Janice Blackburn on the forthcoming Originals selling exhibition of work by Tord Boontje and Emma Woffenden


LONDON - I first became aware of Tord Boontje about sixteen years ago. He had studied at the renowned Eindhoven Academy in the Netherlands, and in common with other Eindhoven alumni, such as Hella Jongrrius, his work immediately stood out for me as different to what I was seeing in other places.

His pieces have a very handcrafted appeal. I first encountered his engraved glass vessels (and bought one for myself at the Vessel Gallery in Notting Hill, which I love to this day). I then saw his chandeliers made for Swarovski, which again were stunning, and I began taking a real interest in everything he did: furniture, fabrics, jewellery.

Tord Boontjie's Princess Chair, 2004.

I found his use of new technology, materials and techniques is so imaginative I included his work in The Unexpected exhibitions I curated at Sotheby's New York in 2000 and 2001. His work also caught the eye of the iconic dealer, Murray Moss, who bought everything in the show and went on to exhibit and sell Tord's work at his own gallery ‘Moss.’

The work of Tord’s wife, Emma Woffenden, a glass artist and sculptor, was also included in The Unexpected exhibition at Sotheby’s. I had been very impressed with her graduation show at the RCA some years before, when again, her bold work stood out from the rest. Tord and Emma collaborated on a series using recycled bottles titled Transglass (again, I bought pieces that I still love and use at home).

Tord Boontjie's Fig Leaf Wardrobe, 2008.

I am always on the lookout for designers who have a strong, individual voice. They’re not easy to find, but both Tord and Emma share this quality. I also love the fact that they have given 'made by hand' a new contemporary identity. Tord's Fig Leaf cabinet made in enamel and bronze has to be seen to be appreciated, and I am thrilled to help make this possible by including it in the retrospective selling exhibition, Originals, in January.   

I am sure that it will provide a magical experience for visitors and a real treat to look forward to in the New Year. 

Janice Blackburn is curator of Originals at Sotheby’s this January.