In the clouds with Jonathan Hansen’s handcrafted and engraved crystal glassware collection
Scroll down to go behind the artistic vision of this one-of-a-kind design story reflective of a clear blue sky
Harmoniously weaving the contemporary with his classical foundation – New York-based Jonathan Hansen launched his eponymous design studio in 2010 and established his signature through a mélange of collaborations with leading names of the global industry.
“My studio is a hybrid of designing collections for my own line as well as others. Crafting a product for a brand along with several creative minds is a cross-cultural experience – a place where I feel very much at home” says Hansen.
The process of design for him is rooted in the concept of freedom within structure.
Gravitating towards the classical music composition method of theme and variation as well as the practice of musicians endlessly exploring and reinterpreting the standard jazz repertoire, he’s been brilliantly applying the same to his own studio – improvising and evolving.
“Even the most ornate object or space can be either over-designed or under-designed. Magic can be found in a middle ground where design finds its singing point. Where it communicates an idea with clarity and power” he adds.
Dreamy mists and fleeting moments inspired Hansen to effortlessly bring the atmospheric depth of the sky down to earth and onto crystal in his enticing new collection – In the Clouds.
Reflective of a clear blue sky filled with fluffy white clouds, this line is created by craftsmen from the Czech Republic who spent their lives mastering the art of engraving Bohemian crystal encapsulating.
10 unique glass pieces undeniably perfect for a utopian tablescape ranging from water glasses, wine goblets and tumblers to breathtaking sculpted carafes available in both clear and tinted gray crystal.
Seamlessly conveying a sense of lightness and liberation, images of the clouds featured are finely engraved and uniquely punctuate the skies of mouth blown crystal.
Each piece is handcrafted with intricate detailing and hence slightly different – celebrating a tactility that can only be felt in the perfection and imperfection of this craft that Hansen brings alive and invites us to experience.
A pièce de résistance in their own right, his products exude a material clarity with a refreshing charm.
Through this collection he achieves his vision of detaching objects from their material constraints and by extending the perceived limits of crystal he confers it with a new topography of its own from a fresh new perspective.
We decided to dive a little deeper and go behind the scenes of this whimsical collection that will have you building castles in the clouds:
Since you’ve been designing and crafting objects for a long while now – how did this journey begin?
Jonathan Hansen: “It all started for me in high school when my family lived in Singapore. I took a wood fabrication class for four years of high school and my instructor who lived in Asia for 30 years had a love for fine craftsmanship and exotic woods. He gave me what I call the “good infection” of loving design and making objects.
After College I studied 18th and 19th Century Furniture design at the North Bennet Street School in Boston.
As one of the oldest schools of its kind they take a very classical approach to design. The foundation I received there is the basis of all I do – no matter how contemporary it gets.”
As a designer and on a personal level, what is it about clouds that fascinates you?
Jonathan Hansen: “As an aesthetic theme – my focus on clouds is strongly attached to a feeling of wanting to create objects that have a sense of optimism and dreaminess to them. When one of the tumblers or wine glasses from the collection is filled with liquid – the clouds take on an additional magical quality of movement from within.
I love the idea that each cloud is different from glass to glass since they are engraved by hand in a world where so much of what we engage with have mechanical similarities. For me it feels so special to hold an object that is truly a unique piece of craftsmanship and that is exactly what I’ve tried to create.”
What inspired you to create this collection?
Jonathan Hansen: “I’d previously seen some fine work from workshops in the Czech Republic and I instantly felt that creating the clouds in an engraved glass could potentially be something beautiful. Capturing in a transparent material a subject that is itself a mass of water drops, constantly moving and alive – was a big part of my idea.
Additionally, Georgia O’Keefe’s large scale painting “Sky Above Clouds IV” from 1965 is one of my favorites – there’s a spaciousness and dreaminess that feels expansive and calming. Even though her clouds are different shapes from mine they contain the spirit of what I wanted to achieve.”
Could you tell us more about the material and color palette that you went for?
Jonathan Hansen: “I chose to work with Bohemian crystal – a historic material. I absolutely love the idea of working with and keeping alive beautiful craft traditions while bringing a fresh language to it at the same time.
As for the color palette, resembling the sky – clear and gray hues was always the starting point for me. It was only a natural fit. I will however also be adding cobalt soon to the collection!“
Could you take us through the technical process of creating this collection?
Jonathan Hansen: “I love the ethereal feeling of how crystal looks to the eye and feels in the hand and it made sense to me to see how a group of abstract clouds could be articulated with this material and technique.
The lead free crystal vessels are mouth blown in the south of the Czech Republic and then engraved by hand with diamond wheels in the north – with the same historic techniques that have been used for hundreds of years.
The engravers were able to create a beautiful sense of movement through varying depths and along with the combination of the refraction of light and transparency of the crystal the clouds came to life.”
Since this material is tricky to work with – what were the challenges you faced while creating this collection?
Jonathan Hansen: “The first time I spoke with a crystal manufacturer they told me that this collection won’t work and would be “child-ish” or “cartoon-ish.” I anyway told them to go ahead with the sample and it came out way better than I thought – dreamy and sophisticated.
Yes, it could have easily been overdone or just looked like blobs on the surface of the crystal but my intuition told me that if the concept was connected with the right cloud shape and engraving technique – it would work.
The clouds that I drew were not the ones that ended up on the crystal.
The artists had to hand draw them to accommodate the engraving tools which needed a less structured drawing while my clouds on the other hand were too precise.
I however enjoyed the process of seeing the collection take shape and how technical constraints informed the end product.“
What was your favorite part of bringing this collection to life?
Jonathan Hansen: “It was definitely seeing the concept come alive through the first samples and then seeing the reaction from the stores, customers and press who simply fell in love with the pieces!“
With climate changes taking place – could “In the Clouds” be an ecological reminder?
Jonathan Hansen: “The importance of keeping the skies clean certainly comes to mind when holding a cloud themed vessel that has a crystal clear transparency to it. We need reminders everywhere we can get them.“