Saturday, March 07, 2009

Wilhelm Wagenfeld, German Crystal Glass Maker, Part 2 of 2

One of Wagenfeld’s most successful posts was as artistic director (1935–44) of the Vereinigte Lausitzer Glaswerke (VLG) in Weisswasser. With his team of colleagues, which included such people as Heinrich Löffelhardt (1901–79) and Hermann Gretsch (1895–1950), he produced high-quality functional glassware sold under the name of Rautenglas. He also carried out decisive improvements in the field of compressed glass, an important result of which is the Kubusgeschirr storage ware (1938), rectangular stackable containers of various sizes (Berlin, Tiergarten, Kstgewmus., 1981, 108).

World War II brought Wagenfeld’s career at VLG to an end. After military service and a period as a prisoner in the USSR (1944–5), he went to Dresden (1946), before spending two years in Berlin (1947–9), where his posts included a professorship at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste. From 1949 he was based in Stuttgart. After a brief period as an industrial design consultant (1949–50), Wagenfeld devoted himself exclusively to independent work as a designer and model-maker in manufacturing industry, working from 1954 to 1978 in his own workshop with a small team of colleagues. He also worked for a number of firms including WMF/Geislingen (hollow stainless steel and silverware, cutlery, glass containers), Peill & Putzler/Düren (drinking glasses and lamps), Lindner GmbH/Bamberg (lamps) and Joh. Buchsteiner/Gingen Fils (plastic ware). He designed services and other consumer products for the porcelain industry (Rosenthal AG/Selb; Fürstenberg/Weser).

Wagenfeld discussed his aims and experiences in a large number of publications. His work was not concerned with selective improvements but with generally raising the level of quality of industrial consumer items, a task that would have been impossible without the equally important contribution of those involved in the production process. Walter Gropius described Wagenfeld’s work as a consistent application of the ideas of the Werkbund and the Bauhaus in his emphasis on socially responsible work. His designs are characterized by their functionalism and unobtrusive beauty and by being reworked several times.

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Pictured above: Wagenfeld Crystal Vase, available at our Mall Store at: Pennys Antiques & Wedgwood Pantry

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