The celebrated designer and craftsmen Richard Brendon has teamed up with the renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson MW OBE to create a collection of unique wine glasses and decanters in what has been described as 'a truly collaborative cross-disciplinary partnership'. The unique design has been described as allowing wine to 'breathe and captures the array of aromas enhancing the experience of every sip'. We contacted Richard to find out more about this collaborative effort to produce a glass for all wine types.
Richard, could you provide some background on yourself - How did the company get going and what was your inspiration to start?
My mother used to take my sister and me to pottery lessons as children, so you could say that’s where my love of ceramics began. It was then that I learnt that pottery is definitely not as easy as it looks! Growing up in London surrounded by amazing museums such as the V&A definitely spurred on this interest in ceramics even more, which meant when I started Kingston University studying product design, I already had a real desire to learn more about this versatile material, the history of it and how to design products using it.
The business started in 2010, when, as part of my commute to my part time job in a pub, I would pass by the antiques market on Portobello Road in West London, famous for hosting one of the largest antiques markets in the world.
What used to strike me during my outings down Portobello Road were the number of beautiful antique saucers piled high, without their matching teacups. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I went into one shop to ask why this was the case. Perhaps obvious to some, but given the delicate nature of the teacups and the frequency with which they're used, they were more likely to break, and only the saucers would remain. I took a pile home with me to work out what could be done about this rather sad tale.
This is the beginning of the Reflect Collection: by making a teacup with a reflective surface (either gilded gold or platinum) and placing this on the saucer, it immediately breathed new life into the intricate and beautiful antique designs. Not only that, but it allowed these antiques to live in a contemporary setting, and hopefully they will be cherished by generations to come.
We took this quote from your website - ‘Designed to challenge people's perceptions of what traditional materials, such as bone china and cut crystal, look like and to maximise the pleasure of food and drink’ - why have you chosen to do this and how do your products achieve this?
When asked to imagine cut crystal and bone china, arguably a more traditional design springs to most people’s minds. Not only this, but often the bone china and cut crystal we’re thinking of is locked away in some sort of glass cabinet, not to be used, only to be admired from a distance. I wanted to create products that use these traditional materials and techniques, but with the addition of a timeless design. Hopefully this brings to the forefront of people’s minds the incredible craftsmanship that goes into each of our pieces, the products can be enjoyed everyday for an elevated food and drink experience, and eventually our collections will be cherished for generations to come.
You are now making wine glasses. Why did you decide to team up with Jancis Robinson MW OBE for your wine glasses?
A few years into the business, I eventually gave in to repeated requests to make a collection of wine glasses, designed with the same elegance and timelessness as our cut crystal. I wanted to make sure the glasses didn’t only just look and feel great, but also that they were functional and genuinely complimented the wine inside. With an OBE and Master of Wine under her belt, and as a prominent and well - respected figure within the world of wine, Jancis to me was the best person to consult on this mission. After much persuasion, we fortunately managed to win her over!
Why did you decide to make a wine glass for every wine, rather than for each wine type?
Jancis above all is a pragmatist, and despite the fact that most wine-glass manufacturers offer a range of glasses in different sizes and shapes for different wines, she wholly believed that “One Glass for Every Wine” was an achievable feat. Jancis’ personal mission is to make wine as approachable and pleasurable as possible, so it made practical sense!
As well as this, there are a few questionable ‘habits’ that wine drinkers have adopted over the years. Firstly, drinking white wine out of a smaller glass than red: the average white needs a spacious bowl just as much as most reds. Secondly, we noticed top wine producers of specialist champagne and sherry really wanted their wines to be served in a regular wine glass rather than flutes or smaller shaped glasses, which often don’t allow the liquid to truly come to life.
How did the product development go, how many versions did you do before coming up with the final design, how much involvement did Jancis have?
We gathered some of our favourite wine glasses that are already on the market and discussed together what we liked and didn’t like about each of them. I then created several prototypes based on this and Jancis’ sketches, until we got to a place that we were both happy with, in terms of overall dimensions, weight, bowl size, stem size, base size. Jancis was fully involved from the start to finish.
Are you a fan of wine and do you have a favourite wine to drink?
I am absolutely a fan of wine! My favourite house wine has to be Rioja Cvne Reserva, following a recent trip of mine to Rioja with my fiancée.
What plans are there for the future of ‘Richard Brendon’?
I am always designing and conjuring up new ideas for collections – we’ve had incredible success around our partnership with Jancis Robinson, so expect there to be a few more collaborations launching over the coming years. Of course, we’ll always be making in Stoke-on-Trent, so be assured that I am also working on some new bone china collections too!