Anatomy Of A Design: Kate Hume Discusses Her Amphore Collection

Although better known for her interior design, Kate Hume started her career in the design industry making mouth-blown glass pieces in the late ’90s. Since that time, she has produced nearly 1,000 unique glass objects and vessels. Kate joins us this week to discuss the design process for her recent Amphore collection.

Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Kate Hume: The Amphore collection of glass vessels was conceived several years ago, by happenstance. New ideas just evolve when I am in the studio. I started working on my glass collection in 1998. My husband Frans van der Heijden and I had developed our furniture collection (Heijden Hume) and I felt it needed accessorizing in some way. I had long been interested in glass and was convinced that this was the moment to learn more about the material (I knew nothing). Strangely there was very little on the market at that time, save for some very elaborate pieces produced in Murano, and I felt I wanted to develop more organic, fluid pieces using the material as my inspiration. I developed a technique of working with my master glassblower Richard Price, which is about as ‘hands on’ as you can be whilst blowing glass. We are literally able to touch the pieces and mold the shapes. Around 15 years ago a Belgian company, When Objects Work, took over production of my Pebble/Rock/ Caillou collection. This is distributed worldwide. I experimented a lot over the years and my pieces got bigger and bigger. I came up with the idea of throwing the big pieces in ice-cold water to ‘crack’ them and re-heat them so that this scaly surface is “locked in.” It’s a wonderfully dramatic moment for visitors to the studio. But essentially it brings a different reflective surface to the vessel, uneven yet smooth at the same time.

Raymond: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final design?
Kate: Seconds really, it’s quite instinctual. I just draw a chalk sketch of what I want on the floor in front of Richard and he makes that shape. No two pieces are the same, so it’s almost as if I answer my question “what are we making today?” and off we go.

Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea come from?
Kate: As I said, from watching the actual material in the studio, I realized how fluid it is, and I didn’t want to control that too much. Of course, shapes I have seen in nature play a part, but I am actually more inspired by grouping pieces together to make a story. Color is very important to me.

Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Kate: Sketches of course, and some kind of zeitgeist color feeling which I have always had. But if I am designing for a specific location, I tend to work out the colors and shapes based on where the pieces will eventually be placed. (My main activity is interior design, so my glass pieces are often the finishing touch to a room in my own work).

Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials that you used to develop and prototype this design?
Kate: That’s complex. A glass studio is a world unto itself, and medieval really, as nothing much has changed for centuries. It’s a wonderful, theatrical, dangerous environment.

Raymond: Did you utilize a new technique or technology to conceptualize this product?
Kate: No. I just wanted to make SIMPLE glass pieces, where color – and subtle color- is the story.

Raymond: Please describe any challenges that affected the design and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
Kate: There is an inevitable waste in production, as the material is so delicate and dangerous. I often halt production if I don’t like the way a piece is forming, and start again, time is money in a studio with all the furnaces burning, so it’s easier to move on. Also, you can’t really stand and ponder about a piece once it’s in production, it’s “take it or leave it.” I am very decisive, so this suits me.

Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos
Kate: I am an interior designer first and foremost, so am concerned with large spaces most of the time. But as a firm, we do design everything – sometimes from the building itself to the dinnerware. I tend to custom design as much as possible for my projects. We are a small, flexible, international team, who genuinely love creating individual properties for people, and seeing our design dreams come to life. Personally, I believe that ANY space can be made to look lovely.

Click here to see more of our “Anatomy of a Design” series and SMW Home.

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