Richard Brendon on rescuing unloved objects and raiding the V&A archives

The British designer’s fascination with antiques is at the heart of his new ceramics collaboration

richard brendon for the va
Neil Watson

Recycling, reusing and repurposing may be at the forefront of many designers’ minds right now, but in 2010 it’s fair to say the concept was less high on the agenda.

For Richard Brendon, however, it was a key element of a collection that took him from unknown Kingston design graduate to Le Bon Marché in Paris and beyond.

‘I wanted to make unloved things valuable again,’ he explains. ‘As a student I worked in a pub on Portobello Road. Walking past the antiques shops, I realised there were lots of beautiful saucers without cups, so I bought a big pile and that was the starting point.’

richard brendon
Richard Brendon

The result was ‘Reflect’, a degree show that in 2013 became his first fully-fledged collection. ‘I did all sorts of horrible things before I came to the final idea,’ he laughs. ‘Cutting saucers in half and gluing them to things... but then I thought if cups were mirrored, they’d reflect the pattern and look like they’d always belonged together.’

Over a decade later, and at the heart of the company’s continued success is the ongoing relationship with Stoke on Trent’s iconic ceramic manufacturers, who produce his collections. This includes the instantly recognisable ‘Superstripe’, a collaboration with design studio Patternity, which is now the tea set of choice at London’s Corinthia hotel.

richard brendon fluted glassware
Richard Brendon’s ’Fluted’ collection of glassware
Neil Watson Studio

‘Having seen the most incredible antique ceramics, I wanted to make products that were as good as they could possibly be,’ he explains. ‘The answer is to always work with crafts people in heritage industries, because that’s where the true skills are.’

Equally accomplished Slovenian manufacturers are behind the production of Brendon’s crystal designs – a diversification initially prompted by lone decanter stoppers. ‘Alas, they proved more challenging than saucers to repurpose, and I couldn’t find a good solution,’ he says. ‘But we decided to take the traditional material and do something more contemporary with it.’ This resulted in ‘Fluted’, a range originally conceived for Gleneagles’ American Bar, glasses designed with wine expert Jancis Robinson and the mouth-blown ‘Cocktail Collection’.

richard brendon reflect collection for the va
Richard Brendon’s ’Reflect’ collection for the V&A
Neil Watson

This autumn, things come full circle with a new take on ‘Reflect’, in collaboration with the V&A. There are four decorative saucers – inspired by the museum’s Georgian and Victorian porcelain – to pair with Brendon’s signature gold and platinum cups, as well as four mugs. ‘The opportunity to delve into the archive of one of the world’s finest ceramic collections was a dream come true,’ he enthuses. ‘Hopefully this is just the start.’

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