Wednesday 17 June 2015

The Art of Glass at Verreum: Designers Sacha Walckhoff and Arik Levy

Sacha Walckhoff, Creative Director at Christian Lacroix, in Milan with his new collection of glasses and vases for Verreum. “I called it Reverso because at the start of a dinner you use the glass and when the coffee arrives you turn it upside down and there is a coffee cup ready for use!" Photograph by Mariangela Curci

Shimmering amid flowers, berries and leaves, Verreum’s glass collection by the world’s top designers includes the clever Reverso by Sacha Walckhoff and Arik Levy’s curvaceous Drops vases reports Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photographs by Mariangela Curci & Paul McDonnell

PAVEL Weiser, founder and CEO of Verreum, speaks passionately about design and the great tradition of Czech glass manufacturing. Six years ago, the dynamic entrepreneur decided to build on that history and founded a new glass-making company. “The name Verreum was created from two words: verre meaning glass in French and um signifying craftsmanship in Czech,” he says. Weiser explains he wanted to revive glass-making craftsmanship, focusing particularly on silvered glass production, a technique that has been almost lost for more than half a century.

Sacha Walckhoff and Pavel Weiser at the Verreum show in Milan
“We re-invented this forgotten technique, mixing tradition and different technologies to create a new design language. Today, we make vases, glasses, bowls, lamps, candlesticks and furniture pieces. We like to collaborate with both Czech and international designers to create our products using highly skilled craftsmen from glass manufacturing areas in Nový Bor, Northern Bohemia. This is a famous production centre for Czech glass and we want to sustain the Bohemian glass making tradition.”
Arik Levy & the Jupiter night lights at the Milan exhibition
Sacha Walckhoff first met Weiser a year ago during his presentation at the Wallpaper Handmade event in Milan. “We kept in touch and last summer he came back to me as he was building a team of designers for his brand,” Sacha Walckhoff says. “Sebastian Herkner was appointed as the new artistic director and he wanted new ways of expressing the Verreum skill. I was immediately seduced by the idea of working with glass and travelled to Novy Bor in the Czech Republic where I was amazed by the art of blowing glass by the masters working for Verreum. I even tried to blow one piece  ~ what an experience!

“The idea of Reverso was partly inspired by the blown glass going up in the air and then down into the fire or water. It is like a dance with the sounds of the elements as a background track ~ the fire, the water, the steam!" The master glass-makers at Novy Bor create Verreum’s designs by a blowing cane, picking melting glass from the crucible, lifting it up and sprinkling it with water and finally lodging it into an oak cast to blow it into the final shape. “This ballet with pure matter inspired me to design five glasses and three vases for Verreum,” says the designer.
Drops orchid vase, Maly glasses by Sebastian Herkner & Reverso vase
Paris-based designer and artist Arik Levy created the Drops collection of rounded vases made specially for orchids and cacti. Levy says he remembers the fascination he felt when he saw drops of mercury leaking out of a broken thermometer. "I was always fascinated with the quicksilver drops, the amazing surface  reflection as well as the sensation that it is still liquid," he explains.This liquid silvery image was his inspiration when he designed the Drops vase collection. The designer
The soft, rounded forms of Arik Levy's Jupiter night lights
says the orchids and cacti in the vases give life to the pieces and when they are juxtaposed together they create a table sculpture.
Arik Levy’s large, tall Jupiter night lights in sapphire blue are inspired by a constellation of stars. The soft, rounded forms follow the shapes of of a candle flame and the silvered glass reflects the lights and colours around them. The large forms of the design allow them to be used both indoors and outdoors.

The delicate hues of the Reverso wine glass & coffee cups

Sacha Walckhoff's Reverso glasses and vases are an elegant, creative idea. While the large, balloon glass at the top is for wine or water they can be turned upside down and you find a silvery expresso cup underneath. “I called it Reverso because on one side of each piece, you have an espresso cup attached to a wine glass or a water glass. So at the beginning of a dinner, you can use your glass and when the coffee arrives you turn your glass upside down and you get a coffee cup ready for use!" The Verreum silvered glass technique gives a thermal capacity to the pieces so Walckhoff incorporated that into his designs too. 

The playful forms of the Reverso vase & glasses
"They are translucent and silver-coated, they are meant to be fun to use in different and surprising ways," he eplains. “I love the idea of having one object with different uses like the three vases I also designed for Verreum. This allows the client to be creative when he or she uses it. The idea of the creative process going on after my intervention ~ it is like forming an invisible net of creative minds.”

Sacha Walckhoff says as a designer, glass has its own special demands. “There are a  lot of challenges working with glass. I know a little about ceramic and porcelain but glass is really something on its own. Beginning to work with glass  through  Verreum on a semi-industrial line was even more challenging as there were a lot of restrictions such as doing only symmetrical shapes, using the grading of colours in one direction and so on. 
Sketches of the Chado teaset designed by Sebastian Herkner

Walckhoff’s collection of vases are meant to be mixed and matched, played with, turned upside down to change into glass lanterns when they are not filled with flowers. “The glasses follow the same principle, and so the champagne flute, once bottom up, becomes a tumbler while the white wine glass turns into a coffee cup when on its head. Also the silvered glass being double makes the possibility of creating shapes even smaller. But then I discovered that you could glue glass together, something that you do not do with ceramics and that helped a lot! But in general, I always love challenges, as it leads you to ideas you might not have explored without those difficulties.”
The Reverso collection is available in four colour
The new Bonbon side tables by Luca Nichetto
combinations: smoked silver and translucent glass, golden khaki and cobalt blue, garnet colored and emerald green and copper-bronze and smoked grey.

Other pieces in the Verreum collection include the hand-blown new Bonbon tables by Italian designer Luca Nichetto that were launched in Milan at the Salone del Mobile in April. Inspired by silver candy wrappers, they have a stylised form composed of geometric shapes in a totem form that can be used as glimmering, sculptural side tables. It seems an extraordinary feat that these beautiful, silvery pieces are all hand-blown in a small studio in the forests of Bohemia. Pavel Weiser has not only made a winning combination of international designers and hand-made skill but he has revived an art that was almost lost for more than half a century.

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