Published February 23, 2009
It’s called water from the uttermost south in the far end of the world, but “Crevasse-Waters from Patagonia” is quickly rising to some of the more exclusive sights of contemporary consumption. The Szydlowski family has kept and lived on a piece of land in the south of Chile for years, but a decade ago initiated plans to share its blue vistas with the world.
Ian Szydlowski, Creative Director and co-owner with his brother Allen and sister Tannia, is better known as an installation artist and frequent collaborator with artists Iván Navarro and Diego Fernández as Instituto Divorciado. That perhaps explains the company’s artful trademark sleek glass bottle, which he designed, and the limited initial release, exclusively on Colette’s Water Menu. But it’s business from here on out, at the company will. That is, until Szydlowski returns to New York in the fall to resume his artistic practice. (Photo: Rodrigo Pereda)MARIA ELENA GUERRA: You’re from Patagonia, and so “Crevasse—Waters from Patagonia” seems like it would be a very personal project.
IAN SZYDLOWSKI: It certainly came from living a very alternative lifestyle, growing up with hippie parents and living in the deep Patagonia for many years trying to come up with solutions for environmentally sustainable economies to the place we lived in.
MEG: You have moved around a lot, between New York, Santiago de Chile, and Paris. Do you still consider the south of Chile your home?
IS: I lived in Santiago de Chile to study and practice art, but my family has lived in the Patagonia for 20-some years, so it’s a kind of home to me. My brother has been living there even longer, non-stop. Due to my different lifestyle and making art, I tend to travel quite a bit. This is helping us now that we are starting to promote Crevasse.
MEG: The Patagonia fields are quite a desolate place. The web site is an impressive introduction; it has an exotic, exploratory quality and features videos where the traces of human hand is still unnoticeable. How is the region part of the company?
IS: It’s in every aspect of the company. We are deeply committed to the area. This project is one of the first to come out of its kind, we are starting with Crevasse as a launchpad, but Waters of Patagonia is quickly going to be helping resolve massive global water shortages in the coming years. There is a lot of setting up that we are doing now, and it takes a lot of thinking of how to do things and not do any damage to the amazing place where we extract Crevasse.
MEG: Crevasse means a fissure in the glacier, often not more than 30 meters deep. How do you bottle the water? Is there environmental impact?
IS: Crevasse means a crack in a glacier surface. Our water stems from natural melt-off from one of the world’s largest glaciers; it’s the second largest in the southern hemisphere outside of the Antarctica. The water has been trapped, frozen in this massive ice field for thousands of years, and when it comes out we bottle it with minimum handling. It just goes straight in the bottle, and there are few places you could actually do that. And crevasses can be hundreds of meters deep!
MEG: [LAUGHS] Well in that case Wikipedia got the information wrong!
IS: Wikipedia isn’t not very reliable for some things I’m afraid. Glaciers vary a lot.
MEG: How would you describe the taste?
IS: We did a tasting with the chef, Xavier Pellicer, from the two Michelin-Star restaurant Abac in Barcelona. He called it the best water he’s ever tasted. It has a very soft mouth feel and it’s really something so perfect and balanced that only nature could have created it.
MEG: You’re an artist. So why are you selling water?
IS: I think of myself as an entrepreneur.
MEG: So the two entirely overlap.
IS: South America has over 25% of the worlds drinkable water and only 6% of the population. The world is gerring drier and just now at DAVOS [World Economic Forum] leaders are starting to be aware of the importance of this precious resource makes. We have the unique ability to send unlimited amounts of water anywhere in the world, and will start addressing many needs for human water consumption.
We think that our company modus operandi will not only revolutionize the water industry, it might also change the way people see water.
MEG: You’re doing a slow release, so that water is first only available in Colette in Paris.
IS: When we first met with them last year they were immediately responsive and they continued to be very supportive. They have the only water bar in Paris so it’s kind of a no-brainer for us but we are also very happy to have our brand represented in that context. C’est la classe, really.Crevasse is available from beginning of March at Colette, Paris.