Contemporary design and age-old tradition in Charles Kaisin’s iconic Leffe chalice
From product design to interior decoration to multimedia (watches, ready-to-wear, Belgian chocolate delicacies…), Charles Kaisin is a true Renaissance man. This time the designer channeled his knowhow into a project for Leffe. The unique collaboration produced a magnificent limited edition chalice, followed by a real collector’s item that will soon have connoisseurs and gourmets buzzing with excitement. The perfect time to sit down with the artist who has succumbed to the charms of this decidedly local beer, which is nevertheless appreciated all around the world.
We primarily know you from your design projects, but could you tell us a little about your early years?
After my architecture studies, I worked in Paris for a year for architect Jean Nouvel, after which I studied Design at the Royal College in London, in Ron Arad’s studio, an artist famous for his Bookworm bookshelf in the shape of a snake. I then enrolled for additional training in Kyoto, Japan. Eventually, I returned to Brussels, where I set up the Design course for the 4th and 5th years of Sint-Lukas’ architecture department, which is where I also teach today. But teaching isn’t my main occupation.
How would you then describe your occupation?
I try to develop new shapes that still respect traditional values. That’s exactly why Leffe, a contemporary beer rooted in a distant past, is such a great project for me. I kept the original shape of the Leffe chalice, but decided to give it a contemporary twist – including the engraved “L” on the bottom of the glass, of course. The shape of the glass stimulates the nucleation process, which is the process that allows the foam to last longer and the aromas to multiply. But aesthetic reasons were also important. In short, the glass perfectly illustrates the close relationship between the shape of an object and its daily use. To me, shape is just as important as content.
How can the glass be just as important as the liquid we pour into it?
Just like the shape of an object, taste is fully influenced by the other senses such as sight, feel and of course smell. In a single instant, the connection between a recipient and its content can offer a completely different idea of food or drink. When all these senses are balanced out, we are immediately overcome by a sense of bliss. In this case, I was very much impressed by all the details and craftsmanship behind Leffe’s quality and tradition. Drinking a Leffe in a chalice is an completely different experience to drinking it in a different glass. There’s something very physical and almost intuitive about it…
You’re known for your pixel art. How is that reflected in the Leffe chalice?
In the middle of the letter “e” in Leffe. That counts as ultimate proof that I designed this glass; it’s like my signature. To me, the pixel is essential. It comes from the world of photography, one of the most important media in our communication and interaction with others. In day-to-day life, nothing is blurry; our eyes constantly adjust the sharpness of the world around us. When we magnify a picture, the measurement unit, i.e. the pixel, immediately becomes visible. I see the pixel as a symbol of our numerical age, which is also why I find it so interesting to link such a contemporary symbol to a traditional product like Leffe. This is another way in which this Leffe chalice is innovative and unique.
Was it easy designing the glass, while having to take all the characteristics and restrictions into account?
Not really! Now it all seems so simple, but so much thought went into this glass. Together with my assistants I developed all kinds of mock-ups and prototypes… We had to make sure to respect both the traditional and contemporary aspects of Leffe. Together, we eventually came to this final result: subtle, a little playful, something that even helps bring out the beer’s character… Take that “L” for example, engraved on the bottom of the glass. It’s just a small detail, a kind of nod to when we first glance into the glass, but when you look closely, you discover how that detail contains an entire universe. From incredibly huge to incredibly small – this is Leffe as we know it…