In dialogue with chief designer of the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin - challenges of modern table culture
Thomas Wenzel Chief Designer & Creative Director KPM
For 250 years already, the Royal Porcelain Manufactory Berlin stands for the finest porcelain and handmade luxury with a style-defining design. By the words "made to stay", KPM's aspiration is to cultivate its tradition, to create lasting values and to create style.
Thomas Wenzel, head of the artistic development department, talks to Haus von Eden about innovative decor and production techniques as well as the challenges of modern tableware.
You have been developing and designing for KPM since 1993. What was the biggest change you have experienced during this time?
For me, the biggest change was the privatization of the company. When I started in Berlin, KPM still was a public company. Then, in 2006, the banker Jörg Woltmann bought the manufactory. Of course, many things have changed since then as from there on, KPM had to act as a private enterprise in the free economy.
This sharpened cost awareness and increased efficiency. The benefits of a family business also became apparent. It is less anonymous, more intimate and after all familiar. A real sense of "us" has come about.
Hand painted porcelain CADRE vases & ZEN bowls set
Extremely modern KPM series such as BERLIN and LAB go back to your development work. How important is innovation and modern tableware to your designs, and how do you reconcile them with the tradition of KPM?
Over time, you get to know the brand and its DNA more and more - The processes of the manufactory, the products and the stories behind them. It is a great task to continue the royal legacy, but it must not stop there and must develop.
In the balancing act between tradition and modernity, I find special attraction in development work. In the end, it's about creating a timeless and meaningful design that is sustainable.
Coffee to go mug
As the chief designer, you are the intermediary between manufactory and management - You stand, more or less, between artistry and profit maximization. How does this pose a challenge?
Especially this role as an intermediary is very exciting for me. It's not just about the cultural-artistic but also about the economic side of product development. At the point where there are limitations, you have to find clever solutions. For example, confronting a child with a finished toy quickly loses its creative and playful appeal.
However, if you confront it with a construction kit, from which it independently has to build a toy, it will be tinkering with creative input for a long time. It's the same with my work. I have to go into depth and know the problem as well as work out a solution. In the end, sometimes the solutions really surprise me.
To which of the objects you have developed, do you have the greatest emotional connection and what is the story behind it?
The biggest emotional bond I have, is with the LAB series. I put a lot of heart and head in the series. On the one hand, this is about the holistic concept. The series is designed not to be launched as a classic service with all plate and cup sizes in one fell swoop, but to appear successively in individual pieces. Thus, the economic risk is minimized.
These "little" new releases also bring us into close dialogue with our customers: we get feedback and also wishes that we can respond to. The functionality of the products was also very important to me. My goal was to develop products that can be applied in the kitchen on an everyday basis.
It's all about completely new products, such as a coffee filter, that KPM Berlin has historically never offered before. Moreover, the line features new and exciting material mixes of glaze and biscuit porcelain combined with warm oak or precision steel. We have been able to reach a completely new and young target group which has always been a big wish of mine.
LAB starter set
Many thanks to Mr. Wenzel for the interview.