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By Sebastian Herkner


Art of Folding
Floral Collar


Fantastic Folds

Designer Sebastian Herkner loves the skilful interplay of materials, surfaces and production techniques. He has succeeded in creating a design that is particularly captivating in this respect with the »Falda« vase.

The simple, bulbous vase made from biscuit porcelain with its velvety surface and pleated collar with a golden titanium coating is reminiscent of Art Deco objects. However, the appearance of the collar is a digital interpretation of this time thanks to its precise folding.

The Designer

Sebastian Herkner

Sebastian Herkner

Sebastian Herkner enthuses the German design scene – with award-winning designs that combine traditional craftsmanship with modern techniques. Born 1981 in Bad Mergentheim he works freelance since 2006 after studying product design at the Offenbach University of Art and Design.

Sebastian Herkner designs furniture, lights and tableware for manufacturers such as Moroso, Carl Mertens or Classicon – including probably his best-known design of the Bell Table, for which he was honoured with the Red Dot Design Award 2010. He works also as an interior and exhibition designer and lives in Offenbach.

The tightly folded, gold-coloured aluminium wrap around the bottleneck of the iconic Black Forest beer “Tannenzäpfle” inspired him to design a vase with a bulbous body that opens out dramatically towards the top in the shape of a chalice and with radiant copper detailing that forms the perfect contrast against the white biscuit porcelain.

Making of Falda

Sebastian Herkner, the shooting star of the German design scene, travels extensively to gain impressions from all over the world. One time, he will develop an enthusiasm for African craftsmanship and, another time, for Japanese everyday objects, which are required to meet the country’s stringent requirements for craftsmanship and aesthetics. He attends trade fairs, sets up showrooms and always devotes time to visiting the production facilities of renowned manufacturers to witness the craftsmanship of Italian furniture manufacturers or German glass blowers and get a detailed explanation of the roduction processes.

He is one of Rosenthal’s most sought after designers and maintains a close dialogue at all times with the Creative Centre and Production. We spent a day with the Offenbach designer of choice during production of his »Falda« vase in Selb, Germany and witnessed a blank piece being transformed into a top-class designer item.


The Art of Folding

Out of curiosity

It is not without reason that Sebastian Herkner likes to take a look behind the scenes. “It was during an internship at Stella McCartney in London that I learnt how important it is to observe.” His inquisitiveness and talent for discovering something special even in the most simple of things and incorporating it into his works using unusual colour combinations or material collages is what makes his designs so extraordinary – and this is reflected absolutely in the avant-garde design of his »Falda« vase. With its pleated collar, it is a must-have item for flower lovers and design fans alike. Sebastian Herkner travelled to Selb to be present during all of the production processes. The vase, which is made of unglazed biscuit porcelain, will be released in 2015 with a copper-coloured titanium coating. It will be manufactured from a single piece, which poses a very particular technical challenge – even for the most experienced of porcelain craftsmen.

Prize-winning design

At only 29 years of age, Herkner won the famous German design accolade, the “Red Dot Design Award”, for his “Bell Table”. This was followed in quick succession by the “German Design Award 2011”, the “Wallpaper Design Award” and, recently, the “Interior Innovation Award” for the innovative »Collana« vase series, in which he masterfully set too much store by his numerous awards. Quite the opposite – on his website he simply lists the awards and nominations in chronological order without any further comments. Sebastian Herkner naturally took the train from Offenbach, where he has lived and worked since studying at the Offenbach University of Art and Design, to Selb in Upper Franconia, where the Rosenthal company headquarters are based. He attaches just as much importance to sustainability – not simply in his many travels, of course – as he does to environmental friendliness and product durability. “My works are intended to radiate a certain timeless quality. I like it when things still make an impression with their design even after many years.” So what does he value about Rosenthal? “In my opinion, it is among the pioneering German companies in the field of porcelain and table culture. For many decades, Rosenthal has bridged the gap between hand-crafted factory production and industrial manufacturing.”

Inspiration from the Black Forest

The young designer tracks the processes in the production hall with a focused gaze, observing as the first unglazed vases are removed from the plaster mould, and explains how time-consuming it is to design them let alone manufacture them.

The tightly folded, gold-coloured aluminium wrap around the bottleneck of the iconic Black Forest beer “Tannenzäpfle” inspired him to design a vase with a bulbous body that opens out dramatically towards the top in the shape of a chalice and with radiant copper detailing that forms the perfect contrast against the white biscuit porcelain.

From paper to plaster models

Herkner first built models out of paper, then out of polystyrene and aluminium foil, and later visualised them using 3D computer graphics. Following this, the first prototype was produced using a 3D printer at the Rosenthal Creative Centre. “The asymmetrical folds meant that it kept toppling over at first. We had to move forward slowly and finetune the design,” admits the designer openly. “It is a long process from the first stroke of the pencil to delivery.” He notes with regret that “most people aren’t aware how much hard labour and teamwork is involved”.

It was an accomplished model builder with decades of experience who produced Herkner’s plaster model. Since porcelain shrinks by approximately 12.5% during firing, it has to be made larger to compensate. “There are employees here who have already been working for Rosenthal for 33 years. I am only twelve months older than that. I value their specialist expertise and intuition for white gold very highly.” The next step is to make synthetic resin models before casting negative plaster moulds. The porcelain paste only comes in at this stage. After approximately 20 minutes, the multi-sectioned mould is opened up little by little, allowing the blank piece to dry.

Entering the home stretch

At the plasterwork station, skilful hands remove any irregularities. After biscuit firing at a temperature of between 850 and 950 degrees, »Falda« is brushed with blue-tinted wax below the collar and above the base. Sebastian Herkner admiringly looks over the shoulders of an employee as she works at the potter’s wheel and watches carefully as she glides her fine brush along the mould. “This insulation is necessary so that after it is carefully dipped into the glaze only the base and the inside of the vase are coated as the outside needs to remain matt,” he tells us. The last step in the process is to fire the porcelain at a temperature of around 1,400 degrees. After this, »Falda« is water-resistant and ready to go. One day after production, the designer is in the photo studio, posing in front of the camera with his wonderful creation. He picks up his work of art casually and unpretentiously, in typical Herkner style.

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