Design & Decoration S03 ep18 : Marie Retpen, Repten Porcelain Glass, [Denmark]
Interview with Marie Retpen
A designer and maker specialized in blown glass. Her work ranges from conceptual everyday objects to sculptural domestic installations, always with focus on aesthetic and experimentation.
I’m from Denmark, trained as a traditional glass blower but I also did a Master of Glass here in
My dad’s an architect so every Sunday he would sit me down for drawing lessons, then my best
friend who I have known all of my life, her mother’s a ceramicist so she took me in to do ceramics,
so I guess I was a potter before I start working with glass. Glass I was sort of in my early twenties
but earlier like drawing and stuff since I was I don’t know, ten.
When I was 17 I did three weeks of work experience at the H… Maker of Glass Factory in
Denmark and I was like this is really, I really like that because it has a whole different pace and
working with ceramics it’s like, it doesn’t take weeks before everything is fired and glazed so no
you’d make something and you know you get it out the next day and it’s done, and also the
teamwork of it, like you always work two people and sometimes more, that’s why I swap material.
A lot of the time people ask me if it’s ceramic and when they hear that I have a background
working with ceramics they understand why and actually a lot of my pieces like the ones we have
here they are blown into clay, so I make a mould out of clay and then I blow into it so it’s kind of
like one off pieces. I’ve kind of developed a style as my own because of my background, I’m sure
if I had just trained as a glass blower my style you know would have been different.
In a lot of factories you know where they do wine glasses and stuff they would have a mould made
out of wood or metal or graphite, depending on how many times they’re going to use the mould.
But I just build, I have wet clay, I just build a mould so then I kind of say blow into it, I spray it
with a bit of water, I can use it a few times so it’s like a fast mould, you can make any kinds of
patterns and shapes and stuff, it’s always going to be a little bit rough but you can make things that
have what we call undercuts so you don’t have to think about, if you have a wooden mould
obviously you won’t be able to get out of the mould if there is undercuts and stuff, if you have clay
you can just take the clay away.
Instead of shaping it with a hand you shape it with clay or wood or plaster and I do that with all my
things if it’s vases if it’s cups, I blow a lot of productions things into newspaper so just curled
newspaper in a little bucket and I have a perfect mould for maybe 500 drinking glasses. So I like
blowing into different materials and I think that is probably because I’m used to when you work
with the clay you use your hands a lot, you do as well with glass but it’s more indirectly and I kind
of like the process of sitting and making a mould and then blowing into it.
The last well maybe around 10 years … art design has come up so it’s functional or could be
referring to functional pieces but they are like limited edition pieces or they are like there’s a
series of pieces but they are all different so they are designer art or art design.
I’ve just done a residency in America for three months and I did big installations based on Alice in
Wonderland, teardrops and stuff but I was … the Mad Tea Party so obviously I had to have a big,
big, big table.
A lot of the tools, the way that the studios are set up and the way that you do things you know it’s
been the same for many years, of course there’s new techniques coming up but in most small
studios it’s kind of the same.
Parents of designers and artists they don’t always understand why you want to go to all this
struggle, you’re not sleeping for days, you’re doing all these things, and I guess sometimes you're
thinking if you’re just a school teacher you will be off 4 o’clock in the afternoon you have your
weekends off, you’d have you know holidays but I think he understands from you know he’s an
architect but he paints and he sculptures and things like he understands the passion and I think
once you understand the passion you understand why people choose to not have a you know a
You are somewhere between you know the worker and the factory and then the high end art kind
of scene and some months ago I had an exhibition at Sotheby’s here in London, I didn’t ship my
work, I thought I can't afford to ship it, I’ll just take it on me you know on the plane. So I could
only fit you know one set of clothes, I came to the exhibition before we had actually set up, this
guy who is a collector of Picasso came by, he bought some of my work, he gave me his business
card and he said come to my shop in … we got picked up by a private driver, I was in this huge
apartment by Hyde Park and I suddenly find myself you know going … on the morning with
everything in my suitcase just having this one set of clothes to wear for like three days and then
being you know with a private driver in the middle of London and I, that’s what I kind of like
about this lifestyle, I like both sides you know that you have both sides.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Marie Retpen, Retpen Porcelain Glass, Denmark