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The Craft of Design: Alison Berger

The Craft of Design: Alison Berger

The Craft of Design: Alison Berger

December/January 2013 issue of American Craft magazine
Mediums Glass
Alison Berger

Alison Berger. Photo: Douglas Kirkland

“It was ‘ignorance is bliss’ and chutzpah, combined together,” Alison Berger says of the time she approached Hermès with a proposal for a line of bowls, cruets, and other vessels for everyday use. A maker of glass objects that embody a pure, clear, pared-down aesthetic, Berger has always been interested in the concept of ultra-refinement – quality elevated to the level of “rarefied.” She felt the French design house epitomized that standard; still, it had never collaborated with an American artist before.

Aiming high paid off. The company commissioned a series of signed pieces (a rare honor, pairing the iconic Hermès name with hers) and asked her to produce them herself. For Berger, who works with a team of glass artisans at her studio in Los Angeles, being both designer and factory was a revelation: “I started to understand that you can produce things in a production house with the level of integrity of art.” It led her to lighting, and to this day she does pendants, sconces, chandeliers, and floor lamps for Holly Hunt, a luxury home furnishings company.

Berger takes an open, unfettered approach to creativity, having worked in fields from architecture (in Frank Gehry’s firm) to entertainment (designing objects for a Madonna video). Hands-on making has been her touchstone, though, ever since she blew glass as a teenager in Texas. Her new venture, a furniture collection for Hunt called Tables of the Trade, pays homage to craft, with theme pieces in etched glass, bronze, and steel – the Jeweler’s Table, Sculptor’s Pedestal, Carpenter’s Bench, and so on.

“I see design as trend. Craft is about longevity,” she says. “The challenge becomes, how do you combine longevity with something that feels very current?”

Designer, artist, craftsman – for Berger, “it’s not one or the other, but a combination of all, with craftsmanship always the foundation.”  

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Joyce Lovelace is American Craft's contributing editor.