, an artist. He has exhibited his paintings and has dabbled in different fields of crafts, such as ceramics, stained glass and metalsmithing. He has specialized in everything he has tackled, yet he never chose to study in art schools in order to feel more free when creating and not be tied down to any canon in particular.
His entire training has gone into the art of making blown glass, which he considers to be the epitome and pinnacle of craftsmanship. He even says with some pride that in ancient times, the only persons who were not nobles but were allowed to marry into blue-blooded families were the glassmakers.
For the time being, Eduardo’s dreams are focused on completing his workshop and exhibiting his art so that he can share the treasures that are concealed behind the door of a house on San José Street with other dreamers like him.