In Aztec culture, which originated more than 2000 years ago in what is now central Mexico, obsidian became one of the civilisation’s most meaningful materials. The crystalline volcanic rock was not only useful for making weapons and tools, but pieces were also cut with flat surfaces and polished to make mirrors. The mirrors superimposed the reflection of human faces with what Aztecs believed were the god-like experiences of looking into the past, present and future. Obsidian mirrors were also associated with a particular Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, whose name translates as "Smoking Mirror".
The design of the Eye of God table began with a school arts assignment involving Gloria Cortina’s daughter, Manuela. "Her project celebrated Mexico’s annual, and the profoundly historic Eye of God event. She used colours and concentric squares to create a sign of protection," explains Gloria Cortina. "This stimulated me, and I began to imagine how a completely contemporary object could express an historic cultural idea."
The table top, with its polished pulido surface, is an homage to the traditions of both the Eye of God, and the Smoking Mirror. The other faces of the pyramid have rougher macheteado finishes. "The key point is that the top surface is perfectly smooth and you can see your own reflection," says Gloria Cortina. "In other words, when you see the Eye of God, you see yourself. And I think this is an exceptionally powerful idea in terms of both cultural history and pure design."
The cultural authenticity of the table goes deeper than its superbly crafted surfaces: the pyramids were made by 21st century obsidian specialists who work on the slopes of the Popocatepetl volcano – just as their Aztec predecessors did, many centuries before them.