The Holmegaard glassware company has always been guided by a vision of making quality and beauty accessible to all.
By Anne Winther
When the King of Denmark decided to levy a tax on all foreign imported glass in the early 1800s, Count Christian Danneskiold-Samsøe saw an opportunity to provide locally produced glass. He died soon after and his dream of opening Denmark’s first glassworks was left to his widow, Countess Henriette Danneskiold-Samsøe, and in 1825 this mother of seven children lit the first glass furnace at Holmegaard. Henriette Danneskiold-Samsøe was in many ways a pioneer, and she was very socially conscious. She ensured that her employees were granted medical and dental care and land was allotted for housing. She invited tradesmen to sell their merchandise near the factory, making the place a thriving, welcoming hub of activity. But she never lost sight of the company’s competitive strength: Holmegaard products were somewhat costlier than the competition’s, but the quality was better. The Countess had a dream. She wanted attractive glassware in every Danish household. At the time, cut-glass drinking glasses were the privilege of the aristocracy whereas the general public only had ceramic mugs and the odd medicine bottle. And her dream came true. Today nine out of ten Danes are familiar with the Holmegaard brand, and the Danish glassware company is celebrated far beyond the nation’s borders.
Decorative and practical
Holmegaard glassware has mainly been designed by three people, all men. The first resident designer was Jacob E. Bang, who also conceived the design for the Danish pavilion at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1925. Bang had never worked with glass before becoming creative director at Holmegaard, and he brought fresh vision and new momentum to the art of glassmaking in Denmark. He knew that the Danish glassware industry’s survival depended on producing goods that were both practical and accessible. Bang wanted glassware to be useful – not delicate showcase objects. So his first design for Holmegaard was the beer glass *Holga* – which had popular appeal. He was also the first designer to use optical effects to disguise minor defects and render them attractive. With the *Primula* series in 1928, Bang introduced the first smoke-hued glass, which enjoyed such a success that the company had a hard time keeping up with demand. And Holmegaard maintained its cutting-edge appeal throughout the 1930s. Designer Per Lütken took over from Bang in 1942, and though he too had no prior experience with glassmaking, he was nonetheless an accomplished designer. Over the next 40 years, he created more than 300 glassware series and his style-setting design influenced glassware the world over – with the *Provence* bowl arguably his greatest masterpiece. Apart from adding colour to the glass, Lütken’s designs also represented a very articulated style which has since experienced a renaissance – for instance his *Canada* martini glass, which is a favourite among a younger audience today.
Moving with the times
In 1968, Michael Bang – son of Jacob E. Bang – assumed management of the company. As a child of the Swinging Sixties, Bang junior added a splash of colour and bold shapes. He also led Holmegaard’s first foray into lamp making. Holmegaard has always reflected the times, yet it also manages to translate contemporary trends into timeless designs of great integrity. And eight years ago, Holmegaard embarked on a program of inviting young independent talents to design new products for the company. Included among them are Danish star designers Louise Campbell and Cecilie Manz. Cecilie Manz, awarded the 2009 Designer of the Year title by Danish interior magazine *Bo Bedre*, has recently created a series for Holmegaard called *Blossom*, whose wafer-thin glass represents the lightness of the designs by Jacob E. Bang.
Heritage is very important, according to Lesia M. Zuk, who embarked on her career as creative director at Holmegaard in 2008 following 25 years in the fashion industry. She seeks to build on the vision of the founder, Countess Henriette Danneskiold-Samsøe, and not least the celebrated legacy of the company’s three resident designers, Bang, Lütken and Bang. “Holmegaard creates glass that is a delight to drink from – every day. Glasses must be used, otherwise there is no point,” says Lesia M. Zuk. Since 2008 the Holmegaard products have been manufactured by a select group with the skills to create true collector’s items. In June 2008, the Danish design company Rosendahl acquired the rights to the Holmegaard brand and its magnificent hand-blown glassware designs.