The Swedish designer Matti Klenell (b. 1972) has designed for Iittala the versatile Lempi glass, now available from Finnish Design Shop. We have interviewed Klenell and learnt, among the other things, about how the name Lempi was born.
Interview on January 23, 2012
Hello Matti! How are you?
I’m all fine, thank you.
Lempi glasses for Iittala are one of your newest designs. How did the project get started?
The brief was very straightforward and clear: a family of stemware for all occasions. Not too fancy and not too simple. Very soon we concluded that it should be just one glass instead of a family.
Lempi glasses for Iittala
Was it clear in the beginning that they would be stackable?
Not at all, it was not in the brief. I wanted to give the glass some kind of small feature that would make it a bit different. Stackability seemed quite obvious since stemware occupy much space. I also like to stack things. I guess it goes back to childhood games with legos and bricks.
Did you come up with the name Lempi?
The honest answer is no. I was for sure involved in the naming process and it was great fun. But since I don’t speak Finnish and Iittala prefers to have Finnish names on their products I needed help. I suggested names from my side by using Google translate and Iittala came up with suggestions from their side where they tried to explain the meaning of the words. I extended my Finnish vocabulary a lot during the process.
What is your favourite drink?
Sparkling water on the rocks. Am I boring now? Red wine will do as well.
What are you working on at the moment?
Several things actually. We have just started to work on a chair and a table that I am quite excited about. Let’s hope it will work out fine, it’s a long process. Then I work with some projects for Iittala that are in various stages. I am also invited to go to Taiwan to work with local craftsmen and I try to figure out how and when I should do that.
Ajeto urns, included in the permanent collection at the Röhsska Museum
You have done quite a few unique glass pieces. Do you prefer doing art pieces or more commercial designs?
I can’t choose really. Both are highly inspiring processes and to me they depend on each other. This fall I had an exhibition in Stockholm showing my own work and that has occupied my mind both physically and mentally so after that I really longed to work more with projects for manufacturing, preferably with a really tight framework. But this will for sure change again and that is why I Iike to work within a quite wide field. I don’t look at my work that much in terms of objects or specific projects that I have made but more at the production in a whole. It's interesting how things are repeated, a new idea is added and scale and context change over time.
Four vase for Muuto
What is your favourite material and why?
I guess I should say glass but without being very skilled with it, I absolutely love to work with wood.
Matti table for NC Nordic Care
Are there any objects you would have liked to design yourself?
I have been asked this question before and I usually answer the Savoy vase by Alvar Aalto. I am not trying to ingratiate myself with Iittala or Finland here but it is an extremely well made piece. With one simple pen stroke it captures everything the object is about. It’s perfect but still feels so relaxed in its approach.
Has the recession affected your work as a designer?
Of course. These are insecure times. What bothers me the most is not if I will earn more or less money, I am used to both, but the insecurity. It’s more tricky to figure out if a yes is really a yes or just a maybe or even a no.
How does your home look like?
It’s a nice apartment from the early 1960's and the interior is a combination of many different concepts that never was finalized. So I guess it looks like the decorator was a bit confused and not at all consequent when he designed the place. I’ve had my Mad Men period, a short attempt on minimalism that failed badly. And for a while I tried to make it look like a scenery in a Bergman movie. Overall I guess the interior can tell I work with design since it is furnished with my own things and works made by friends. My new favourite item at home is a new carpet by Gunilla Lagerhem Ullberg made by Kasthall. It’s amazing. Made in off-white wool with glimmering threads in pink and green, it has added exclusivity to the place.
Spectra easy chair for Källemo
Helsinki is the world design capital this year. Who is your favourite Finnish designer?
Can I only pick one? Finnish design has actually followed me since I started to study design and architecture. Ever since college I have been very fond of the way Ilkka Suppanen works. It has content. Discovering the world of Klaus Haapaniemi and Mia Wallenius has also been quite overwhelming. Harri Koskinen of course. Then you have your history as well...
Iittala Birds by Klenell
What is your favourite album at the moment?
Two favourite from last year are Wounded Rhymes by Lykke Li and of course the brilliant PJ Harvey album. I can’t stop listening to them. My new favourite is This is Head, a Swedish band. Time will tell if the love will last.
What are your plans for the year 2012?
To get a vacation. Later.
Text: Mikko Vaija