Sculptor, painter, master ceramist and industrial artist Ivan Jakeš was born on August 14 1935 in Velké Karlovice (South Moravia). Originally an electromechanic, he was privately tutored for a year under František Podešva and later was accepted to public Applied arts school in Uherské Hradiště. He graduated from the studio of new materials and later immersed himself also in painting. He worked as an industrial designer of plastic products until 1967 for the company Plastimat residing in Liberec. Plastimat products are till today highly valued for their incredible artistic quality.
Plastimat focused on designing and producing practical plastic-made household wares . Jakeš designed for them an amazing but never produced dining set for ČSA (Czechoslovak airlines). The set never made it on board their airplanes because ČSA chose to use a single-use aluminum plates instead.
In 1967 Jakeš left Northern Bohemia and returns to his home, South Moravia. He started working for designer’s studio of the national enterprise called Osvětlovací sklo in Valašské Meziříčí where he worked with the likes of Karel Volf who designed beautiful lamps for Hotel Praha for example.
Among his first works were designs of thermos flasks which he worked on with Plastimat. Already his very first fixture designs for Osvětlovací sklo were exhibited in 1969 at Brno fair and were selected for Czechoslovak Industrial Design Awards (CID).
His most famous production in industrial design are fixtures shaped like chess figures. These can be more characterised as lightning sculpture rather than utilitarian product. His first designs date back to September 1970 and were manufactured in 1971. In a smaller scale, they were introduced in Swedish Göteborg fair in 1972. The author himself reminiscences that these lamps were often used as props in many Czechoslovak movies, often used as interior decor of bourgeois villains.
Jakeš recalls that these double-plated fixtures became a hot trend in 1960s and 1970s and were designed mainly for Sweden where they had long dark winters, and these lights offered perfect warm light. This explains the main colour combination: orange, yellow or red glassware. Jakeš has one such glass frame in his kitchen.
He left the glassworks Osvětlovací sklo in 1976 and ever since he focuses on his own work - painting, sculptures and ceramics.
We found you because of the famous lamps shaped like chess figures. What did these “figures” mean to you? How did you get to design them?
These lamps actually didn’t have any special meaning for me. Recently I learned that while I was employed at Osvětlovací sklo, I created over 700 various designs. Not just lamps but also decors. And specifically towards this lamps I had no special relationship. Designing them was simple, I was free to create what I wanted so it came to my mind to design a table lamp in the shape of a chess figure.
Was there any specific assignment?
As I said before, we didn’t really work with any “task”. If I remember correctly, one of the few commissions was for Sweden. For them we produced these double-plated glass lamps usually in warm colours. The reason is very simple, as the winter evenings are very long in Sweden, it has a very negative impact on their psyche. Hence the colours of these lamps that were intended to make the darkness more bearable.
Why, during the past Communist regime, were there still new designs made and produced, when no one really cared about what the customer thinks and wishes for?
The system worked in this way: we created the prototypes that we showed to various buyers who ordered and certain amount of chosen designs. Even though the system didn’t function like it does at present, there was a certain way the market chose what was and was not produced.
Did anyone know that it was you who designed these lamps? Information about designers were usually not important during Communism. Did your neighbor show up telling you that they purchased the lamp you designed?
At the time when I designed these lamps, i.e. year 1970, the authorship was anonymous. The only entity that was important was the producer, which in our case was Osvětlovací sklo. Very seldom did an author’s name get published - or even talked about. This would usually happen when the author’s design received some award, like CID or “Perfect product” award. My neighbors and friends had basically no chance knowing that I designed this or that lamp, unless I told them that myself.
Which items that you designed are your most favourite? And what did you enjoy working on the most?
I always liked working with glass. It is a very elegant material that is easy to work with and almost always the resulting work looks well. I like graceful shapes and it always made me crazy when they had to add additional decors on my designs. It usually happened due to the buyer’s requests as they thought that my designs are too cold and simplistic.
Photo: Michaela Karásek Čejková http://www.karasekcejkova.com