Breaking a glass ceiling: European designers use glass in new ways

In a world of design where it appears no frontier has not been crossed, designers often have to choose a radically new path if they want to make a mark.

With that in mind some of Europe's best designers have picked glass to express their latest ideas. The interesting thing about the material glass is that thanks to hand methods of manufacture, it limits designers in what they can achieve with it.

"I like working with authentic materials such as metal, glass, leather and wool," says German designer Sebastian Herkner. Glass fascinates him above all. "It's an interesting material because it's transparent, but also fragile."

The first product he made with glass was the Bell Coffee Table for the company Classicon. Created in 2012, it has already become an icon of contemporary design. The table's base is made of hand-blown glass that supports a metal top.

Herkner also designed a range of hand-blown glass items for Pulpo. The largest version of his Oda lamp is the maximum blown glass item that can be created by hand.

"The cooling chamber has to be extremely big," explains Pulpo owner Patrick L'hoste. "Our glass blowers are also limited by their physical abilities. They need to be able to manage about 15 kilograms of molten glass at one time."

A glass blower can make at most 10 Oda lamps in a morning, which limits their number.

The fascinating thing about glass is that it appears to be so fragile. Sebastian Scherer's Iris lamp is inspired by another very fragile object - the soap bubble. The surface of the handmade lamp shimmers in the same way as a soap bubble.

"It was very difficult to find the right coating that would give the Iris light the same range of colours as a soap bubble," explains Scherer. "It took over 18 months to develop the design."

The light's optical colour-show is made using steam in a vacuum. Once again that limits the number that can be produced and the vacuum chamber's size also limits how big an Iris lamp can be.

Scherer has also designed a glass side-table called Isom. The table is made from sheets of coloured glass arranged into honeycomb-like structures. Ultra-modern technology is used to manufacture the table.

"The tables are made using computer-controlled CNC machines," explains the designer. "Without them it would be impossible to achieve the precise amount of polishing and colour processing."

Italian company Glas Italia also uses sheets of glass in its products. The company's main source of income is from making facade glazing for buildings, but designer furniture has been added to its range.

Some of Europe's top designers, such as Patricia Urquiola, the brothers Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec and Piero Lissoni, have worked for Glas Italia. Their creations are once again quite exclusive and are experiments in what is possible with glass.

"The inspiration for our work with Glas Italia was supplied by the company itself," says French designer Ronan Bouroullec. "The interesting thing is how much knowledge they have when it comes to bonding glass together."

This allowed Patricia Urquiola to create her Shimmer range of glass furniture without any screws, just using glue to hold the sheets together. The result was a very precisely made study in design that thanks to its transparency and fragile construction looks almost weightless.

Last update: Sat, 03/09/2016 - 01:26
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