The long tradition of KPM Berlin inspires many stories, Tom Saller tells a very special one in his second novel “A New Blue”. We talked to him about how fiction and reality come together for him - and also found out which is his favorite piece from our factory.

What inspired your new book?

As is often the case when writing a novel, it is the detour that leads to the goal. I originally wanted to write a book about Elly Beinhorn, another strong female figure from the beginning of the 20th century. During my research into aviation, I came across the “Hermes” service, which Marguerite Friedlaender had designed for the newly opened restaurant at Halle-Leipzig Airport. I also saw pictures of their famous “airplane cup”, the mirror surface of which is cut out in the base so that it stands securely during the flight. I was fascinated by the simplicity of the designs and their innovative approach.

What came first? The idea of ​​the story or the setting around KPM Berlin?

Definitely the idea of ​​the story or rather, its main character, Lili Kuhn. I had her in mind from the start. A (half) Jewish girl who grows up motherless and is raised by her father and two buddies , a Japanese man and a rabbi. I intended to accompany Lili into old age, i.e. until the 80s of the 20th century, where she meets the other main character, Anja, 18 years old. The meeting of the two generations excited me.

Did you have any contact with KPM Berlin before your book?

Only indirectly; I knew that Lili would meet Marguerite Friedlaender in her youth. When I told a good friend, also a writer, that the theme of my new novel was porcelain, he said that he was well acquainted with the director of a Berlin hotel that belonged to Jörg Woltmann, the owner of the KPM. If desired, he could try to establish contact.

TOM SALLER, born in 1967, studied medicine and works as a psychotherapist near Cologne. When he's not writing, he plays the saxophone in a jazz combo. Photo: Anett Kürten

The KPM Berlin has a very old history. Why is your novel set in the early 20th century of all places?

On the one hand, this is connected to my previous novel “When Martha Dances”. A good part of it takes place at the Bauhaus in Weimar, and I had already met Marguerite Friedlaender there. During my research into KPM, I came across Günther von Pechmann, who had been appointed director of the factory at the end of the 1920s. Both personalities had set themselves the goal of taking advantage of the optimism of the 1920s and of modernizing the more traditional designs that porcelain had previously been subject to. Von Pechmann also had in mind the democratization of porcelain in the sense of high-quality tableware for everyone - exciting, I thought.

What particularly fascinated you when researching KPM Berlin and the contemporary history of that time?

Particularly the personality of Günther von Pechmann, who managed not to allow himself to be taken over by the Nazis until the end of the 1930s - even though the pressure from outside was great and his wife, like Lili, was also half-Jewish. The Nazis would have loved to see “Gröfaz” in line with Frederick the Great, but von Pechmann resisted, so the CPM was not “in line” for a long time. Instead, the SS ran its own porcelain factory in Munich-Allach from the late 1930s.

What did you personally learn or take away from working on this novel?

What a fantastic and still a little bit mysterious material porcelain is. That it has a complex history that goes back thousands of years and extends far beyond Europe. And that for a writer, on a metaphorical level, the analogy between the making of porcelain and the incarnation is irresistible: an object is formed, takes shape. It is fired and thereby gains strength. It receives a glaze and is suddenly no longer gray and unsightly, but shines in the light of reality. And then the final walk through the fire - only what has proven itself in the fire lasts.

What fascinates you personally about KPM Berlin?

That it is the oldest craft business still in existence on Berlin soil. That many people know Frederick the Great, but don't know that he has such a wonderful relationship with porcelain making. In my opinion, the KPM has managed to make the leap into the 21st century without betraying its values. I am particularly fascinated by the people who work there. Those I had the pleasure of getting to know are all passionate about the manufactory.

Do you have a favorite collection or piece?

Marguerite Friedlaender’s “Hallesche Form” vases, Trude Petri’s “Urbino” service and – new – the products from the LAB series.

“A New Blue” by Tom Saller will be published by List Verlag on August 30, 2019.

A young woman makes her way as a porcelain painter for the KPM...

When Lili's mother dies early, her father Jakob takes loving care of her. But it wasn't until she met Günther von Pechmann, the director of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory, that she found her calling: the world of porcelain. But the National Socialists come to power and Lili has to flee Berlin.

Fifty years later, Lili lives again in Charlottenburg, withdrawn in her house with the Japanese garden. She doesn't talk much about herself and her eventful life. Only 18-year-old Anja, stubborn and strange, can get Lili to open up to her. Little by little, Lili's story is revealed, but Anja also has a secret. What role does the simple porcelain bowl that the old woman guards like a treasure play?