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With her »Riite« concept, Helmi Remes has designed one of the most striking glass vases produced for Rosenthal in recent years. We talked with this young designer about her search for perfection, about her inspiration, and about why she likes to work with glass.
When did you decide to work as a glass artist?
At the beginning of my studies, I was still unsure and also quite interested in many other topics such as photography or interior design – but then I just fell in love with the material. This was also the reason why I trained as a glass-blower after my graduation.>
What fascinates you so much about glass?
Glass is so clean and pure, I love its colours, the particular transparency of the material, and how it feels both during and after processing. I am primarily concerned with emphasising the tactile qualities of each piece, and always look for a balance between perfection and imperfection.
What inspired you to combine a vase shape with so many individual glass rods?
I am a big fan of the old Venetian Merletto glass technique, where a delicate lace-work structure is built up to create a fine surface made from glass strips. The look becomes very organic, and the difficult-to-produce combination of glass rods and a rounded glass body makes this design very special.
Robert Suk travels to Finland in summer and discovers Helmi Remes’ works at the Glass Museum in Riihimäki. The product development manager at Rosenthal is so ecstatic that he spontaneously hires the designer for a project. The artistic vase is called Riite and is hand-blown at Xaver Hofmeister’s glassmaking company.
“Please touch me!” Riite seems to be calling out. The vase by the Finnish glass designer Helmi Remes is in fact quite sensual, which is mainly down to its haptic quality. A soft, round body meets a roughlooking cuff made from white murrina. “I like things that have a simple design and radiate peace,” Remes responds to the question of whether any aspect of her work could be regarded as typically Finnish. Riite captures the moment in her design, allows the unexpected, plays with contrasts, expresses the quality of the material. “Small grooves on the surface of the glass create a sense of vitality. They are a part of the manufacturing process and have stories to tell.”
Every vase as well as the corresponding bowl Xaver Hofmeister makes is one of a kind. The craftsman comes from a family of glassmakers and is passing down the tradition to his son Sebastian. “We probably have pieces of glass in our blood,” he says, laughing. Father and son work together in a small glassworks in Gebenbach near Amberg in the Upper Palatinate in Germany. Apart from their own designs, the family business also brings high-quality designs by artists to life. Xaver and Sebastian Hofmeister combine contemporary design with traditional craftsmanship techniques.
Matters of the heart
“I want to pass on my knowledge because otherwise the centuries-old techniques will be lost,” Xaver Hofmeister says, and you can see his enthusiasm for the craft.
production pictures © Petra Kellner
Work of Art
Before Xaver Hofmeister started his own business, he had been the head of Rosenthal’s glass studio. This is why the 58-year-old seems predestined for making creatively ambitious glass objects such as Riite. “When we got the drawings from Rosenthal, we weren’t sure whether we could actually realise the design,” he admits. Fortunately, Hofmeister likes to experiment and loves challenges. The Riite collection is so difficult to produce because it combines two different techniques. This is very rare nowadays as it is very labour intensive, the glassmaker explains.
Whereas the body of the Riite vase is blown in a wooden form, making the tiny white glass rods is particularly tricky. They are attached to the rim of the vase as a kind of ribbon. “The transitions from rod to rod have to look good and still hold their own,” Hofmeister explains the technical challenge. “Glass doesn’t forgive mistakes, but I think it’s wonderful to be able to create something that can last for centuries.” And Helmi Remes? She compares the art of glassmaking to dancing, “It’s hard physical work yet still very playful.” How true!