Mono Ellipse

In 1965, Tassilo von Grolman learned his most important design lesson ever, while floating in the middle of the Pacific. As a mechanical engineering student, he had been hired to work on a ship for a year and was supposed to carry out some difficult repair work: "When I expressed my doubts about this, my boss said 'nothing is impossible when you're at sea'." The repair work was successful, the ship made it to Sydney in one piece and von Grolman had been infected with the persistence bug. Without this, many of his designs, especially those for the "ellipse" teapot, would never have been implemented.

In 2004, the company Mono, based in Mettmann, Germany, commissioned von Grolman to design a new teapot. He did not want to fall back on tried-and-trusted forms, so he chose an asymmetrical solution - round at the top and elliptical at the bottom. But he soon discovered a problem. Heat-resistant borosilicate glass had never been used to make asymmetrical shapes.

Technically, it was just not possible. "A manufacturer who I spoke to about it at the time laughed in my face," the designer remembers. But he thought: nothing is impossible! Chance came to his aid: some of the staff of the DuranGlas Group in Mainz visited mono, saw Grolman's design and promised to have a go at solving the problem. It then took some time before the first model was completed in 2009. It was not yet perfect: the surface was not clear and was covered in streaks. The DuranGlas team did not give up, though. It continued to experiment and produced a flawless version some months later. "You have to be persistent," is the design motto derived by von Grolman from the "ellipse" story, "and then you have to be creative to reach your goal." That is how one can achieve even the impossible.

Sabine Stenzel, editor Stil & Markt



global:local is a bilateral, cooperative furniture project involving German and Japanese designers. The project not only brings together Germany and Japan, but also various disciplines from the design and handicraft sectors. The designs were implemented in a unique way by Japanese factories in the Asahikawa region, which specialises in furniture. The patrons are the Asahikawa Furniture Cooperative, the German Designer Club (DDC) and - as the main sponsors - the International Furniture Fair in Cologne, Hansen Werbetechnik and Conde House.

The model for this design was the Sori Yanagi "butterfly" chair. Tassilo von Grolman’s philosophy is "Simple is the most difficult" and this was also the motto according to which he developed this bench, a bench which may look very simple but is enormously difficult to manufacture.

1. The bench could definitely be pressed in a single work stage, but no machine large enough to accommodate two metres of bentwood and process it in one or several work stages could be found in Hokaido. Thus, the two sides had to be pressed first, after which the central section was inserted.
2. The excellent handicraft skills of the Japanese furniture cooperative from Asahikawa were needed to accomplish this piece of artistry.
3. The two sides are bent inwards, as is the centre section, thereby creating a comfortable seat. At the same time, the bends in the opposite direction create high stability. Nevertheless, it was decided to fit a reinforcement rib to guarantee a high seat weight. Two Sumo wrestlers can sit next to each other without the bench collapsing under their weight! Simple is therefore not only the most difficult - in the case of the Hokaido bench, simple is also the most beautiful.