The collector: Alejandro Mena, Graphic Designer, Madrid, Spain.
The collection: Glass Design from the 1950s, mostly Scandinavian.
The story behind the collection...
I collect glass design from the 1950s, mostly Scandinavian. My collection is focused on a couple of designers - Per Lütken and Nanny Still. I recently started collecting Bengt Orup's work as well. I also collect jugs, carafes and decanters. As a designer I think I can appreciate beauty more in utilitarian items than in mere ornamental ones. In fact I don't only collect glass design - there's also plastic ashtrays from the 60s and 70s (though I never smoked), chairs and the work of the Spanish industrial designer André Ricard, which ranges from plastic ashtrays to perfume bottles, juice pressers, liquor bottles, toothbrushes or lamps. I think I was born a collector.
It was a pretty silly beginning. At 29 I had to be in hospital for three weeks and my best friend, who at that time was starting to buy some 50s glass, was visiting me everyday after work and used to spend hours with me there. I decided I should buy him some very nice glass piece to thank him for his friendship. I liked the item so much I kept it myself and bought another one which I also happened to keep and got a third one which I at last gave to him. Thus I got two wonderful glass pieces from the 50s and decided I should get "a couple more" just for decorative purposes. The fourth or fifth piece was an Umanak vase by Lütken and I loved it, so I started getting more and more of his stuff.
I bought the first ones in 1997 and I managed to get around 40 items in the first four years. I was very proud of my big collection by then. I then lived in the USA for a couple of years and when I came back to Spain in 2004 I started buying more and my collection became… let's say "out of control". Today I have a just over 1100 glass items. A lot!
You can find my glass items on virtually every surface in the house. I have a big bookshelf, white and glossy, that's 150 centimeters wide and is ideal for glass displaying. It now holds over 200 items by Lütken. I wish I had more space to display them properly. Then there's a myriad of smaller shelving units and lots of tables where the rest of the glass is. Some of Lütken's stuff lays straight on the floor and then some other stuff (most of it drinking glasses from complete sets, as I only display one item from each different design) is unfortunately kept in boxes or cupboards, but I guess around a 85% of the pieces are displayed.
I like to have my stuff displayed by designers: all Lütkens together in the living room, all the Nanny Still stuff in the study. Then, I have two shelf units devoted to jugs, decanters and so on. I am in urgent need of more exhibiting space, so getting a bigger place is a must at the moment.
Per Lütken, Nanny Still (especially all the items from her Neptuna series) and Bengt Orup are my favorite designers. I love my Strömbergshyttan pieces as well: their extreme simplicity and thick walls I find really special. As for favorite pieces… My Claritas by Timo Sarpaneva has a nice story and it was the first important piece I ever got. There is also a Murano bowl, by Barbini, which was the first glass item I ever bought. I didn't find out what it was until very recently. I'm very proud of it even if I don't have much Italian glass or have never shown a special interest on it.
I would like to have at least one of the Kremlin Bells double decanters by Kaj Franck; also the middle size vase (in blue) from Nanny Still’s Pajazzo series, and to get all the Neptuna stuff I haven’t got yet … and a dozen more items!
Images © Alejandro Mena and used with kind permission.