In 2010, the Dutch designer Klaas Kuiken became fascinated by old wine bottles. He began driving around to Italian restaurants, picking up their old two-liter wine bottles–the ones that hold the cheapest wine on the menu–so he could experiment on them. He recalls having hundreds of them in his car at one point. The entire vehicle smelled overwhelmingly of booze.
With all these old wine bottles, Kuiken created an ingenious way to recycle them. But he doesn’t melt them down–not entirely. Instead, Kuiken reblows them, transforming the classic green glass into bulbous, lopsided vases.
Kuiken’s vases have been sold in Europe for the past eight years, but they’re now coming to the U.S. courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art’s design store. Each bottle, which Kuiken makes himself, is slightly different, based on the thickness of the glass.
To create each vase, Kuiken uses an oven he made himself that combines both old glass blowing traditions and more modern techniques. He heats each bottle up to more than 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, until the glass is unstable but hasn’t quite melted either. Then, he gently blows into them using a compressor, allowing the air to reshape each bottle. Kuiken makes some of the shapes by looping wire around the body of the wine bottle so that it holds those particular points in place when he begins to reblow the glass. That’s the technique behind one of the most arresting vases, which has three large bulbs stacked on top of each other at slight angles.