Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Plastic Made Perfect

The assembly room at Koziol, where even employees get a smile.

Since 1912, the German company Koziol has been producing objects of tremendous delight. It all began humbly enough, when Bernhard Koziol opened a small pottery and ivory-carving studio in the town of Erbach. But by the early 1930s, the popularity of his quirky carvings lead Koziol to move the studio to a much larger space, this time a converted barn in nearby Michelstadt. Demand for his designs continued to grow and in 1935, Koziol was the first to employ a new hand operated, injection-molding system that enabled him to produce his designs quickly and easily in plastic, rather than the more expensive, slow and difficult-to-obtain ivory. With this new technology, Koziol became a booming operation with over 150 employees and an international distribution.

But the early 1940s brought about major changes at Koziol and, as with factories throughout the Western world, production shifted to assist the war effort. Suddenly Koziol found itself making wartime products like buttons and combs, rather than purely decorative accessories. The factory and its machinery survived the war, largely due to its billeting of U.S. troops, and grew even stronger as a result of it, not only because of war-time research into synthetic materials, but because of a post-war desire for normalcy, not to mention a revived appreciation for joy in daily life.

A snow globe designed by Bernhard Koziol in 1950, inspired by the idyllic winter landscape he viewed through the rear window of his VW bug whilst stuck in the snow.

The 1950s saw an altogether new level of success for Kozial, especially in the areas of toys, games, souvenirs and snow globes, designs guided by master ivory-carver Jakob Müller, one of Kozial's first artists. The company's popularity continued through the 1960s, a decade that embraced plastics and saw the development of some of the 20th centuries most iconic designs: Verner Panton's Tongue chair (1960-67), Leonardi-Stagi's Rocking chair (1967) and Ettore Sottsass's Valentine typewriter (1969).

Kitz'y, a bottle stopper/dispenser, was designed by Koziol in 1963 and remains one of the most popular designs.

In 1963, Koziol's lead designer, Jakob Müller, designed Sissi, a small footed bowl with a carved-rose design. The design was duplicated in a larger size and reworked as a flower pot in 1971. As with all Koziol designs, it is available in a wide range of colors, both opaque and transparent.

The next wave of change faced by Kozial was the retirement of Bernhard in 1980 and the handing over of the company to his two sons, Bernhard Jr. and Stephan. The young men continued to make traditional Kozial items, but they also took a new direction with the development of more functional housewares and new color effects. When Bernhard Jr. passed away in 1998, Stephan took the company even farther in this new direction and commissioned well-known product designers like Peter Naumann, Alessandro Mendini and Mariscal to create an even more dynamic range of contemporary designs, not only for the home, but for the office, too. With nearly a century of experience behind it, Koziol continues to produce some of most inventive, clever and award-winning responses to our design needs. The only thing they've produced in greater number than their products are the smiles of those that use them.

Serge Atallah designed Elvis, a hip-swinging tape dispenser, in 2003.

Hommage, a modular candelabra system, is one of Koziol's more recent additions and was developed by Werkdesign in 2005.


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