Some people think of monsters as fantasy creatures, others as happy, albeit misunderstood, cartoon characters or as handy embodiments of political issues. Czech lighting specialist Lasvit harnessed all this in an installation called "Monster Cabaret" during Milan Design Week, in which it unveiled a collection of glassworks, some limited editions, by 17 designers inspired by the monster theme:
The Monster in the Mirror by Maurizio Galante and Tal Lancman
Design duo Maurizio Galante and Tal Lancman, founders of the design firm Interware, decided to draw on the fear that rises from unacknowledged feelings within. The Monster in the Mirror challenges people to confront their fears head-on. “The idea is to make peace with the monster within, so you can live with it,” says Galante.
Part of the inspiration also came from Japanese kaiju monsters. “Kaiju monsters are here to talk about the mistakes that humans make; they have both good and bad traits,” says Galante.
Both ideas are manifested in a mirror featuring triangular scales in pale green and eyeballs in pale pink. “It’s about reflections and multifaceted concepts, telling several stories at once,” says Lancman.
BHSD by Maarten Baas
Dutch furniture designer Maarten Baas found inspiration in ancient fossils found in the Netherlands of small creatures with sharp teeth. The Baas designs—BHSD-001, BHSD-002 and BHSD-003—are flat-looking monsters with small eyes, short feet and spiky teeth, and their textured glass recalls the surface of fossils.
“I thought they looked very monstrous, and nobody knows how they could have survived because they have sharp teeth but not a big enough stomach to digest their prey,” says Baas. “I felt I was more like an intermediary between the scientist and Lasvit.”
Mori Monsters by Moritz Waldemeyer
London-based designer Moritz Waldemeyer drew on Persian mythology for the two models in his collection—one aptly named Ghoul, the other with the more conventional moniker Jenny. According to Waldemeyer, Ghoul feasts on the dead while Jenny is a spirit that takes over people and influences them to do terrible things.
Both of the Mori Monsters feature LED panels as eyes. Waldemeyer softened the look with a glass casing that is cartoonish in design.
“We wanted to balance it out by depicting them in a cute style inspired by the Japanese kawaii look. We set the eyes low in the head so it has a cutesy appearance, but then we chose red for the colour of the eyes, so there is the balance of cute and evil.”
Dancing Dog by Raja Schwahn-Reichmann
Viennese artist Raja Schwahn-Reichmann dipped into Swiss fairy tales for inspiration—choosing a one-eyed dog that sometimes stands on his hind legs and is known to provoke people at happy gatherings.
Schwahn-Reichmann’s paintings are heavily influenced by baroque style. “So it was hard to do something dark,” she says, “but then I realised I liked all these dark fairy tales. With the real monsters in the fairy tales, you don’t realise who they are because they look sweet.”
Hanging Monster Moral by Stephan Hamel
Stephan Hamel, Lasvit’s brand development director, channelled the less appealing aspects of human behavior for his collection, conveying gluttony with Tommy the Tomatokiller and bad taste with Swako the Swanlake, while Max the Murcielago keeps peace and balance in society.
Hamel believes turning human traits into monster form makes people more likely to be aware of such character flaws and keep them in check.
Tsukumogami Collection by Yabu Pushelberg
In creating the Tsukumogami Collection, George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg of design firm Yabu Pushelberg were inspired by Japanese folklore of the same name—a belief that tools will acquire a spirit of their own after they have served their owner for 100 years.
Their design concept was to give each piece a personality—Shiin, in a smoky blue, is a silent observer; Jiro-Jiro, in dark green, watches over everything intently; and Uro-Uro, in purple, likes to roam around. “Each one has a mode and an emotion through their eyes and their shape,” says Pushelberg. “These are friendly monsters; they are not intimidating.”
“I was never afraid of monsters as a kid, so with this I couldn’t really do something that was evil,” says Yabu.
The Caravans of Monsters March Through the Silent Marsh by Vladimír Kopecký
Czech artist Vladimír Kopeck, long renowned as a painter and glass sculptor, created just four works for the Monster Collection, all featuring a painting enclosed within glass slabs.
The 86-year-old says he was apprehensive at first about being able to portray the theme in his style but warmed up to the idea once he started working on it. The four pieces—Self-Portrait, Yellow Eyes, Black Cry, and Fury—are based on a Czech fairy tale about guardian dogs, a childhood favourite that Kopeck ’s grandfather used to read to him.
Outer Space Monsters by Fernando and Humberto Campana
The Campana brothers tapped into their inner child to create Flix and Flex—space-age figures that come in four colours, almost like the adult equivalent of the Transformer toys. “This came from my childhood when I started watching TV,” says Humberto Campana. “I was fascinated by spaceships and life outside of earth.”
Creating Flix and Flex also reminded Campana of another aspect of his childhood. “When I watched Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, I was very upset because I couldn’t buy the spaceship. When we were back home, we started making our spaceships from the cactus in the surrounding countryside.”
Something Underneath by Nendo
Nendo founder Oki Sato chose to play on the feeling of mystery and apprehension for his take on monsters, delivering a series of panels in black and white featuring bumps and peaks in various sizes.
“Everything in nature that you cannot see or cannot understand becomes a monster in Japan, so I decided not to design a monster but rather design something that is invisible,” says Sato. “So people feel fear and worry because they cannot see it.”
Sato deliberately made the shapes more elusive. “I started with one piece and thought, What if there was something that was long, something that was slightly bigger and something that looks jagged? There is always something underneath—there is no answer; the answer depends on the person who owns the piece.”