With London Design week looming next week, we thought it would be a great time to introduce you to Inez & Jack of Huta glassware, who we met last year at Design Junction. We had neighbouring stands and it was great hanging out and chatting a little about how they got started. During the show we also got the time to really check out all their glassware ranges, which, we instantly loved leaving us with our biggest issue, picking which ones to stock, always a good problem to have.
Inez & Jack are both experienced designers by trade and they have created a series of glassware that is visually different but that is made for everyday use, something that is not easy to do these days. Their glassware ranges are created with three criteria foremost in their mind, beauty, function and cost, we think they have achieved all three. We caught up with Inez & Jack to chat Huta, all things glass and find out about their recent move…
Who & what is Huta?
HUTA was started by Inez Kochanowicz-Watson and her husband, Jack. Together, we design glassware pieces for the home, from glasses and carafes to storage jars and milk jars. Every HUTA design is distinctive and unique, which has proven particularly difficult in such a crowded category. We work with a small, family-run glassblowing business in the south of Poland to turn our designs into beautiful and functional products. The word HUTA means factory in Polish. More specifically, it’s a factory where material (metal or glass) is melted to be formed into products.
How did you get to where you are today?
It all started on a train about four years ago. We were travelling through Inez’s native Poland and at the time, we had just bought our first flat in South-East London. We are both product designers by training and fully-immersed in the London design scene, so we knew that we were going to have to “muck-in” and get creative when it came to getting the flat to look the way we wanted. Inez headed up the design team at a well-known product design company on the Southbank and Jack was a design director in a leading London branding consultancy. The flat was typically “London-tiny”, and it had consumed nearly all of our money so our challenge was to furnish is well, but on a strictly limited budget. That got our brains ticking. That train journey turned into our first HUTA planning meeting, although we didn’t know it at the time. We’d already done the rounds of our favourite shops in London. Habitat and the other Tottenham Court Road offerings, John Lewis, the specialist Skandium and reverted back to IKEA. But nowhere was offering us what we wanted and needed. Well-designed, high quality and interesting pieces that didn’t break the bank. We started doodling. With the first few designs, created with our flat and requirements in mind, we established that each piece needed to be simple to keep manufacturing complexity and costs low, it needed to be functional and perform its job satisfactorily and it needed to be resilient and of sufficient quality that it could be used every day without worry. Glass happened to be the material of the moment for us. Inez had just finished a glassware project at her current job and had formed strong connections with the glassblowers. They have been wonderfully supportive of our dream right from the very beginning.
What started as a sideline project on both our parts is now our primary focus on a daily basis. This is so exciting for us. We hadn’t really thought about making our little project into a business, but feedback from our friends when they encountered and used our products and encouragement from our families pushed us to think that other people might want what we were making for their own homes. We built our identity to imitate a brand that had come from one of the simple and straight-forward glass factories, combining it with bold colour that represents our fun and characterful designs. We are developing our business as quickly (or slowly) as we can manage, finding support from lovely, like-minded people and brands, just like Such&Such. The confidence boost that a stockist request or positive feedback gives you encourages us to think with excitement about what products to bring to market next.
Our latest move has been both business and family-focused. Having spent the past ten years living in London, we have relocated our office and studio to Łódź in Poland in search of fresh inspiration and easier access to our glassblowers. This move will allow us to focus on HUTA more clearly, without the pressures and stresses of London life.
Where are you based & why?
Up until two weeks ago, we were based in London. Our jobs had originally brought us there and London is the design capital of the world, so it was the perfect place to kick-start our business. Hugely inspirational and the best place to gain quick and transparent feedback for what we were creating, designing for a London-minded if not London-based consumer has set our benchmark incredibly high and helped us to refine our products.
We have now moved to Poland as it is where our manufacturers are based. Poland is a wonderfully creative country and much of its manufacturing is home-grown, so we hope to be able to harness more local skills as we grow HUTA during the next chapter. We are keeping strong ties to London and the UK and will regularly travel back for meetings and inspiration.
Can you describe a typical working day for you?
It’s really variable! It mostly consists of chatting about things we’ve seen or stuff we want to do, with a bit of work mixed in. There’s usually emailing, sorting out orders, ordering packaging or other supplies. Design doesn’t play much of a role on a daily basis. As our relocation beds in, we should hopefully be able to establish a better balance. Monocle Radio keeps us going in the background, and plenty of coffee.
What is the most exciting thing that has happened since you founded Huta?
We loved being a part of designjunction during London Design Festival last year. This was really the first time we had put our products in front of members of the public and witness their response and reactions. It was great. It forced us to ask ourselves many questions about who we are as a brand and where we want to take the business, and it’s where we met the Such&Such siblings. It was an intense and rewarding experience which we would love to repeat again when the time is right.
Another exciting thing was realising that we could offer collaborators something quite unique through bespoke glassware production. This has only come about through direct approaches from restaurants, bars and shops, enquiring about the creation of pieces specifically for them. This has opened up an exciting new arm to our business.
What do you use everyday that you wish you had designed?
Our Push coffee plunger by muuto. It really is a beautiful, very functional object and the perfect example of a product that is made well and differently. It functions perfectly and attracts great comments when we use it with friends. The fact that it’s slightly fragile simply makes us more protective of it!
What can we expect in the future?
We are planning on expanding our product ranges and adding new key pieces that will build on our most popular designs so far. A big focus for us now will be our next generation design language, working with our glassblowers to add more distinctive detailing and steer the next trends in glassware. Updated packaging across the range will help us to tie our collections together, so we will be sourcing suppliers to help us achieve the best look and feel.
City or country? City, for now…
North or South? The best of both.
Beach or Mountain? Mountain
Books or Movies? Movies
Sweet or Savoury? Savoury
Tea or Coffee? Coffee
Cat or Dog? Dog
Sketchbook or Laptop? They both have their places
Design or Make? Design first, then make.
A huge thank you to Inez & Jack for answering our questions and letting us into the Huta World.
To view our range of Huta glassware click here