The London-based Czech duo of Jakub Pollág and Václav Mlynář has lit up Milan two years in a row with their material exploration and finely detailed pieces.
Jakub Pollág: Our collaboration was kind of an accident. During our studies at UMPRUM [the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague], we were both looking for someone to share an exhibition space with at Designblok, the city’s annual design week. So we randomly joined forces. The Urban Bicycle Helmet, for Czech brand Krust, was our first project.
Material Limitations as Inspiration
Václav Mlynář: We often start with material. The Transmission sculptural lamp, for example, was a project we did with glass, which we really didn’t know anything about. We always like to learn something new.
JP: We were approached by Kavalierglass – a company that has worked with borosilicate glass for over 175 years – and we visited the factory, where they showed us their technology and what is possible. We tried to push those limitations, and in the end Transmission was the most complicated piece they had ever made. It’s not glued or mechanically connected, but welded to become one piece. It was initially shown as a sculpture at the London Olympics in 2012, then we sold the collection to Lasvit, but
it’s still produced by Kavalier.
Transition through Transmission
JP: Transmission attracted a lot of attention and opened many doors for us. Working with Lasvit is great, because it’s growing so fast, and it’s interesting for us to be in the company of the many respected designers Lasvit collaborates with.
JP: We like to think that our products have to be a bit special, with at least one aspect that makes them different. Transmission is remarkable for the technology. And we recently designed a series of small coffee tables called Beads. These were created with the support of Preciosa, which recognized us after we won the Young Talent award in the 2014 Czech Grand Design Awards. They have these colourful tops made from small glass beads. From a distance, they seem simple, but up close you see the massive number of beads embedded in the tabletop, and that the overall colour seen from a distance is actually a mixture of two or three. This piece was also special because we don’t usually use a lot of colour.
JP: Sometimes we work separately on different projects or parts of a project, but we always consult each other and send each other the final idea. We find it so natural to collaborate that now it’s hard to say who came up with the initial idea, or if I did more work on something or Václav did.
VM: It’s nice to work as a team, because it’s easier to convince ourselves about an idea if there are two of us behind it. We can assure each other that it’s good.
JP: We are very critical of each other’s ideas, so we go through them quickly. Sometimes, you get stuck on an idea, but then the other person comes in and explains that it doesn’t really make sense. It leads to much faster decisions.
JP: I started at the Royal College of Art a year and a half ago. Václav came last year. We would like to stay for a while, but we have to look at the pros and cons. In Prague, I think it’s much easier to make big projects happen, because we already have a large base of people there and feel very comfortable. But here, it’s great, because pretty much everyone you need to talk to about something extraordinary is in London.
Best Project, Next Projects
VM: Our most interesting project so far was the Carrara trip, a crazy idea that came to mind in Milan during design week. We said, “Okay let’s go to Carrara, take a camera [part of the project was making a video to document the experience], travel around and find out what marble is about.” It was eye opening to get the support of large brands without knowing the exact outcome.
JP: Despite that it wasn’t well planned, everything worked out and we learned a lot. Our luck continued back in Prague with the production of Bianco P, which consists of pieces made with different technologies, created with the marble we brought back. It was the kind of project that was almost unbelievable – a dream come true.
VM: We like to do something that is our own every year: we have commercial projects and ours, which are more artistic and free. Next, we’re planning something maybe in Asia. In terms of commercial work, we recently collaborated with Lasvit on the Hat collection, which was introduced in Milan this year, and we exhibited at the Rossana Orlandi Gallery there, too. We’ve also been working on this Fiat 500X project. Our job is supervising this competition that is looking for accessories for Fiat’s new car. We pick the best ideas, then help to make them real and finalize them.
Václav Mlynář, born in Prague, 1989. Jakub Pollág, born in Bratislava, Slovakia, 1989
Product design at Royal College of Art, London, Mlynář: 2014–15;
Pollág: 2013–15; and the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague
Product, furniture, interior and exhibition designers
2013 Designblok Award, Prague; 2014 Czech Grand Design Award
2014 & 2015 Salone del Mobile, Rossana Orlandi Gallery, Milan;
2012 Czech House, Summer Olympics, London
Bomma, Botas 66, Fiat, Heineken, Kavalierglass, Lasvit, Rudolf Scheer & Söhne, Verreum