For the third instalment of our Meet The Maker Series, we talk to Lukas - founder of KLIMCHI. KLIMCHI is a glassware company based in the Czech Republic, and specialises in creating iconic Hobnail jugs and glasses in a rainbow of colours. Lukas talks us through the history of the brand, the glass blowing process, his inspiration and also chooses his favourite presents from our online showroom.
KLIMCHI is a new brand with an incredible history behind it. I founded it in my family's small glass factory in the Czech Republic. The name KLIMCHI comes from my family name 'Klimcak'. The factory building itself is fascinating and was built in 1905 by the same engineers who built the Eiffel tower. For me, it was very important for KLIMCHI to be strongly connected with the roots and spirit of its home, the people and their craft. I quickly became addicted to the craftsmanship of local glass blowers and felt the need to rediscover the art of mouth blown glass.
I think there is an undisputed beauty in handmade products. Every piece is effectively a one-off piece of art and you are able to take a part of the artist who created it home with you; that is the feeling I always wanted to evoke with KLIMCHI.
My cousin started to take care of the glass factory and the manufacturing side of things, whilst I started to work on product development and presentation. Right from the start, I have always been lucky enough to have the support of my family and the local people.
The factory lies in a mountain region, hence the locals always needed to work harder for everything; be it the winter preparations or yielding a good harvest. It's embedded in the people here. Glassblowing takes a lot of sweat and tears, but it also brings people together. It's amazing to see the collective of artisans pull together as a team. Moreover, when parts of the team are your own family.
The main mission of KLIMCHI is to create beautiful design glassware for special moments in life. Emotion and how people feel when they use our glassware means a great deal to me. My family crafts glass through feelings of togetherness and familiarity, and I want those same emotions to be present when you pour from a jug at your family dinner or decorate your home with one of our vases.
The signature technique of KLIMCHI is the hobnail which was popularized by Frank Fenton in the US in 1939. We decided to put a modern twist on this traditional style and created a collection of tabletop glassware ranging from pitchers and tumblers to bowls and vases.
Another specialty of ours is the colour range. KLIMCHI offers the designs in a variety of pot colours with the aim to present the highest grade of coloured glass available. A more popular approach for other companies would be to spray the glass with colour after the blowing, but we wanted to go the extra mile. Our experienced craftsmen blend the colour additives into the melting process so the colour is within the glass. The difference in the finished colour is huge, lending much better optical properties to the glass.
Each technique varies in length and complexity. Since all our production is handmade, the time we spend with each piece is much longer than any machine. We use metal and beech moulds to create our products. First, we blow the glass into a metal mould to replicate the decor onto the glass and then we blow into the wooden mould to give the shape to the product. Handles and other small decorations are hand sculptured and attached to each piece whilst it is still hot.
Every product needs to go through an ‘annealing’ process where we control the temperature at which the glass cools down. This way the glass will not crack if exposed to minor temperature shocks.
After this, we finish each product in our cold-working studio where we snap the redundant glass, cut it to shape and grind it on a grinding wheel to give the vase or jug a stand or a particular decorative detail. When we are happy with the final effect we engrave the KLIMCHI logo into the base so you can always recognise the original.
The whole process of one item can take up to 3 days from start to finish.
The art of glass blowing is a life-long journey which is very exciting to embark on. To become a master glass maker you need to spend at least 20 years in the workshop and still you can learn something new each day.
For me, KLIMCHI is not about short-sighted trends. It's about handcrafting a memory for people to take with them through life and share with their loved ones. So, we take inspiration from our own feelings of togetherness and family, working together in the glass factory. We imagine how something as simple as a beautiful jug or vase can play a part in bringing a smile to someone’s face or celebrate a special day. I also believe that this is something that can only truly come to life in products that have been crafted, shaped and finished by the human hand, not by a machine.
We also find a lot of inspiration in the nature that surrounds us. We are lucky to live in a very diverse environment in the Czech Republic, so to find inspiration we only need to walk and explore the local forests, hills, streams and small ponds.
My favourite piece is actually our best-seller, the hobnail jug! It’s become KLIMCHI’s signature product in fact. But it's very hard to pick a favourite, as each product has its own unique story of how it came to life. Choosing a favourite is also going to get harder, as we have new collections on the way that I’m really excited about too.
My top tip would be to experiment with colours and different types of glassware throughout the tablescape. Sometimes I find some tablescape designs to be mainly horizontal, so I encourage everyone to explore the vertical dimensions and bring in some tall pieces to create a variety of levels.
I believe every newly-wed couple needs a beautiful table service for their home. There are so many options available, but for us there’s no competition between mass-produced table sets or tableware that has been lovingly handcrafted with its own unique story. And KLIMCHI is all about stories. Choosing a wedding present is about finding a way to help tell the story of a very special day. We believe that handmade glass, crafted with the personal touch and care of an artisan, is a unique way to help tell that story.
We are very excited about launching KLIMCHI in the US and Canada so our customers overseas can now purchase the products easily. We have also some new collaborations and collections coming up so I would recommend everybody to follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest news.