Obsidian was the choice of material for Mexican architect and designer Frida Escobedo when commissioned by the 11th-generation tequila brand, Maestro DOBEL, to create a drinking vessel to showcase its range.
A complex naturally occurring glass, obsidian is formed through the rapid cooling of volcanic lava found in the ‘ring of fire’ region of Mexico, where tequila is also produced; this in turn provided the inspiration for Escobedo to start at the very roots of the process, to show the true provenance of the spirit.
Frida Escobedo is an award-winning talent, celebrated for such projects as You know, You Cannot See Yourself So Well as by Reflection – a summer pavilion designed for the central courtyard of the V&A in London; the exhibition design for Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today, curated by Pablo León de la Barra and organised by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, in collaboration with Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo. The work of Escobedo Studio ranges from art installation and furniture design to residential and public buildings.
Having chosen to work with this strange, mythical and complex material it was imperative the production would be to the highest quality. Juan Fraga, a master stonemason with more than 40 years’ experience, with skills passed down through the generations of his stonemasonry family, was a natural choice. Escobedo could trust in his knowledge of the material, yet despite his experience, the designs pushed him and his team to new heights: ‘This is the first time we have employed such fine techniques when using obsidian, so developing the vessels was part of a long process,’ he says – one that began with an eight-hour drive from Mexico City to the Sierra of Guadalajara, in search of rare ‘rainbow’ obsidian, with rich, vibrant hues. ‘This contains a broader colour range,’ says Fraga. ‘We then looked for the brightest areas within the stone before cutting, outlining, taking out the centre of each piece and finally polishing. Each cup took around three days to craft.’
The result is a set of beautifully crafted and tactile vessels, in three sizes, each in a unique finish, and each dish sourced from another variation of obsidian. In honour of the world’s first Cristalino tequila, Maestro DOBEL Diamante, ‘We sourced golden obsidian – a deep black stone with subtle gold nuances that appear only when touched by light,’ explains Escobedo. ‘For the smoky Maestro DOBEL Humito, we used a slightly translucent, silvery grey obsidian, while the smallest vessel, for the rich amber-coloured Maestro DOBEL Añejo, we used red obsidian – a rare mélange of red and black.’
The form was inspired by the jícara, a cup made from the fruit of the calabash tree and traditionally used for drinking tequila. And experimental ideas, together with an innate respect for tradition, also drove the design process, exploring the notion of a connection to people and the ever-changing landscape by way of a mythical circle.
These unique vessels possess a mystical quality, which is not unchartered territory for this ancient material – it has long been the stuff of legend, but with the vision of Frida Escobedo, together with Maestro DOBEL and the craftsmanship of Juan Fraga, we have modernity – in the palm of your hand.
Frida Escobedo for Maestro Dobel will be available at Harvey Nichols nationwide. The set of three vessels, along with a bottle of Maestro DOBEL Diamante™, is priced £550.