Commemorating 10 years in 2017, the Nachtmann NEXTGEN program celebrates competition and collaboration. Under the motto, “Vibrant cities with curious, creative minds and an appetite for ideas”, NEXTGEN provides a platform in which the next generation of designers can demonstrate their imagination in a professional environment. It invites students from world-leading design colleges to learn about glass manufacturing and craftsmanship.
The NEXTGEN project has so far been held with students from New York, Stockholm, Tokyo, Prague, Beijing, Stuttgart, and London. With the help of independent product designer Stefanie Kubanek and Nachtmann Managing Director Richard Voit, the students are given a brief, taken on a factory tour, and put them through an intense and prolonged design and development phase.
The winning designs from each NEXTGEN competition go into production the following year, and are sold globally under the Nachtmann brand, giving lucky students an unparalleled opportunity to share their designs with the world.
Take a look at the incredible products from the past ten years of Nachtmann NEXTGEN.
2009: Parsons, The New School for Design, New York
Where better to launch the NEXTGEN project that New York, a melting pot of simmering ideas. A pioneer in art and design education since its founding in 1896, Parsons Design School has cultivated outstanding artists, designers, scholars, business people, and community leaders for more than a century. Today, when design thinking is increasingly being employed to solve complex global problems, Parsons is leading new approaches to art and design education.
"How I took a Slice from the Big Apple."
As a design student in Manhattan, I was excited to get the chance to visit the Nachtmann factory in Germany. I used to think of glass as a cold and fragile material, but that all changed when I saw the Nachtmann craftsmen at work. I was hugely impressed by the skill and dedication of the glassmakers, and I found the processes of sculpting and shaping glass fascinating. I came back to college and experimented with different shapes and designs, but the one that worked best was a contemporary spiral design. I was thrilled to see the finished products. Glass is not cold … it’s brilliant!
2011: Pratt Institute, New York
Nachtmann went back to New York two years later for the second project, this time with a group of upcoming designers from The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The school’s goal to enrich students with aesthetic judgment, professional knowledge, collaborative skills and technical expertise made it an ideal partner for NEXTGEN, and the project produced two brilliant series.
"How I found Quartz near the East River."
I took on lots of projects during my time at Pratt, but NEXTGEN was probably the most fulfilling. My initial inspiration came from geode rocks … ordinary stones with crystals hidden inside. Apparently, quartz sand is one of the basic raw materials for producing crystal glass and I was fascinated by the sparkling surface of its crystalline structure. I explored the possibility of patterning the inside – rather than the outside – of the vessel with a crystal pattern using the geode as a visual metaphor. In the end I decided that it was the pattern itself that should be showcased. The brilliant crystal and the pattern of the bowl have a wonderful sparkling light refraction.
"How Petals blossomed in Brooklyn."
I found every stage of the NEXTGEN project exhilarating, especially the visit to Germany. On the factory tour I saw a droplet of glass being skilfully transformed into a beautiful object … that’s when the scale of the creative opportunity hit me. My inspiration came from studying consumers, who I believe are mostly women. Maybe I have a romantic streak because I pictured a wedding scene with rose petals falling and scattering over a bed! From then, the process was very loose … I wanted to abstract the elements of the rose into multiple facets. After many prototypes, the design took on a life of its own, with the pattern of my crystal vase resembling petals falling to form visual poetry.
2012: Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm
With a respected cultural heritage, strong art institutions and a well-developed creative industries infrastructure, Stockholm was an essential stop on the Nachtmann NETXGEN tour.
Konstfack is the largest university college of arts, crafts and design in Sweden, proving to be a smorgasbord of natural creativity. The school’s long-standing motto, “Insight and Application”, demonstrates the essential ingredients of Swedish design, including aesthetics, function, affordability and, most recently, emotional value. Their individual-led philosophy influenced a unique series of vases by the winning student.
"How I turned solid rock into crystal."
When I moved from Turkey to Sweden to study design, I never imagined myself designing glassware but now I’m in love with the material. I think it’s an amazing medium to explore light, reflections and refractions. It’s more than a physical solid form … it has another dimension that you can dig into and play with. For NEXTGEN I went back to basics, to a rugged block of rock. I imagined a sculptor carving the rock and catching a glimpse of crystal, and wanted to capture the beauty inside. I was more interested in showing the process than the finished product … showing the rough and the smooth. In SCULPTURE, the complex geometry of the unfinished part of the lead crystal vase plays with the reflections of light. Together with the perfection of the finished parts and its brilliant light refraction, it’s more like a piece of sculpture.
2013: Musashino Art University, Tokyo
A rich mix of contrast between urban vitality and ancient ritual, Tokyo was a fertile place to find fresh thinking. Across the city, all fields of creativity share an obsession with functionality and a respect for traditional craftsmanship.
Established in 1929, Tokyo's Musashino Art University trains students for careers in various fields of the formative arts, focusing primarily on fine art and design. The university arms students with a combination of generalist and specialist skills, providing art education that lets them function with true freedom as human beings.
Hikari by Yuumi Abe
"How I found light and space in a teeming city."
I’ve lived in Nakano, Tokyo for around two years, moving here from the Shiogama, Miyagi prefecture. Like any big city, it’s hectic at times but I find peace and quiet at Kiyosumi Garden and the Koishikawa Botanical Gardens. Amid the hustle of the city, the gardens overflow with light and space. My inspiration came from diverse sources: architecture, natural landscape, sun streaming through the leaves of trees, even piles of objects. My idea was to explore the space beneath a glass or vase… space that to me is alive with exciting possibilities.
2014: Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, Prague
NEXTGEN next moved onto Prague, a city offering a tempting blend of talent and tradition. The Czech capital has an illustrious glass-making heritage dating back to the 17th Century, establishing the city’s long-held reputation for hand-cut Bohemian crystal.
Founded in 1885, the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design was the ideal next partner for Nachtmann’s project as it encourages its students to thrive with enthusiasm for innovation. Since its release, the resulting series, SPHERE, has won both the Bavarian State Award (2014) and Red Dot Award for Product Design (2015).
"How I discovered the beauty of geometry."
My aim was to connect the tradition and quality of hand-made glass with the precision and possibilities of pressed glass. I was influenced by legendary Czech glass designers who took a sculptural approach to their craft, like Frantisek Vizner, Rudolf Jurnikl, Jirí Zejmon, and Jirí Brabec. My visit to the Nachtmann factory also made a major impression, as I saw for myself the infinite possibilities of modern-day glassmaking. Back at the academy, I experimented with spheres and saw how spherical convex shapes play with light to make striking refractions. As my sketches became 3D sculptures, I applied the spheroid principle to a family of products including drinking glasses, plates and bowls. As I held the first prototypes, I realised that geometry had shaped my creativity.
2016: The Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing
With around 120 design colleges and a design sector employing almost 250,000 people, Beijing offers a stimulating and exciting creative environment. The city has more than 30 Creative Cluster Areas, which are rich with vibrant art and culture.
The Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing is a leading institution for modern art education in China, and has nurtured many pre-eminent Chinese artists. For the first time in NEXTGEN history, the Central Academy saw three students awarded the winner, with two working together to design a collaborative series, SHU FA.
Jin Yu by Zhang Sicong
"How free-flowing fish gave me free-flowing ideas."
Thinking about the Nachmann theme, “Luxury every day”, I remembered that in traditional Chinese culture the goldfish tail is a symbol of abundance and good fortune. For centuries, Chinese people have kept a goldfish to bring luck and wealth. Inspired by the free-flowing movement of the fish’s tail, I was determined to capture this exuberant action in static glass. I found that the edges of glass plates and bowls could imitate a goldfish tail and that the abstract shape retained the feeling of freedom. The finished pieces have the texture of a goldfish tail and they reflect the fish’s free-flowing movement. They show that the dream of good luck and the prosperity it brings can be expressed through the beauty of crystal.
"How we found a whisky glass on a Chinese mountain."
We examined Chinese calligraphy for inspiration, in particular traditional calligraphic ink paintings. A stroke called ‘pimacun’, used to depict the structure and texture of mountain rock, had all the right attributes. As we explored the shape of each single stroke, our experiments with a 3D version proved that it could be applied to a vessel with dramatic results. Treating the glass as our canvas, with the stroke creating an interesting texture and rhythm, our idea came to life in a striking way. To us, the calligraphic stroke we chose is gentle yet strong, and it works well in the medium of glass.
2017: Central Saint Martins, London
Coming out of London’s famous arts and design college, Central Saint Martins, the latest NEXTGEN products uphold the city’s reputation as a capital of creativity. From art to fashion, design to theatre, the city produces designers with the ability to challenge the status quo and bring an irreverent, quirky touch to innovation.
The 2017 project resulted in two unique product ranges. PUNK dusts off the concept of traditional crystal homewares, and marks its continued evolution into a modern and functional product. CURVE takes a completely different angle, to create two fluid vases inspired by architecture. These winning designs truly show the versatility of creativity.
"How my punk attitude smashed the image of crystal."
Celebrating Punk’s 40th anniversary, my urge was to rebel and break out of the ordinary. I began by sketching some of the surfaces and textures of Punk, such as studs, spikes and grids. Moving on from these literal translations of key Punk visuals, I progressed to a broader interpretation of the movement, letting the attitude shape the form. I carefully researched Nachtmann’s approach to texture and patterns so I could merge this with the Punk style, marking the juxtaposition of Punk and luxury, a trend that’s currently making waves in fashion.
"How I found inspiration in soft, free-flowing architecture."
My collection was inspired by the groundbreaking work of architects such as Zaha Hadid and Santiago Calatrava. The idea was to transform architectural landscape into table landscape; just as buildings attract attention and shape landscape in cities, beautiful crystal centrepieces can form compositions on a table. I experimented with different shapes and textures and examined how architectural objects can be graceful and elegant, yet changing and unpredictable. From sketches, I moved onto 3D modelling to investigate how my collection could form a tabletop ‘landscape’. The result was a pair of unconventional crystal vases that capture the light to create stunning refractions.