Five exclusive, artistically refined works made of Desná glass dated from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Since 2009 the glass factories in Desná have been owned by PRECIOSA ORNELA Ltd. The company began systematically cataloging the inventory and documenting the condition of thousands of metal molds stored at the Polubný glassworks. During this process an idea arose: to place select designs, which emerged after 1945, back into circulation as it was routinely done to fill in the product range in the interwar years. In cooperation with designer Jaroslav Bejvl Jr. and Petr Nový, the curator of the Jablonec Museum of Glass and Jewellery, PRECIOSA ORNELA staff began a two-year project to create several fashionable limited collections that would meet current trends as well as business and production parameters.
Five unique pieces and sets designed by Václav Plátek and Václav Hanuš from the 1950’s to the 1970’s made the final selection. Each is an artistically sophisticated and timeless design rather than the initially intended nostalgic retro-style. Instead they meet all criteria for contemporary design. They are also imaginative yet functional. They tell a story and evoke emotions: not just about the period in which they were designed and the people who lived in that time, but also about us and how we view the world.
Texts by: PhDr. Petr Nový
The second half of the 1950’s was marked by a gradual easing of tensions surrounding the possibility of another world war. The countries of the capitalist and socialist blocs took their first cautious steps to begin communicating, which was reflected in the revival of the tradition of International Expositions. EXPO ‘58 in Brussels, which comprised of 52 countries including the United States and the Soviet Union, was visited by 42 million people. Czechoslovakia garnered great success with its large collection of functional and art glass, receiving 14 different awards., including an honorable mention for ashtrays designed by Václav Plátek for the Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks). The pavilion itself was declared as the best of the show.
Plátek’s ashtrays were then also successfully introduced at the spectacular exhibition of Czechoslovak glass in Moscow (1959) and at the XII Triennial in Milan (1960).
|Ashtray, 1957 - 1958, design Václav Plátek||Ashtray, 1957 - 1958, design Václav Plátek|
The 1960’s had many facets. While the open-minded hippies professed peace, love, friendship and freedom, the close-minded military strategists played a deadly game of nuclear chess. On the one hand, man landed on the moon and the last of the African nations rid themselves of colonial rule, on the other the Cold War raged in Vietnam.
At the beginning of this decade Czechoslovakia became a Socialist Republic; at the end it became a federation. The Communists remained in power though they began to take on more liberal views, which, however, were not aligned with the hard Soviet doctrine. Concepts like competitiveness and harmful state monopoly began to penetrate economic politics and practices, even in the glass industry. Here great emphasis was placed not only on manufacturing efficiency but also its artistic quality.
|Vase, 1965, design Václav Hanuš|
Customer demand in the 1960’s brought bright colors to traditionally clear pressed glass and glassware. As the company designer of the Jablonecké sklárny (Jablonec Glassworks), Václav Hanuš was, understandably, required to address not only questions of aesthetics, but also solve technical and manufacturing requirements. One of the results was a set of ‘tree trunk’ vases that became a successful hit.
The artist recalls: "We realized that colors could also be created in the furnance, in order to achieve the desired quality of glass. There was one problem: we had only one furnance, and in it we had to sequentially melt five colors. Obviously it was not possible to do all five at once. We ended up somehow doing it by switching the colors in the daily batch, but then we still had the glass between batches. These were never the same color – either as the previous batch or the desired next batch. What were we to do? Drain it? So I invented these economical branch-like vases. I made them so they would hide the defects in the glass. And the fact that they came in somewhat unusual colors didn’t matter... greenish, bluish...".
|Vases, 1966, design Václav Hanuš||Vase, 1966, matt, design Václav Hanuš|
The 1970’s dawned with a more sober attitude towards the wide variety of options that had been opened up in the previous decade. This appeared in both the narrower perspective on trips to the planets in our solar system as well as in the near global nuclear catastrophe. It was as if the world, rushing headlong forwards, suddenly took its foot off the pedal. The first serious oil crisis and the associated recession undoubtedly had something to do with this. After the military suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968, Czechoslovakia, whose reforms were thus quashed by Soviet Union, was ruled by socialist normalization. The blood of the invasion’s victims soon soaked into the earth and attempts at active opposition turned into passive resistance and artistic metaphors. Even demonstrative movements like Charter 77, whose leaders included playwright Václav Havel, did not gain significant public support. Normalization created ‘normal’ citizens, whose aims included a ‘normal’ life. A country where “yesterday” meant “tomorrow” was born.
Vase, 1970, design Václav Hanuš
Designing in the Czechoslovak glass industry came with its own specific tenets dictated by the nature of the country’s socialist economy. Exports, which were favored, were the responsibility of the only state joint-stock Skloexport, a company that also decided what collections would be part of the product range. It also initiated the development of new ideas.
Václav Hanuš viewed the situation as follows: “While I was employed, I had the support of Skloexport. And Skloexport wanted new designs every year. This meant that I was continuously forced to produce. I had no difficulties and got many things that I requested. Nothing was too big a problem. Skloexport clearly had priority at that time, and whatever it needed it simply had to get. I made some drawings, the company signed off on them, a request for material was made, and samples were produced. I didn’t have any problems with items for export. The problems came with goods intended for the domestic market, both in terms of sales and quality.”
Vase, 1973, Design Václav Hanuš
Glass Blown into a Metal Mold, Polished and Matted
We warmly invite you to the Desná Glass - Design Desná exhibition, at which you can view and purchase all the selected works from the Limited Collection. This exhibition constitutes the culmination of the celebration of the significant 170th anniversary of glass production in Desná. It is being held at the Museum of Glass and Jewellery in Jablonec nad Nisou from 8th December 2017 to 15th April 2018.
We also invite you to the vernissage upon the opening of this exhibition on Thursday 7.12.2017 from 5 pm at the Museum of Glass and Costume Jewellery in Jablonec nad Nisou. You can look forward to a performance by the Aries ensemble from Liberec which will add colour to the atmosphere of this ceremonial event.
You can purchase the selected articles from December 2017.
Contact: Martin Koutný
From December 2017, you can also look forward to the new book publication DESNÁ GLASS 1847 - 2017 (VIDEO TRAILER). The author of this book is Petr Nový, the chief curator at the Museum of Glass and Jewellery in Jablonec nad Nisou.