Handcrafting fine tableware in Switzerland since 1984."We would like to create a product with a timeless design. Good design should simplify and not complicate."
Terra Keramik creates quality tableware using clean, simple designs and rich, saturated glazes in eight exquisite colors. Terra Keramik was established in 1984 by Felix Vogler, Founder and Creative Director, and is located in Winterthur, Switzerland. It moved to its current location and opened its own retail sales space in 1994. Each piece of tableware is handcrafted by Felix Vogler and his team of master artisans, and individually signed by the founder.
Terra Keramik creates approximately 8,000 pieces of tableware annually and sells to both wholesale and retail customers. Within Switzerland, Terra Keramik's handcrafted products are available through large retailers such as Globus (comparable to Neiman Marcus in the United States), specialty tableware and interior design stores, and its own store in Winterthur.
Felix Vogler studied ceramics at the Höhere Fachschule für Keramik in Bern, Switzerland (School for Advanced Studies in Ceramics) and completed an apprenticeship with a well-known ceramics studio in Switzerland before launching his own career.
Terra Keramik is derived from terra cotta, which translated from Latin means "burnt earth", and Keramik, which translated from German means ceramics.
|We conducted an interview with Felix Vogler, Founder and Creative Director of Terra Keramik, to learn about his team of master artisans at work.|
Felix Vogler on his work environment...
|Editor:||Please describe your studio for us.|
|Felix Vogler:||Our studio is located in the historic section of Winterthur, Switzerland. (Editor’s note: Winterthur is Switzerland’s 5th largest city with a population of about 100,000). Parts of our building originate from the 14th century. We occupy about 1,350 square feet of space, including a retail sales space of 225 square feet. An interior courtyard that offers a view of the old town church and really adds to the quality of our working environment separates the studio and the sales space.|
Uncompromising quality in tools and materials...
|Editor:||What materials do you use to create the tableware by hand?|
|Felix Vogler:||Our clay, imported from Germany, is specially formulated to consume less energy during firing. We use a transparent glaze that contains zero lead and cadmium and the best pigments available. Our platinum is also sourced from Germany.|
|Editor:||What tools do you use?|
|Felix Vogler:||For many years we have been working with two potter’s wheels that were made by a local locksmith. These are heavy-duty machines with a belt drive and a friction wheel. A good potter’s wheel can last 50 years. Our plaster molds are manufactured by Votum Design of Switzerland, which has also done work for Alessi, the famous Italian household goods design firm. We just added a second kiln (chamber kiln) of the best quality to support our exports to the United States.|
The skills of a fine craftsman...
|Editor:||How do you create each piece by hand?|
|Felix Vogler:||To describe all of our work processes in detail would be beyond the scope of this interview. But let me summarize.|
|To create the greenware, we turn the clay on the potter’s wheel or pour the clay into the molds. (Editor’s note: for example, to create the candleholders and teapots, Terra Keramik uses molds). We let the greenware dry a little, and then finish the pieces with tools and sponges. Once the greenware is completely dry, we perform the initial firing at a temperature of 1100°C (2012°F).|
|After the bisque pieces have cooled, we dip them in the glaze using special tongs and dry them on custom-made stainless steel sheets. The second firing occurs at a slightly lower temperature of 1000°C (1832°F).|
|The platinum is applied to the rims by brush. The handles are dipped in platinum, which requires tremendous skill. Each piece is then signed by me in platinum. The final firing occurs at 690°C (1274°F).|
|Once cooled off, the pieces are polished on a diamond wheel, quality controlled for any defects in materials and workmanship, and packaged. We create each product in small series of 6 to 25 pieces and work with only a single color at a time. Our products are not machine made, nor are they mass produced!|
Creating the stunning finish...
|Editor:||What about the glazing process. How do you achieve such a rich, saturated glaze? Any changes you made to sell to the US market?|
|Felix Vogler:||Glazing is arguably the most creative and technical challenge, and we invest heavily in our glazes and love to experiment. The glaze recipes are considered inventions and trade secrets of the artist! We color our glazes with pigments. In order to export to the United States, we converted to glazes that contain zero lead and cadmium to produce an absolutely food-safe finish. We make no compromises. (Editor’s note: the FDA does permit trace amounts of lead and cadmium in ceramic tableware. Terra Keramik’s tableware has been independently tested and contains zero lead and cadmium).|
|Editor:||Why do you apply platinum? Is this expensive?|
|Felix Vogler:||Like gold, platinum is a precious medal. According to Incas’ tradition, gold refers to the “sweat of the sun” and silver to the “tears of the moon”. The platinum rims and handles give our tableware a more refined, exclusive appearance.|
|Editor:||What are you doing to reduce the environmental impact and to make a food-safe product for the consumer?|
|Felix Vogler:||We strongly believe in environmentally and socially sustainable production, including the use of glazes with zero lead and cadmium. This is not only important for the consumer, but also for the artisans who work with the materials. We use clays that can be fired with lower energy consumption. And in our packaging we use recyclable materials whenever possible and try to reduce the environmental impact. Time will prove us correct.|
|Editor:||How do you package and ship your products?|
|Felix Vogler:||Packaging should be simple and functional. Our gift boxes are also produced in Winterthur.|
|Editor:||Thank you for providing a little insight into Terra Keramik at work. Any final thoughts?|
|Felix Vogler:||All of this sounds a little technical. In the end we would like to create a product with a timeless design. Notwithstanding our high standards and expectations, our products are handcrafted and therefore not perfect. They can be considered “perfectly imperfect”. Good design should simplify and not complicate. If our products can bring a little fun and joy into your life, I will be very happy. Thank you!|