Cheers to a ‘Glass’ act - Local woman wins ‘On the Rocks’ design competition

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Whether it’s shaken or stirred, the martini just got a whole lot cooler thanks to one Greenpoint resident.

Mia Ferrera Wiesenthal, 29, was recently named the U.S. winner of the 2008 Designer Glass Competition. “On the Rocks,” her sleek ice-crystal design of a stemless martini glass, beat out 40 other submissions from all over the country in Bombay Sapphire’s annual contest.

Wiesenthal’s design won the hearts of an elite panel of judges as well as the online People’s Prize Award. She now moves on to compete in the global finals in London this September. And in addition to $3,000 in prize money and some well-deserved bragging rights, she was awarded an internship in Los Angeles with the internationally renowned designer Sami Hayek, brother of Selma.

“I always attempted to compete in other design competitions, but this is the first design that I followed through on,” Wiesenthal said. “I always wanted to enter this particular competition because it looked fun and it was one I respected a lot. I’m incredibly grateful to Bombay Sapphire for the opportunity.”

Wiesenthal received her undergraduate degree in furniture design from SUNY Purchase and her industrial design degree from the Fort Greene-based Pratt Institute in 2006, but an illness in her family made immediate employment a necessity. She currently works at Phillips de Pury & Company auction house.

Though this victory could be just the kick-start her design aspirations need, Wiesenthal, a fourth generation Brooklynite whose grandparents used to own a candy store in the borough, has mixed feelings about leaving her life here in Brooklyn for the Pacific Coast internship.

“At first, the thought of leaving New York was agonizing. New York is my home, it is where my father who raised me lives, where my friends are. Most of what I know is here and it is part of my identity,” she said. “But at the same time, as a New Yorker, I feel displaced,” she added, since “the face of my city is quickly becoming less appealing.

“That is not to say that L.A. is the remedy. I just hope that my new city will enlighten me and it might be as simple as seeing the sun rise and set on a different landscape or by meeting new people.”

Still, it is an opportunity to break out of the pack that she couldn’t refuse.

“The goal of the Designer Glass Competition is to encourage emerging artists to interpret the classic martini glass in their own distinctive style, drawing inspiration from Bombay Sapphire,” said Elkie Griffin, a brand spokeswoman.

By giving burgeoning student skills a shot (as in an opportunity, not an ounce of liquor), the contest gives talent like Wiesenthal an invaluable foot in the door.

“It’s working out really well in terms of the connections alone,” she said, “but also it’s a much-needed boost of confidence in my design skills. The internship is definitely the most exciting part though. It’s really difficult to get work especially right out of graduate school since it’s such a competitive field.”

It took her three weeks to produce the winning “happy accident,” a rock-shaped formation with form as well as function. “On the Rocks” has no stem but its thick ice-like exterior prevents the drinker’s hand from heating the liquid.

The design also has several planes which allow a playful level of interaction. “You can lay it on its side to let the bartender know you need another,” she said.

Though she admits it didn’t look anything like the way she envisioned it, the martini glass emerged a national favorite and could even earn her $20,000 if she claims the international prize.

But for now, Wiesenthal plans to use her winnings to move to L.A. for the start of her internship and, hopefully, her successful design career.

“I do love a martini,” she said but admitted to traditionally being a vodka fan. “Lately, though,” she laughed, “I’ve definitely been drinking them with gin.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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