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The origin of glass still remains a mystery to us. Yet the apocryphal narratives surrounding it can tell us a great deal about its significance for our transition into the modern age. By focusing on the material diversity of sand, we can begin to understand and construct new narratives for industrial capitalism’s relationship to the natural world and the impact that it is having on ecological diversity.

As a DIY incendiary device, the Molotov is perhaps not the first to spring to mind when considering classic cocktails, though its origin shares a history with alcohol production and drinking cultures of the early twentieth century.

Vegetable plots, piranhas and Donald Duck: in the 1960s and 1970s, experimental designers dispensed with existing ideas about how a bar should look and focused on a fantastic redesign of nightlife.

Since 1997 El Ultimo Grito has produced work that investigates the nature and representation of systems. Their practice is rooted in how contemporary culture incorporates, re-uses and re-interprets the systems and structures that it has inherited. Or as they put it: “Within this context the challenge is to create new objects, which can be typologically disentangled from our conventional (learned) understanding of the world. and thus offer alternative ways to live, work and communicate.”

The analysis of sands collected by people from all across the earth reveals hidden narratives in the varied colours and textures of glass fused from ‘wild’ sands. When these geographical diversities become visible, it becomes clear that sand carries not only ecological significance, but powerful social and political histories.

Weighing up to 80 kilograms, a single glass bottle mould can bring forth up to a million bottles before reaching the end of its working life. Largely unchanged since the 1950s, this prolific device models shapeless material into perfect bottles of all kinds at incredible speed, as if by magic.

Whether for reasons of personal philosophy or material scarcity, bottle houses come in a host of culturally specific forms and styles. While these various examples display differing design methodologies and attitudes, they all share a similar democratic ideal and a fundamentally complex relationship between industrial production and consumption.

A container with a narrow opening, used to store, transport, protect, ferment and keep fresh. Early bottles were typically made from gourd skins, animal skins, stoneware or earthernware. These were almost unanimously replaced with glass bottles, first in ancient Egypt and later in China and Persia. Developments in manufacturing technologies have generated an endless array of shapes and sizes, each reflecting the use and qualities of its contents.

Precise production methods fill our world with endless iterations of the same objects, made to identical standards. Historical bottles hark back to another era, when glass was anything but a uniform material. The local sand and recycled material used in hand-blown glass yielded a wealth of imperfections and blemishes, of differences in texture and thickness and colour, lending each piece a unique character.