Some time ago I discovered a collection of very beautiful glasses, jugs and vases in a shop window. I didn’t need any glasses for myself but had them on my mind for months, and looked forward to the next wedding to which I could bring the perfect gift. And only recently did I discover that those timelessly elegant glass products were actually made from old wine bottles! The designer’s name is Jesper Jensen, and his aim is to make beautiful, sustainable drinking glasses, without burdening the environment. Every glass, jug and vase is handmade from discarded wine bottles collected by the designer from backyards around his neighborhood. The empty bottles are cleaned, cut, re-shaped and fire polished with care. The glasses are heated up and cooled down several times to ensure that they are strong. The entire process takes around 24 hours, and after that the glasses can even be cleaned in the dishwasher. The finished glasses are packed in wooden crates, handmade out of leftover fruit crates from the local greengrocers.
The drinking glasses and jugs have two little concave dents on the sides, providing them with a comfortable grip, but also with a distinct aesthetic note. Similar dents on the outside surface makes the vases look almost organic, reminding me of a tree trunk. Judging from the quality of the final product many customers assume that Jesper Jensen’s glasses are produced industrially, yet each one is slightly different, due to being cut and shaped individually by hand from found bottles.
Jesper Jensen is a Danish designer who moved to Berlin in 2009, where he currently runs a glass workshop with his girlfriend Laura, and two friends. I visited Jesper and Laura in their studio, which serves as both workshop and living space. Whilst enjoying a bowl of tea, Jesper tells me that re-using materials and energy efficiency is personally very important to him. Even so the selling point of his glasses must be their design and the high quality: “Basically the whole product is made of other people’s trash – and we’re proud of that! But of course, love for the environment is not enough – the glasses also have to be well designed.”
After learning the art of glassblowing in Sweden, Jesper did his diploma in glass design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. He soon realized that newcomers in glass design have an extremely hard time on the Danish market, as competition is fierce, and the cost of production very high. “Either you have to be a complete genius or find another way of doing it.” Jesper says. So he did research on alternative ways to work with glass and moved to Berlin. Here he built his own glass oven, in which he only heats the glass to the point that he needs to reshape his found materials. Whereas in normal glass production you work with glass melted to the consistency of honey, Jesper heats his glass only until he can mould it like chewing gum. He tells me that usually glass ovens run all the time, also during weekends and holidays, to maintain a very high temperature of about 1200°C. Jesper’s oven only runs when he uses it for work, which makes his technique very energy efficient compared to the incredibly energy intense conventional glass production. Originally Jesper only wanted to sell his glasses locally, and deliver them by cargo bike. And this principle is still in place with some buyers in Berlin, as he really likes having personal contact with his customers, and is interested in receiving feedback from the design shops or the restaurants. But most distances have become too big for the cargo bike since his products now also sell internationally. On the day I visit Jesper in his studio he is packing several big parcels to be sent out before he and Laura leave on summer holidays with their little daughter. He complains a little bit about clients who don’t realize that all his products are handmade, piece by piece, and place orders for large amounts of glasses within a very short timeframe. But he also knows that this in fact is a compliment to his high quality design glasses, made from his neighbors’ trash, with lots of love and little energy.