Bodo Sperlein works wonders in fine bone china and porcelain. German-born, he settled in London since studying design at the Camberwell College of the Arts and has his own showroom/studio at Oxo Tower Wharf on London’s South Bank. He has produced signature collections for heritage luxury brands including Nymphenburg, Lladro and Nikko, some of which are featured in our February issue. We caught up with him for a chat about tea and china…
What’s your studio like? It’s similar to a museum space or gallery, quite minimalistic. I’ve used natural materials such as oak flooring and grey stone surfaces in combination with white silky lacquer to create a natural and elegant space, so the products speak for themselves.
Who, or what, inspired you to become a designer? I studied 3D design, specialising in ceramics, at Camberwell College of Art and Design. The lack of creativity, especially in ceramic materials was probably one of my biggest driving forces. I wanted to show that ceramics could be sexy. It gave me the ability to think three-dimensionally and now gives me the knowledge to work with a multitude of materials. Ceramics has such versatility; I was particularly inspired by the application of ceramics within technology and architecture.
The Niagara Chandelier for Lladro (above)
What was your ‘big break’? Browns South Molton Street, the iconic fashion store, commissioned me to do a homeware collection straight after my graduation. It was there that Caroline Burstein discovered me and became my mentor in my early career.
Tell us about your new collection. Historic Japanese brand Nikko wanted to bring a global feel to their brand image and commissioned me to design several collections. They wanted to bring a European style to their amazing skills and craftsmanship. The products are sensual and usable at the same time with beautiful colour effects (See Macaroon, below). Nikko are really pushing boundaries in bone china manufacturing, they’re experimental and take risks, which is very rare within European manufacturers.
The Macaroon collection for Nikko.
What is your design process? In my office I have an extensive library of imagery including books, photos and magazines, which is incredibly helpful to draw on ideas and inspirations. Through extensive global travel I collect information and impressions. Design processes include sketching, collages and photography.
Describe your perfect weekend? As my life is very hectic, something fairly low-key and homely. I go to the cinema or visit restaurants and love seeing exhibitions. Cooking with friends is also a regular weekend relief.
Do you collect anything? Nothing obsessively but I like to surround myself with items that inspire me. This could be anything from a piece of beautiful glass, a print, some interesting ceramics or woodwork to a book.
Cloud for Nikko
As well as ceramics I’m pretty good at…designing and working with other materials such as silver, wood, resin and stone. Apparently I’m also a good cook
In another life you’d be…a historian
What couldn’t you live without? A cup of tea. I especially like a strong black tea, such as English Breakfast. In the afternoon I prefer something more calming such as green teas.
Equus collection for Lladro
What’s coming up? I’m fascinated with the way that food and beverages are influencing design. I’m currently working with a global chocolate company on product developments and I’m consulting with an international tea brand.