Sebastian Herkner’s Pulpo Containers

You might not recognize it at first glance, but Sebastian Herkner‘s new ultra-shiny glass Containers for the German brand Pulpo have a serious high-low thing going on — and not just in one sense, but two. Not only are they inspired by the cheap plastic containers normally used to store things like distilled water (and Cheez-Balls), they’re also made using a technique that’s gone from rags to riches in recent history. “Mercury glass was once used as a substitute for  real silverware, which was too expensive for poor people to afford,” says Herkner. “Nowadays, though, it’s thought of as unique and rare; there’s one company in Czech Republic which specializes in mercury glass, and Pulpo produces the Containers there.” Like most of our favorite tastemakers, Herkner’s appreciation of both the lowly and the luxurious extends to his personal style, too, which is why we thought it fitting that he should photograph his Containers for us amidst the landscape of his own home, just outside Frankfurt. He told us more about his process and his possessions below.

“My team and I just moved to a bigger studio 8 weeks ago, one floor down in the same building in Offenbach, Germany, where I also have my private flat. (For the past five years the studio was part of my flat; actually it was more like a studio with a small bedroom.) The building itself is a former leather warehouse — in the past Offenbach was Germany’s main city for leather products, and companies like Goldpfeil, Montblanc, and others were located here and manufactured here. Nowadays there aren’t any big leather companies left, just some small suppliers, which is typical across Western Europe these days. Maybe that’s one the reasons why I’m so interested in working with crafts. My Bell Table, for example, is produced by one of the last glass manufacturers in Germany, which has a 300-year history. On the other hand, my projects are also driven by new materials and technologies as well. For more than a year I’ve been working on a new materialization and variegation of marble, hopefully to be presented during the upcoming Cologne fair.

“My flat reflects this same thinking. It’s a very personal setting that features my own designs, plus vintage and classic furniture and accessories. For me it feels normal to use my own chairs and tables, because they speak my language, and that’s also why it felt so natural to shoot the Pulpo containers in my home. There are also a lot of souvenirs here that I found during my travels which I’ve used to prop the shots.”

Top image: “The stools I didn’t really collect in a conscious way, but a few of them do cavort in my flat. There’s a small Chinese one I found in Berlin, an adjustable one from a workshop, another one made of wood, and the Coil stool I designed for the Dutch brand De Vorm made of rotating glass. Then on the right is the Backenzahn by E15. I like this composition of different chairs, each with a uniqueness and character and its own approach. One is more decorative, the other functional. One is used, the other new. For me it’s important to have these various attitudes and companions in a flat.”
“This colorful and crazy wallpaper is actually a textile I bought on Middlesex Street in East London. There are some stores selling African textiles with their gorgeous prints in fantastic colors. It was quite difficult for me to select one out of the huge variety. Usually the fabrics are used for clothes. The container is standing on my Bell table, a design I did for ClassiCon a year ago.Tthe small lobster is an old plastic toy by a former West-German manufacturer.”
SH_selfportrait2“I found this paper dog in a store in Hong Kong some years ago, which was selling products for the Buddhist inhumation ceremony. It’s about burning objects which are suitable to the deceased person, and the store offers paper copies of cars, smartphones, shoes, toys, and pets among others. I think it’s a nice ritual for remembrance. I also bought a great paper camera and hair dryer.”
“I need fresh flowers in my flat. I get them at a market here in my town, Offenbach. The antique butterflies are from a flea market. I really like the colors and different patterns and shapes. Thinking about and deciding on colors for a project, I don´t like to use a regular and given color system. I usually start with a picture I took with my smartphone, a ribbon I bought somewhere, or even these butterflies. The colors are already part of my design process from the beginning, and not just a decision I make during the last steps. I was trained in this way of working with colors during my internship at Stella McCartney from 2003 to 2004. It was an important experience for my thinking about scale, detailing, colors, and materials, particularly approaching it from another discipline.”