I AM WATER – story of a New York-based water campaign inspired by pristine waters of Slovenia
Interview with Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler, CEO and designer of I AM WATER and founder of Our Humanity Matters
Slovenian born Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler never lost her fascination and connection with the pristine crystal-clear waters she admired much of her childhood. Water has always been the foundation of her thoughts and her most significant life force. In New York, where she has been living for almost three decades, she established Our Humanity Matters (OHM), a global organization inspiring more ecological humanity, putting respect for water in the very centre of it.
As a part of her mission she developed I AM WATER water-drop-shaped glass bottle, which embodies the message of water as our essential connection to life. Her bottle also represents a social mission working toward a more permanent solution to the water crisis and supporting the rights of clean water for all forms of life.
Tanja, your connection with water is very personal. Why water and what fascinates you the most about water?
I was fortunate to spend much of my childhood in the Slovenian Alps, by water streams observing water in its most pristine form as it originated from the ground of the forest. I learned that I was one with the rest of nature, that everything was interconnected, and that my humanity depended on staying connected to that primordial sacred place of life. Already as a child, I started to worry that one day we would run out of clean water.
Later in life, after realizing how extensively ignorance and greed damage our environment and how separated we are from the rest of nature, I thought it was essential to bring sensitivity to and respect for water to the public. One of my prime concerns became pointing out the false premise underlying the idea of the privatization of water, that is, of its private ownership.
Healing the waters and creating permanent solutions requires more then just repairing damages we are creating. It requires changing our thinking, which is dominated by greed and seeing ourselves somehow separated from the rest of nature.
Your I AM WATER glass bottle is designed so carefully, it almost looks like a piece of art. What was the process of its creation like?
In the last decade I became increasingly disheartened watching how we as people and corporations treat water – taking it for granted and seeing it simply as a commodity.
As a philosopher and engineer, I decided to take a leap forth and create the most beautiful water bottle in glass and shaped like a waterdrop, with a vital social mission to replace current water containers which I believe are improper storage for water.
I use beauty to help change how we think about water in modern lifestyles. The water is sacred and it’s vital for the humanity to hold the highest aspiration for pristine water, not just water as such, cleared of human-induced substances and toxins. There is a difference.
In I AM WATER, you see the sublime beauty of a waterdrop and experience water’s primordial form, which makes it more personal than receiving it via mechanical pipes, faucets, and plastic bottles. Still, nature’s intrinsic correspondence to our water bodies allows water to communicate to people.
I chose to create the bottle in glass, as water should be treated with care and as precious. Glass is a natural environment to water. Made of sand and non-toxic raw materials, glass mirrors many of water’s qualities, including transparency and fluidity, and is the only endlessly recyclable material.
The process of designing the bottle and brining it to mass production took almost a decade. The design was considered by many glass manufactures to be impossible to make in glass, especially for the mass production.
If we want to live on this planet, some new attitudes have to be developed towards the water – and your bottle represents a drop in this. Is this also part of the message you want to send out?
Yes. I AM WATER was inspired by my love and my experience and understanding of pristine water and the human behaviour undermining the future of clean water.
To restore water, we need a new mindset and new practices. We cannot repair damages we have created with the same level of consciousness that made it. Water is our teacher and our karma. It shows the one-sidedness of modern consciousness that sees itself separated from the rest of nature.
Water is not dirty. It only holds our pollution and shows us more than just with its colour that we need to clean up our act. For water to be clean which means for humans to be healthy – we need to rebuild our human connection with water and the rest of nature and recognize that we are intrinsically connected. That there is no Other, and there is no such a place as throwing things “away.”
Everything is in liquid before it is solid, and we cannot control water flowing through artificial human borders, evaporating and falling to the ground once again. The indigenous people knew that we are all part of the larger recycling evolutionary cosmic process in which elements were not just life-giving. They were Life. This for me is fundamental for ecological thinking and a sustainable future and what I want to inspire with I AM WATER.
In Slovenia, water is in our constitution as a fundamental right for all its citizens – meaning access to drinkable water can’t be commercialized. How do people in the USA usually respond when you tell them this?
Those who work in the field of water protection are thrilled and inspired to hear that. Slovenian connection and appreciation of water gives them hope.
Others are amazed, but I don’t think they can relate to our love of water as they don’t have clean water to love. It is hard to love dirty water or water that comes from your faucet.
“Slovenian connection and appreciation of clean water gives hope to many others.” – Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler
You are involved with mostly US-based water campaigns and movements. How essential do you think is to include Slovenia – the origin and source of your quest – in your future projects?
Very. In my opinion, what is needed most today is inspiration and hope. Clean waters of Slovenia and Slovenian people supporting their water rights are exactly that.
Most people around the world never saw vibrant nature and clean water as it exists in Slovenia. It is like we have moved into the second, perhaps the third generation of Life, with less vibrancy, fewer colours, less diversity, less joy, and less physical contact altogether. Meanwhile, Slovenia’s clean water and people’s connection and awareness of their clean water are uniquely preserved. Slovenes take great pride in their beautiful nature and healthy pristine waters, and this is precisely why it is clean. And because it is clean, we are more connected with it as we can touch it, drink it and play with it.
Once the water is polluted, and people are seduced by a profit-driven product that substitutes what would be available freely, people lose their belonging and care.
So, Slovenia represents hope, it models what is possible, what we can be and should return to.
And how do you see future relationship between your I AM WATER bottle and Slovenia?
For one, the potential market for my bottles in Slovenia is an excellent example of the bottle’s mission and impact model.
The bottle is designed for sustainable hospitality and fashion industry that has appreciation of clean water. In addition, 10 percent of the sale profit goes to preserving clean water. In case of Slovenia, proceeds would go to protecting the pristine waters of Slovenia and advocating the Slovenian model of water protection.
I already have a not-for-profit dedicated to public space art focused on water education. A foundation in Slovenia or setting up a Centre for Pristine Waters of Slovenia would be a great outcome after I AM WATER is successfully positioned in Slovenian hospitality sector.
Tanja’s comprehensive vision is for the water filtration system to be available in the public spaces, accessible to all.
To purchase your own I AM WATER bottle and support the water campaign, click HERE.
Interview by Mari Podhrasky (@mari_podhrasky)