An Elusive Czech Glass Blower

The work at Found Object is always new and exciting, forever changing, and never ending. A big part of the business is discovering new sources of inspiration for product, be it through visits to trade shows or chance encounters.

Recently, Salvo embarked on a scheduled trip to Germany for the Heimtextil show, the largest textile expo in the world. The plan was to then visit Istanbul to check on production for the NY NOW show in New York.

But in between, he had scheduled a three day sojourn with Leslie to the beautiful city of Prague, mostly to gain a bit of rest and relaxation with his wife, partly to discover new product, but also, unbeknown to Leslie, to try to uncover a Czech glass blower named Borek Sipek.

Sightseeing in Prague

Salvo picked up Leslie at the airport in Frankfurt, and the duo rented a comfy BMW X3 for their 450km drive along the autobahn to Prague. Five hours later they arrived on the banks of the Vitava river and pulled up in front of their hotel overlooking the famous Charles Bridge.1

Leslie had a full list of tourist activities she wanted to do and places she wanted to visit, and their days were filled with sightseeing and eating. In the old town, they went to a classical concert in the Spanish synagogue and meandered through the eerily crowded Jewish Cemetery.2

4In the new part of city, they visited the National Theater, the modern (1930’s) Church of the Sacred Heart, and the expansive Olsany Cemetary, known for its incredible art nouveau monuments. They often took the underground metro and above ground trams to get around.53

67They feasted on delicacies such as goulash and svickova, a popular Czech dish consisting of sirloin and vegetables, boiled with double cream.

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Famous Czech Glass

One of the highlights of this mini-vacation was discovering the ubiquitous stores selling beautiful hand-blown glassware. Goblets, bowls, wine glasses and vases – the array of colors and choices were mesmerizing. Prague is especially famous for its glass, precisely because the minerals specific to the soil in the region lends itself to an exceptional clarity to the finished product.1615

Salvo and Leslie were eager to discover new sources of glass product, especially after the great success Found Object has had with Moroccan glassware.

In Search of Borek

But all this time, Salvo had another goal in mind.  His real interest was locating one specific glassblower – Borek Sipek – whose work Jude had been avidly collecting for more than 20 years. Finding him would prove to be frustratingly difficult.19

After they discovered the contact numbers and addresses on his website were not current, they asked the concierge at their hotel, who told them about his glass factory which was over 200 km north.  No one knew if he had a local studio or showroom. They then started asking local storeowners, even knocking on the doors of private homes at his previous address, but again to no avail. They inquired at a local bookstore that sold hundreds of books on Czech design and glasswork, but again they came up empty.

Finally, after many vain attempts, they gave up and began walking out of the Old Town.  But a colorful window display drew then into one last shop. There they found a shopkeeper who seemed to know something, but was reluctant to share any info. When they asked if she had any Borek Sipek pieces, she became irritated. Realizing she wasn’t going to get a sale, she waved them out of the store and brusquely pointed to the back, indicating a small alleyway off the main street. Then she locked the door behind them.

Down the alley Salvo and Leslie ventured until they arrived at a small inner courtyard, where a lone art gallery, completely hidden from street view, featured and sold the work of Borek Sipek!

A Surprise New Friend

And the surprises continued. The gallery owner was lovely and shared all kinds of information about Borek with them. Thrilled as they were to have found his work, they selected a porcelain teapot crafted by the artisan himself in the 1980’s as a gift for Jude. But then, completely unexpectedly, the gallery owner offered to call Borek so they could meet him. Within twenty minutes, the elusive Borek Sipek arrived in the flesh.2021

They started chatting and he offered to sign a card for Jude. Before long they were at a local pub, dining on steak tartare and Czech sausage and drinking the local pilsner.

After a most enjoyable evening, they bid their farewells and readied themselves for the drive back to Frankfurt the next morning and the flight to Istanbul. Another fruitful, and completely inspirational, trip in the Found Object logbook.

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