Luxury Handmade Glassware
Lukas Klimcak founded his Czech Republic-based glassware brand KLIMCHI just one and a half years ago, yet in this short space of time, he has garnered the attention of buyers from prestigious retailers such as Liberty London and Selfridges. Lukas speaks passionately about preserving the legacy of glass-making which his home country is known for and celebrating the true artistry of the craft. Lukas hopes to ignite in his customer the same sense of passion and nostalgia which he feels toward his Bohemian designs. Every piece from KLIMCHI is hand-made and lovingly crafted to be an heirloom, something which is treasured amongst family and evokes fond memories as time passes.
A Passion For Glassmaking
You founded KLIMCHI in your family's glass factory in the Czech Republic. Can you describe how your fascination with glass began?
After attending high school I went to Austria to study abroad at a university. Around that time my mother met her now-husband who owned a glass factory; a small family business that would make beautiful Bohemian glass chandeliers. From the moment I got acquainted with glass I became very interested in it. It’s not something I ever expected but the more I learned, the more I fell in love with it. As time passed I grew a higher liking of glassware and decided to focus on it. I did not see a really high quality, artisanal glassware on the market so I founded KLIMCHI which brings these qualities to the market.
How does the craftsmanship of KLIMCHI products lend itself to how they intend to be used?
There are a lot of mass-produced, machine-made products on the market in the UK and across Europe and it’s difficult to find really high-quality items that will last a lifetime these days. KLIMCHI is totally different. What I love about our family factory so much is that there are real people behind each and every product. It’s a craft that’s been passed on from generation to generation and you’ll often find that glassmakers work in the same factory where their grandfathers did - that’s a story in itself which infuses each item.
I always imagined KLIMCHI to be really connected with emotion and I want every jug, or carafe, or vase a family owns to be the piece that really brings them together - that special item that’s always on the table when enjoying a Sunday lunch together. The quality of the product means they can be in your life for a long time, as heirloom pieces that can be passed down.
Do you have any signature designs?
Yes, KLIMCHI is well known for hobnail glassware, which is our customers' absolute favourite. It draws inspiration from an old factory design that has been reinvented. The hobnail glassware was originally developed in the Czech Republic and was then popularised by Mr Fenton in the US in the 20th century. Effectively, we took this idea and reinvented it into a number of different products that make up our collection. I’d say it’s our current signature design, but we want to develop and popularise new ranges as we move forward.
What are your thoughts on collaborating with different artists?
I didn’t want to go down the route of having lots of collaborations with lots of different artists, even though I know some companies do this. I really like the idea of having one creative director, somebody who is really talented and shares KLIMCHI’s values while maintaining the Czech heritage. Last year we started a wonderful partnership with Frantisek Jungvirt who became our Creative Director. Frantisek is only 24 but he is incredibly talented and has already won numerous awards. At KLIMCHI we all collaborate on projects together. It is amazing to see the fruits of collaborative work we put so much of our hearts in.
Before Christmas you introduced the Shadows collection. Can you tell us more about it and any future collections which you are particularly excited about?
Our ‘Shadows’ collection was KLIMCHI’s debut collection designed by Frantisek. It’s very sleek and minimalistic. It takes inspiration in the interplay of shadows and colours captured in the curvatures of the glass. In April we will be launching our new ‘Felicity’ collection which is a very joyful, Spring/Summer collection of rather petite vases. We take a lot of inspiration from old, traditional techniques, reinventing forgotten, antique designs into something modern and contemporary. With ‘Felicity’ we’ve worked with cracked glass for it which is quite rare nowadays. It’s an amazing technique that we’re thrilled to bring to the market. We then have two further collections in the pipeline coming very soon as well.
The Typical KLIMCHI Customer & Sources Of Inspiration
Who is the typical KLIMCHI customer?
I would say it's definitely women, who love to decorate their homes and host their family or friends. We found out that we speak strongly to older audiences as well. They love the sense of nostalgia. We don't want to be old-fashioned per se but we love the legacy of our craft and this really draws people to the brand. Our pieces are historical while looking modern and that really resonates with them. A lot of our older customers sometimes mention to us that their parents or grandparents had similar items and that reminds them of childhood memories, which is really sweet.
Aside from traditional techniques within the realms of glassware, where else do you draw inspiration from?
We draw a lot of inspiration from nature. Our factory resides in the mountains and we have a lot of woodland around us and a national park nearby. It really is a very picturesque countryside. Aside from nature, art in general - from theatre to fine art. Frantisek and I have both a strong creative vision of our company.
What is your favourite stage in the process of creating a new collection?
I’ve never thought about what my favourite stage is! But one which is particularly significant is the sampling. Glass itself is a mesmerising medium - it’s an element after all. You’re working with it at 1400 degrees, it’s completely pliable until it reaches the annealing chamber and it becomes rock solid. It then has all these beautiful, optical properties to it too. While it is an amazing material to work with, it also comes with many challenges and it’s interesting to see people who may have been in the industry for 50 years yet every now and again they are surprised by something about glass. It’s unpredictable and you need to try the product out several times before you get it completely right. This is why the sampling stage is so important. You may have a concept in your mind yet you’ll find out it doesn’t quite work in the way you have imagined. The Felicity range, for example, started out as one idea, yet after three rounds of sampling it had changed into something different. We kept the shape but adapted a lot of things within each round until it truly evoked a sense of ‘this feels right’. I find the whole process very intuitive. You just need to try to see if products will work in the way you imagined them to work.
A Combination of Function and Beauty Within Design
So it's just as much about function as it is about beauty?
Functionality is very important for us, it’s also a matter of the manufacturer's abilities. Particularly tabletop glassware collections such as tumblers and jugs. The products need to be easy to drink from, pour from, we look at every element of functionality. We want our products to be used and experienced in real-life settings because it’s in this day-to-day use that they become a part of memories for the owner.
Designed by Woulfe often works with artists to commission pieces for the luxury residential or commercial projects they work on. Do you ever work with interior designers in this way, or have plans to in the future?
We built KLIMCHI as more of a retail brand. We have great retail partners in the UK such as Liberty London, Selfridges and soon to be a part of Brown Thomas in Ireland. One of our dearest clients is also Petersham Nurseries in London. So we have amazing partnerships and value the retail network a lot.
We would like to develop new business strategies this year that will be more project-specific and cater more to interior designers. I don’t particularly want to go down the route of fully bespoke production because it’s an incredibly lengthy process, however at the same time I do want to develop more high-end pieces or limited collections and offer them as signature pieces for interior designers who are looking for that one stand-out piece for a residential or commercial setting.
Future Goals For KLIMCHI
You’re still such a young company, what’s your ultimate dream for KLIMCHI?
Definitely to be one of the leading tabletop and interior glassware brands in the world while keeping the values and family spirit of KLIMCHI as well as maintaining our strong relationships with the glassmakers in our factory. I’d never want us to lose these values.
Designed by Woulfe has invited travel and lifestyle journalist Eva Ramirez to curate our Emerging Talent Series for the Design Journal. Having lent her voice to publications including Robb Report, Conde Nast Traveller and British Vogue, she has documented her travels and the people she has met along the way in the form of long-form features, city guides, in-depth interviews and personal accounts. Through a sensibility towards conscious travel, Eva shares insight into what’s worth seeing - in between the typical hotels, restaurants or boutiques - and in the process, has honed her discerning eye for the fresh talent that are shaking things up in their respective industries. In this collection of interviews, Eva discusses creativity, craft and inspiration with some of the design world's most exciting and inspiring trailblazers.