The establishment of the company Artěl was preceded by several coincidences, and also the great resolution of a young New Yorker, Karen Feldman. The art photographer came from New York to Prague in 1993, determined to work in a shampoo factory. The turn of the factory’s owner for other business, however, completely changed Karen’s plans and made her deal with lots of free time in the picturesque Prague which she spent by rubbishing through Prague secondhand bookstores, thrifts and antique stores to eventually discover her new passion – Czech glass from the early 20th century.
Karen’s original intention was producing reproductions of interesting historical glass and she thus turned to a Czech producer. His price assessment was, however, so high that she eventually had to abandon the plan. But this failure eventually inspired her to experiment with her own designs of glass – an idea which she finally found much easier than reproducing old models. The latter nevertheless served her as a great source of inspiration, equally as everything she spotted around her, from wallpaper patterns, textiles and children’s books to Prague antique stores. In 1997, she created six decorative motifs for glasses (Balloons, Bublinka [Small Bubble], Praha [Prague], Pariz, Palace and Staro [Oldie]). She set off to the United States with the prototypes and, upon recommendation of her close friend, she presented them to people from the prestigious store Metropolitan Design Group where she enjoyed her first success. Other successes were soon to come, and Karen Feldman meanwhile established the company Artěl, hired several engravers and glassmakers and, only four month later, presented and sold her first collection at Manhattan. The Metropolitan Design Group moreover represented her at the New York International Gift Fair, held twice a year, which she has never missed since and where she is sought after by increasingly more distributors and vendors.
By choosing the name Artěl – usually associated with the cooperative found in Prague in 1908, which associated the most significant personalities active on the Czech artistic scene at that time who strived to forge modern artistic thinking in the sphere of mass applied arts – Karen Feldman avows to high-quality design but, contrary to the original Artěl, she accents exquisite hand work which does not allow for large series, thus turning them into luxurious items.
Karel Feldman presents new motifs and forms every year, produced for her by five Czech companies. Apart from the New York fair, she also participates at the Paris Maison & Objet and the Monaco Yacht Show. She sells at such prestigious places as Barney's in Japan, Fortnum & Mason in London, in the Paul Smith stores both in Great Britain and United States, and Scully & Scully and Takishmaya in New York.
Karen presently collaborates with many foreign artists as David Wiseman, who created the collection Glacier made of facetted heavy glass for Artěl, as well as Czech artists František Skála, Petr Nikl, Eva Eisler, Zdeněk Lhotský, Michal Froněk, Maxim Velčovský and others, each of whom imprinted his or her own style to the sheer material. Feldman nevertheless did not limit herself to glass and her enthusiastic discovering often bizarre and half-forgotten expressions of Czech creative spirit led her as far as to the publication of the Artěl Style Book in which she pinpoints these Czech phenomena.