As the holiday season looms so does the question, “What on earth should I get?” If you’re on the look out for something local the answer need not be more cut glass. Whether you’re looking for crystal, porcelain, wood craft or books, young Czech designers are creating some very unique items which blend tradition with modern humor and hipness.
No other shop in Prague combines those two elements more obviously than Artěl Glass (www.artelglass.com). Artěl Glass have been at their Celetná address (entrance off Rybná) for two years and have a truly amazing collection of glassware, furniture and curios. Whether it’s quality original Czech glassware you want or vintage Czech toys, you will find it among the impressive array of items collected by proprietor, designer and author Karen Feldman, who is as passionate about design and beautiful objects as she is about her adopted home of Prague. This passion for the Czech Republic is evident in the high-end crystal items, along with icons of Czech pop culture like Igráček, a Czech version of the toy line Playmobil.
Though she studied fine art photography, Karen made the switch to glass when she moved here. “If I hadn’t moved to the Czech Republic, I probably wouldn’t be working in glass,” Karen told me when I went to visit her store. “But there’s just so much glass here. It’s hard to avoid. I was also attracted to its functionality. I wanted to create a work of art which also had use.” This artistry is evident; the work effortlessly combines her varied inspirations, be it old textiles, illustrations from children’s books and even wallpaper into glasses, bowls and vases, so they attract you with their originality without being showy or pretentious.
- The Czech Car Glass Set, designed by Maxim Velčovský. Hand-engraved and produced by Artěl Limited Edition – 25 numbered sets 35,000 CZK
- Glacier Double Old Fashion, Hand-cut Glass, designed by David Wiseman, Hand-cut and produced by Artěl 6,600 CZK per piece Amber or Crystal, 7,500 CZK per piece Olive and Smoke
- The Dog Handbags, exactly as the name suggests, a large bag in the shape of a dog 35,000 – 100,000 CZK depending on the dog.
- The iconic carp flick knife, 150 CZK
- Igráček 200 CZK
Not far from Artěl Glass is Modernista (www.modernista.cz). At first glance, the store seems more like any shop lacking the personal touch of others I’ve visited. But when you start to look around you can see there is a sly wit at work in the items selected by proprietor Janek Janoš.
Janek is a man of few words, who seems to prefer his collection speak for itself. When I pressed him for his recommendation he spoke very highly of the work of Rony Plesl. Plesl works predominantly in glass and has been highly praised for his designs. As Janek said, “His work is elegant and very beautiful.”
Other designs to catch my eye were the porcelain of Daniel Piršč. It is stark white and the shapes subdued. Then the trademark skull and cross-bone hits you. The work certainly reflect Daniel’s approach to his work, which he said is “to make each product with some hidden story of life, along with practicality.”
Modernista is of course famous for its Czech Cubist designs. Billed as “the world’s only Cubist design movement,” I’ve long found this work appealing. I guess it’s the simple fact that the loftiness of Cubism is presented in a form which is more accessible; it’s not up on a gallery wall but can be there in my home. The Czech Cubist designs are made exclusively for Modernista.
- ZZag Candlestick by Rony Plesl 8900 CZK (set of three pieces)
- Crystaline Box by Pavel Janak 4950 CZK
- Teapot by Daniel Piršč 750 CZK
- Sperm Spoon by Jiři Pelcl 450 CZK
- Lego Block Earring by NAJS, 590 CZK /Gold Lego Necklace 750 CZK
If you’re after something quirky and cool, one place you might want to check out is Qubus Design Shop (www.qubus.cz). One very Czech gift idea is the Sommelier series, also by Maxim Velčovský. These glasses are made to resemble the typical Czech disposable cups placed on a thin stem. This is looking at tradition from a different angle. More in line with the season is Velčovský’s Life of the Snowman. This handmade glass sugar bowl gives the impression of melting snow as the sugar is used up.
If you’re in need of a centerpiece and tired of the usual clichéd table decorations, consider these candle holders. There’s Little Joseph, which is the bald head of a boy, who ‘sprouts’ hair as the candle drips. The other candle holder is Lucifer, in the form of a puffy-hand. Okay, maybe these ideas are more appropriate for Halloween but they are pretty cool.
- Sommelier Cup Shaped Glass by Maxim Velčovský, 1049 CZK
- Life of the Snowman Sugar Bowl by Maxim Velčovský, 899 CZK
- Little Joseph Candle-Holder by Qubus Design, 1599 CZK
- Lucifer Candle-Holder by Qubus Design, 1399 CZK
Another store with a discernible personal touch is Hard-de-Core on Senovážné nám. Run by recent graduate Josefina Bakošová, the shop has a touch of the student about it. It feels a little like a charity shop, but where all the strangest most original items have ended up. Fresh, provocative and definitely fun were more the words that came to mind as I looked around.
Josefina has been running this shop plus design studio for three years. From it, she exhibits her own original line of clothes Chi-Chi as well as the work of many young and established designers and artists. “Some of these people have only been out of design school for a couple of years,” Josefina told me. You know when you go there you getting some of the freshest ideas on the market.
The shop also boasts a gorgeous range of books from Baobab. Other books come in limited print runs of 20 or less, so there is a sense of the work as unique. Many are made from beautiful paper and lovingly illustrated with lithographs. The text is in Czech, so it might serve as the perfect gift for a Czech buddy or as unique souvenir. There are also striking socks by Sisters Conspiracy, which wouldn’t make you groan when you unwrapped them.
- Socks by Sister Conspiracy, 390 CZK
- Handmade Books by Baobab, 300 CZK
- Wingnut Ring by Čižková, 390 CZK
- Teddy Bears by Šťastná, 490 CZK
Makovský Wooden Toys
Czech toys don’t only have to mean the Little Mole. Makovský’s Wooden Toys (www.makovsky.cz) combine Makovský’s love of woodcraft with an environmentally sustainable ethic. Mr. Makovský uses wood from carefully maintained and regenerated forests. Speaking from personal experience, the reactions to his gifts have been enthusiastic. The kids of both family friends seem to be very fond of the wooden turtle or wooden car they got from Makovský. But it’s not only kids who would like the products. Makovský also makes very tasteful traditional Christmas decorations for those who are not so into the more outrageous side of Czech design. Particularly popular among family and friends are his hand carved candlesticks.
- Golo jigsaw, two wooden concentric circles allow kids to create any number of animals, comes in five different colors, 90 CZK
- Penguins on wheels, 75 CZK
- Christmas Candlesticks, 122 CZK