The following post is brought to you by Ketel One® Vodka. Our partners are hand-picked by the Design Milk team because they represent the best in design.
Back in February we posted a call for entries for The Modern Craft Project, presented by Ketel One® Vodka in partnership with Wallpaper* magazine. They were looking for modern craftspeople who push the limits of traditional craft, true innovators who could also represent Ketel One’s tradition of making high-quality products. The winners would receive a portion of the Ketel One® Legacy fund to use to refine their skills and take their work to a new level. We are excited to talk to all three U.S. winners about their craft and experience.
John Pomp grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania where steel still reigned king. The fine craftsmanship of the steel workers must have stuck with him as he also works with steel, creating some of the most beautiful fine furniture and lighting. One thing that separates him from his steelmaking forefathers is the addition of glass, a craft he fell in love with at an early age.
We had the opportunity to talk to him about his choice to make modern classic furniture and lighting his life’s work and the excitement of his recent award—a portion of the Ketel One Vodka Legacy fund.
Our past often shapes who we are and what we create. What about your family, upbringing and experiences in Western PA have enriched your designs?
My father is a master craftsman and carpenter in his own right. I grew up with him teaching me how to work with my hands. We are from a small steel town where crafting and building is a way of life and was a big part of my childhood.
What do you feel is the definition of “classic modern”?
I believe the definition of “classic modern” are things that are relevant today that were just as relevant years and years ago. Timeless.
How is working with glass different than making furniture? For example, how is it different from building a chair?
In order to work with glass, it needs to be manipulated quickly with a high attention to detail to create it’s desired form. Working with glass is immediate and not as forgiving as say, working with wood, where you can come back and take time to shape it’s form. Glass is not forgiving – it’s this living material that has it’s own set of rules. It’s constantly moving.
What drew you to glassblowing?
My art teacher from high school, who had worked with glass himself in college, turned me onto glass blowing. I had no idea what it meant, or what it would mean to me at the time. I tried it once, immediately fell in love, and dedicated my life to working with it from that moment on.
What role does steel play in your past and in your work?
As I mentioned earlier, steel played a big role in my life from an early age. Now, steel plays a big role in creating my lighting and furniture pieces. There is an element of steel in every piece of furniture and lighting we handcraft, which we create in our own metal fabrication studio. I believe steel is the most appropriate material to marry with our hand-blown glass.
Do you prefer to make furniture or lighting?
I do not have a preference, as I find great enjoyment in both. I just happen to want to build and create all things for my home.
What is the creative process like for you?
I am very inspired by things I find aesthetically beautiful in nature. I utilize these inherent organic qualities to create highly-crafted pieces that show evidence of the hand and hints of beauty and nature.
What kind of tools and technology (both modern and traditional) do you use to do your work?
We do not use any modern technology in our studio. I prefer to use the traditional techniques, processes and tools that works with our aesthetic. We use use handmade steel handtools and of the tools, ovens and furnaces used in our facility are the same as the ones used hundreds of years ago.
Are you currently working with any retailers or distributors or are you making mostly bespoke pieces for clients?
My collections are represented by showrooms around the country and internationally – all of which are listed on my website.
Where/How did you find out about Ketel One’s Modern Craft Project and why did you decide to submit your work?
The Wallpaper* magazine website. I was inspired to submit my work because I felt a connection with Ketel One’s philosophy of the importance of handcrafted products.
What was your reaction when you learned that you were one of the winners?
I was elated to find out I was one of the fund recipients! Now I can completely visualize my plans to create this very special piece of equipment!
What do you plan to do with your part of the Ketel One Legacy prize fund?
I plan on utilizing the winnings to construct and fine-tune a new piece of glass equipment, built with the intention to help innovate a new technique to create pieces for a new series of work. The piece of equipment will be a custom glass kiln, heated to 1200°F, where hot molten glass will be carefully poured onto a structure and will assist in nurturing gravity and heat to create cascading, icicle-like forms.
When did you feel like you “made it”?
I’ve never really felt that I have “made it”. I have been doing the same thing as I was 20 years ago — this was a life choice for me, as opposed to a career choice.
What are you currently working on at this very moment?
At the moment, I am working on a collection of hand-blown glass mirrors that are inspired by turn of the century pocket watches.