Tell us more about yourself – where did you grow up and how did you get into this line of work?
I grew up in northern Bavaria, near the best-known center of porcelain making in Germany located around the town Selb/Schönwald. I became acquainted with porcelain from early on. Our family business was porcelain retailing, handling precious items made by Fürstenberg, Rosenthal and Meissen.
Where does your passion for porcelain and the arts stem from?
The previously mentioned exposure to porcelain combined with the desire to create my own designs led me to study design at the Johann-Friedrich-Böttger Institute, a state vocational training centre for ceramics in Selb.
Can you tell us more about your company, Barbara Flügel Porzellan?
Already during my last student year, out of a four year curriculum, I opened my own workshop in Selb. My first employees were pensioners from the porcelain industry. At present, I run my own manufacturing plant on a ±6000 square meter plot.
How would you describe your designs and products for those who don’t know about them?
It is probably difficult to place my work into a particular category. As an artist, my designs have to be fun, functional, emotional and must fully meet the expectations of the customer, taking into account the economic constraints.
Where do find your inspiration for your designs?
Fortunately, nature gave me an extra bit of imagination. The inspiration comes from going through life with open eyes, admittedly also from dreams. Porcelain itself is a constant challenge and, of course, a teacher.
Can you give us a brief overview of your products?
Everything I make is hand made in classic German hard porcelain, consisting of kaoline and fired at 1400° C in a gas-fired kiln.
I started with decorations. But very soon I dreamed of designing and making my own tableware under my own label and mark, which I then put into practice. I sold this worldwide, e.g. in Arabia, Russia, China, and France. I like to experiment, I developed my own painting techniques and I try to achieve the impossible. Porcelain as a material is very versatile. It offers countless possibilities that I more or less all use. I designed special teapots for Baltschug Kempinski in Moscow as well as architectural porcelain structures like the fountain for the spa area of Taschenbergpalais Kempinski in Dresden or the big fountain in front of the church and Porcelain Lane in Selb. I also produced three chess sets with boards in porcelain, one of them with erotic motives.
What makes your designs and products unique?
My customers are of the firm opinion that my work is characterized by a unique style. They keep telling me that they recognize my pieces even without looking at the mark. But I cannot say what it is, perhaps it is my love for details and story-telling. I always wanted to make porcelain that inspires dreams, that fires the imagination, and that my customers feel comfortable with. Every piece they buy from me has something of mine and takes something from my dream world.
Do you have a favourite design and why is this your favorite?
My favourite design that I love most is my white dragon teapot with its cup. The smooth surface of the clear white glazed bodies and the satin-finished dragon handles leave a wonderful feeling when touched. From this I enjoy my morning tea. It takes me out of the world of dreams and transfers me to reality.
And of course, my pets are fed from my Fine Dining for Cats and Dogs collections. My cat especially loves the bowl with the mouse in it.
Where did the idea for fine dining for pets come from, and why is it important to you?
Having been raised in a rural area, surrounded by animals, it was natural to think about how close pets can benefit from the possibilities porcelain offers.
In Europe we have been dining from porcelain dishes for more than 300 years, so I thought it was time now to also enable this for our companions – cats – and best friends – dogs.
The series Fine Dining for Cats and Dogs (German trademark “Feine Fresskultur”) is based on research about health issues and the usability of pet dinnerware. It is functional down to the smallest detail, tailored to the needs of the animal and the master. Due to their weight, the bowls remain upright. They are placed on a base also quite heavy, where the bowls fit in like a cup on a saucer. So it is very hard for pets to move them or to knock them over.
The bowls come in four flat and four high sizes, so that the right size can be found for every dog according to its needs. There is, for example, a narrow, high version available. It is intended for dogs with a long, narrow snout and long floppy ears. It is more comfortable and pleasant for the dogs when their ears stay outside, like it is for my loved afghanes. For me it was really fun to play with the material and possibilities of decorations, all of which are fired at 820° C. The combination of the classic clear and pure white porcelain, or with a hand-painted real silver or golden inlay, creates a tremendous tension that I like.
Do you have a signature design style that is apparent in all of your work?
I am a contemporary person – the way I live is reflected in my objects, and they are timeless. I create shapes that have tension. I love to let opposites collide, I look into the details. I never intended to design objects for showcases only. I want my porcelain objects to be used, I want them to be fun. My erotic chess set is for playing. If my work makes people happy, so am I.
Do you do make any custom-designed pieces for clients and if so, how does this work?
Yes, I design pieces according to customer wishes. But I have to find myself somewhere in them. I have to feel comfortable with the results. I always design with my heart, mind, and gut feeling. The results always bear a part of myself and my life. Only after I have understood their needs and wishes, do I design something I feel the customer will like. First I create a customer theme-world, a mental framework. Once the idea is perfect I implement it. 90% of the time this procedure always leads to the right decisions and unique objects the customer loves. It is so great to see how much pleasure one can give a customer with an object individually designed and produced for her or him.
Your creations are truly beautiful, how do you hope they impact their owners and the home environment?
I have regular collectors who love my pieces. They feel comfortable with my porcelain, because my designs are different and I offer more than machine-produced mass products. I want my customers to have fun with my porcelain. I like it when they smile, for example, when they see a naked man inside a goblet while drinking their Champagne. Once I perfected my humidor for a customer. After one year of countless experiments, it finally worked properly. It makes me happy to know that he now can perfectly store his cigars and really enjoy them. Even my new product line is unobtrusive and functional with a touch of elegant luxury, and will easily be accepted in any environment.
Tell us about some of your awards and their significance…
In 2005 I was chosen as a principal porcelain designer for an approved design by the Olympic Committee for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. This was accompanied by the opportunity to visit the cradle of porcelain. Between 2005 and 2007 I visited China several times, including Jingdezhen, where I immersed myself in the rich and fascinating beginning of the story of porcelain.
A special honour was also the Interior Design Innovation Award 2014 for my Flower Power Swimming Pool design, the first porcelain-made lining awarded by the German Design Counsel.