Expressive glass

May 5, 2024 • design recipes • Views: 524

When László Moholy-Nagy saw some of the organic shapes Wilhelm Wagenfeld was developing for Schott & Genossen in Jena, he was unable to hold himself back:

“Wagenfeld, what are you doing?! You’re betraying Bauhaus! We fought for spheres, cylinders, cubes and you’re making Romanticism. You’re making sentimental drops.”

“No, Moholy” replied Wagenfeld. “What we wanted was a romantic understanding of form which couldn’t be correctly translated into any material. So I had to proceed from what I saw in the glassworks. The original form of the glass is the drop, and, starting with this drop, I’m going to try to find the new, organic form.”

Wilhelm Wagenfeld (1900-1990) was born in Bremen, did an internship there as a draughtsman at a factory that made silver objects, then trained to be a silversmith. In 1921 he moved to Weimar, where until 1925 he studied at the Bauhaus, including under László Moholy-Nagy. In 1924, while still a student, he designed his famous WG24 lamp. In 1931 he was invited to develop new expressive forms for a series of household glass made by Schott & Genossen, a progressive glassmaking factory in Jena. This is how this teapot of stunning beauty came into existence in 1932.

Production of Wagenfeld's teapot at Schott's workshops
Production of Wagenfeld’s teapot at Schott’s workshops
A lamp on a table
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WG24, Wilhelm Wagenfeld, reproduction by Tecnolumen. Photo: Tecnolumen

Unlike the austere, rather brutal WG24 lamp, Wagenfeld’s teapot looks elegant and so delicate that you are almost afraid to pick it up. But when you do so, you discover two things: 1) it’s very light, lighter than you could ever imagine; and 2) it’s very strong.

The secret of both the teapot’s strength and its lightness is the special glass which Schott had developed for glassware used in laboratories and medical institutions. The company had had the idea of making household objects made from this super-strength, thermal glass for the kitchen and the table back in the 1910s and organized its production in the 1920s. But it was only when Wagenfeld came along that this part of its business really took off.

Wagenfeld arrived at the shape of his teapot by watching the work of glassblowers at Schott’s workshops. The teapot’s shape is fluid, organic – like a swollen drop. It is more than functional; it is expressive. 

It is not difficult to find examples of expressive glassware among products being made today.

Take this Bordeaux wine glass by Nude, for instance:

Pure Set of 4 Bordeaux Glasses - Design Your Home
Nude: Bordeaux glass

Absolute simplicity. A shape that is not only pleases the eye but simultaneously fits snugly into the hand and gently guides the fumes of the fermented grape all the way to your nasal sensors.   

The Lyngby vase glass in Copenhagen green (above) by Danish Lyngby Porcelain is a sophisticated combination of form, texture, and colour. 

The same might be said of this corrugated lead-free crystal vase by NUDE. The colour and grooving engage the eye. The tall curving shape both helps to form bouquets and asks to be taken in the hand. 

Mist Vase Tall
NUDE: Mist vase by Tamer Nakisçi

The AWA Pendant (below) was, like Wagenfeld’s teapot, inspired by the image of glass blowing. Awa means ‘bubble’ in Japanese. The soft volume of the glass contrasts with the delicate, minimalistic fixture system.

A lamp from a ceiling
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Teo: AWA Pendant Lamp

Finally, the NUDE Alba whisky bottle sets cylinder against cone, crystal glass against marble, transaprency against solid matter. The addition of amber fire (whisky) is all that is needed to ignite your senses.

Alba Whiskey Bottle Tall
Nude: Alba Whisky Bottle
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