There is a beautiful sense of fluency between Cordula Kafka’s home, her art and her personality; they can all be described as light, sensual, elegant and thoughtful. A porcelain and lighting designer working with techniques such as lithophany, an ancient method of etching images into paper thin sheets of porcelain, Kafka is immersed in the art of the subtle and has a heightened sensibility to light and color, which is visible through all aspects of her self-expression. We were lucky to get a tour of her home that she shares with her boyfriend, Gunnar, and two teenage daughters, Lilith and Rosalie and learn about her five most cherished objects.
I bought this vase a few years ago at a flea market in the south of France, on the border to Spain. It was hidden away on the ground, surrounded by a bunch of rubbish and nobody recognized that it was such as nice piece of glass art. I was immediately drawn to it and I got it for a couple of Euros. It’s been a permanent installation on my dining table ever since—always with fresh flowers init—I can’t live without.
It’s been a permanent installation on my dining table ever since—always with fresh flowers init—I can’t live without
Throughout my childhood I was always engaged in music, through playing the piano and dancing classical ballet. I especially loved to dance and spent countless hours practicing. When I was fifteen years old, I changed schools, and for the first time I had an engaged art teacher who awakened my talent and passion for drawing. Around the same time, I discovered Keith Jarret’s Köln Concert in the music collection of my older brother. I played the record, over and over, every day for months, and while listening to it, I would move my body and draw the same time. To see my ideas come alive through my hands, while hearing the music and moving my body was a kind of revelation, and is a process I still practice.
Is this the exact same record?
Yes, I stole it from my brother and he never asked for it back—quite a nice older brother. I still love this record and it remains a symbol of bringing my passions together.
I played the record, over and over, every day for months, and while listening to it, I would move my body and draw the same time.
The Tony Cragg Sculpture
Tony Cragg is a famous British artist, who moved to Germany in the 70s. While I was finishing my education as a sculptor for theaters, I saw a huge solo show of his in the Kunstsammlung in Düsseldorf, and I was immediately impressed; His formal language, the forcefulness of his work, and his love of investigating and working with so many different materials resonated with me, and I decided that I really wanted to work with him. I called him up, and shortly after I started working as his assistant in his studio in Wuppertal.
How exactly did you work together?
Most of the time he gave me drawings of his ideas, and I realized them in different materials, such as clay, plaster or styrofoam. His studio had a space for experiments and spontaneous developments, as well as an area for playing table-tennis and ‘kicker’ (table-football) which was a daily ritual, at least once per day after lunch. We had a lot of fun!
It was a small studio with seven other people working there, and I had the possibility to work very close to Tony. It was a very intense time, and my main learning years.
What mediums did he work with?
Everything and anything you can imagine, from glass to plaster, ceramic, bronze, wood, plastic and aluminum. This specific sculpture was for the Bonner Kunstverein (art association). He had an exhibition there, and whenever you exhibit with an association, it’s common to make small editions for the members. He gave me this one to keep. We made it together using a machine that we constructed that allowed us to dispense soft plaster through a spout.
Do you still keep in touch?
Yes, I’ve visited him a few times. The last time I went to Wuppertal to see his wonderful sculpture park that he’s been building over the last few years. Tony is one of the most famous contemporary artists worldwide, and I’m very happy to get such a unique insight into that part of art world, and to take part in the working life of such a great artist.
His formal language, the forcefulness of his work, and his love of investigating and working with so many different materials resonated with me, and I decided that I really wanted to work with him.
My boyfriend Gunnar painted this of my youngest daughter Rosalie. She was about seven years old at the time and loved to dress up in costumes. Here, she was draped in shawls and sheets, looking like a tiny bedouin princess with her stuffed plush horse. She still has that horse in her room and still plays with it at thirteen years old. Gunnar painted this while we lived in a large factory apartment in Neukölln and it’s just very evocative of that time of our lives.
Looking at his other work that you have hanging in your home, this seems quite different—more whimsical.
Yes, his paintings used to be more figurative and he’d paint more people and stories. Gunnar often uses the color pink in his paintings. I love pink and we also use it in our flat. I find it such a warm and sensual color.
Gunnar painted this while we lived in a large factory apartment in Neukölln and it’s just very evocative of that time of our lives.
This chair is a Tapiovaara rocking chair from the 50s, and it was standing in the house of my parents. My great grandmother would always sit in it—she would even take it out in the garden and sit in it there—and I have this picture of her, an old lady, sitting in the rocking chair with a book in her hands, and all of my cousins gathered around her to hear her read Brothers Grimm fairytales. It’s such a classic image. She was a warm woman who really loved children, and she lived to be almost 90.
She was originally from Czechoslovakia. My father’s family were so-called Sudeten Germans, ethnic Germans living in former Czechoslovakia. After World War II, in 1945, most ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia, so my grandparents and father, who was six at the time, moved back to Germany.
So that’s where the Kafka name is from? I guess you get asked if you’re related to Franz quite often.
Ha, yes, but I’m not. It’s a pretty common name there. Not quite as common as Schmidt here, but close.
My great grandmother would always sit in it—she would even take it out in the garden and sit in it there—and I have this picture of her, an old lady, sitting in the rocking chair with a book in her hands, and all of my cousins gathered around her to hear her read Brothers Grimm fairytales.
You have lots of interesting and beautiful objects to look at, yet you manage to keep your home so minimal and open. How do you choose what objects get to come home and stay with you? Do you have a specific philosophy?
I always look at the materials and the techniques used. The form and the color of objects are important as well. I’m especially drawn to the surface and tactility of materials. I have these unglazed porcelain objects from Rosenthal, and touching them is almost kind of erotic to me.
I have these unglazed porcelain objects from Rosenthal, and touching them is almost kind of erotic to me.