Discovering the Soothing Textures of Glass: Studio visit with experimental designer Milena Kling.
Milena Kling is a Berlin-based designer of experimental glasswork and interior objects. She works through a combination of traditional glass techniques, sustainably-minded processes and contemporary craftsmanship.
Our connection with Milena goes a fair way back too, as our head designer Isabel Kücke studied in the same year at UdK in a neighbouring department. Milena was also a part of the kiosk gallery design show at our space curated by Quei Studio, and her whiskey glasses set which she designed for Lasvit are one of our co-founder Rohan’s most cherished possessions.
As soon as I arrived at Milena’s studio, I was compelled to comment on how homely it felt. I later learned in conversation with her, that the soul of her practice comes from the conception of warm, atmospheric qualities, much like I had experienced when I first stepped foot inside. Because although Milena’s current work focuses on glass, her background and her conceptual approach are notably much broader.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m not really a designer. I make ideas or concepts. I think I’m very good with concepts, but when it comes to designing, I’m not so interested… For me, it’s always about the moods, textures and materials, and combining that all together to create an atmosphere.”
Milena formally studied architecture for two years before electing to focus her attentions more firmly at ground level.
“I realised that I was very drawn to this idea of creating an atmosphere, but I wasn’t really interested in creating a house… After architecture I knew I wanted to do something with my hands and experiment and work more intuitively with natural materials.”
Although she was drawn to this notion of working with space, as architects do, she realised that having a dialogue and a connection with those experiencing her work was something that held huge significance to her personally.
“In architecture you're putting so much energy into a house, but then there's not so much feedback from the ones that are actually living in it. And I think that's something I enjoy a lot, where you have direct contact with the people that want [your work] and live with it.”
And this desire for connection with how the piece is used is mirrored by her desire for connection with how the piece is made.
“I like to work with great craftsmen. And I love to work with them very closely... So it’s in between art, design and craft. That’s the field I’m working in.”
And it would be hard to disagree with the fluidity of that classification. As in one sense it would feel fair to characterise the glass pieces that populate her studio as sculptures—as art—but as I sip from her hand crafted crystal glasses, the functionality of her work is strikingly present.
Milena first started working with glass in 2012, but her fascinations with its place in society and explorations with its form are only deepening as time goes on.
“We have glass around us all the time so it’s not even really seen anymore… And so, with glass, what I’m looking for in my pieces is to find textures and surfaces that are interesting and somehow soothing and tickling the senses.
You might also say that Milena enjoys fate having a hand in the production process, as she prefers not to extensively plan or draw out her pieces prior to production. “Because that way, only what I can imagine comes out”.
Instead, she allows the material to speak for itself, in a way, by welcoming whatever forms it chooses. This element of uncertainty often means she’s happily surprised by the results. “I love to be surprised… It’s great because sometimes something happens that’s more than I could have even imagined.”
Berlin’s long been a cultural destination for creatives, but for Milena, it’s always just been home. So I was curious about her relationship with the city.
“I was born in Kreuzberg and lived there even before the wall fell down. It was very quiet. I have a peaceful memory of it... We lived in a shared house with family and friends and had big parties in the backyard with live music. It was a very free context that I grew up in… In Berlin you didn’t have to go to military service so many people from different areas of Germany who had ideas of pacifism and didn’t want to go to war would come to Berlin. And I think that’s why Berlin has a special mindset.”
“I was growing up in this artistic background with people doing lots of different things. They were very political, demonstrating for all sorts of rights about taking care of the planet and others... I think that was something that was really good, but it was also just really natural. It was just the way it was.”
Along the windows and shelves, Milena’s colourful vases are decorated with autumnal nature; branches with orange and red leaves. I admired the immaculate colour coordination.
“I love collecting stuff and putting things together. That’s something I do wherever I go. I’ll take some branches here into the studio as the seasons are changing. I like bringing things in from travels in nature and having the freedom to do that.”
Thank you to Milena. You can find links to her work below.
Words and photos by Ewan Waddell.