Porcelain, politics and poetry in an artistic liaison: KPM+ Rona Kobel reinterprets a Bauhaus icon and shows that the beautiful form can also become a perfectly formed manifesto.

"Freedoom" vases in candy colors

Rona Kobel is a visual artist and lives and works in Berlin. She is a lecturer at the University of the Arts.

Rona, how did you and KPM Berlin find each other?

I was a master student at the University of the Arts and started working with porcelain in the last year of my studies. But the problem was that the UdK doesn't have its own porcelain kilns, so I had the idea of ​​simply asking the neighbors, because the KPM is in the immediate vicinity. That was almost ten years ago.

Does that mean you simply carried your work from university across the streets?

Exactly, that was quite a risky affair, especially on bumpy places. Every now and then an arm or something similar would break.

What appeals to you so much about porcelain, where does your enthusiasm for it come from?

Porcelain is a noble material. But then using such a material to use unpleasant topics creates irritation. Wrapping horror moments and stories in something so beautiful, so precious, draws attention to important issues. Added to this is the three-dimensionality, which forces the viewer to deal with the object and thus the topic. Especially since we are all completely flooded by the media. Porcelain makes it easier for us to look again.

Now you have discovered the HALLE vase, why this model?

I originally came across the vase and its designer Marguerite Friedlaender in 2019 as part of the Bauhaus anniversary. On the one hand because the shape is beautiful and timeless, on the other hand its history is incredibly interesting. Friedlaender had to emigrate to the USA during the burgeoning National Socialism, and her name was deleted from the vase's production sheets, so the product was initially resold without a name and its designer was wiped out. I then looked through old letters and documents in the archive, looking for her signature with her full name, which was really difficult, but I finally found her in the archive of Giebichenstein Castle in Halle.

In the luster color vase, Kobel paints each drop individually by hand, so each object has a different gradient and is unique.

The signature of the vase designer Marguerite Friedlaender was deleted from the production sheets during the National Socialist era. The artist Rona Kobel put dots under the signature, an old correction mark, to make what was crossed out valid again.

You have now dipped the HALLE vases in bright colors and let word reliefs grow over their bodies. How did the design process work?

The idea for the relief came first, I then borrowed models of the vases from the workshop and tried a few things out. Once the designs had progressed to this point, I started experimenting a lot with painting. The smaller "Freedoom" vases are more cheerful and playful thanks to the pastel colors and the large bow, the larger "CouRAGE" models are more noble and serious. The relief casts beautiful shadows that are absorbed by the bisque and the luster color.

You just mentioned the names, what's behind "Freedoom" and "CouRAGE". What does freedom mean to you, what does courage mean to you?

First of all, there is of course a direct connection to Marguerite Friedlaender, as her freedom and the freedom of the Bauhaus were brought to an abrupt end by National Socialism. Today we live in a free, democratic society with all the privileges of free personal development, freedom of expression, etc... Unfortunately, we are often far too unaware of how valuable these basic freedom rights are, how hard they were fought for and how rare they are globally are seen. Despite all the seriousness, humor and irony also play an important role and I enjoy working with these opposites. You only notice the double o and the -doom in the lettering at second glance and the colorful vases smile mischievously at the viewer while warning about the fragility of freedom.

And CouRAGE...

....stands for the anger necessary for the courage to change. RAGE is thicker and has larger relief to particularly emphasize the second part of the word.

The vases oscillate between design and art, what unites both disciplines, would you say?

Art and design are both inventive and creative, they bring something new into the world and act as a mirror of their respective times. While design follows a specific purpose or benefit, art is free - the greatest and sometimes most difficult privilege of my profession as an artist. When art and design enter into a symbiosis, they can open up new spaces for each other - that's how I felt working with Marguerite Friedlaender's wonderful, timeless vases.

Biscuit version in front of pink

The blue "Freedoom" vase with watery eyes

Sponge cake variant Courage in front of blue