Angel Monzon, creative director of Vessel Gallery, opened his Notting Hill store over a decade ago with partner Nadia Demetriou Ladas, a former journalist and buyer, when they became aware of the potential market for beautifully designed glassware and ceramics. Recognising consumers were wearing of 90s minimalism, Vessel pioneered a specialism in studio glass. The brand truly made a name for itself when it began putting artists and designers together with high-quality manufacturers. Most notably the Salviati Meets London Project, associated with distinguished names, like Tom Dixon and Anish Kapoor.
Fresh from the RCA, Monzon designed the gallery’s interior and made himself Creative Director of Strategy and Exhibitions. Responsible for the original concept, Demetriou Ladas handled buying and marketing. Ten years on, Vessel is one of London’s most respected design spaces and Angel and Nadia feel they are now in a position to mentor and develop raw talent. The duo met through Angel's first client - a Japanese company that he was designing furniture for. They had a simple desire to exhibit things that were not already seen in Britain, or at least in the way they had envisioned.
"London has the always been the most amazing melting pot of ideas and design innovation, but there was no one specialising in glass art or exquisite tableware. My husband would say I started Vessel because my vase collection had grown to unmanageable proportions, and he recommended that I get a stall on Portobello!" They're as deeply passionate about design as they are about London, with Ladas having lived on Westbourne Grove since she was five years old. "Notting Hill was the perfect bohemian and creative place to be in my twenties - it was the most ideal place for Vessel. Back in the late 90s, Notting Hill was at a cusp of an incredibly exciting interiors and retail sector. The pioneer was and is Themes & Variations, there were also many other like-minded people and so it was a natural fit, with no one specialising in glass and tableware."
With their combination of knowledge, contacts and instinct for introducing the right people, meant that Vessel was on the road - not just as a retailer, but also as a serious catalyst in the glass industry. It was at Vessel, that John Pawson launched his first range of home accessories. As partners, these two slot together like pieces of a jigsaw. Nadia shares: "We're variations on a theme. I'm more susceptible to fashion, whilst Angel is more conceptual."
Vessel itself is a two-level boutique, set on Kensington Park Road, and is divided into three parts: retail [pieces to take home with you], gallery [transitory objects, often showcased as part of an exhibition, company or group show] and contract [involving working with interior designers and architects]. Monzon says: "The contract work is the fastest growing aspect of our business. In fact, we see interior designers and architects as the new retail. Sometimes we might only sell a dozen tea cups for a couple of hundred pounds. But at other times, our clients might end up spending several of thousands with us accessoring a kitchen or buying art. Over the last few years, the three sections of Vessel have become equally important."
The exhibitions are now central to the business and have become what Vessel are now known for - they fulfil Vessel's mission of giving everyone access to good design, without the sterility and harshness of a traditional gallery. "Our main aim is to create a story; an environment that is sometimes linked to historical contexts, juxtaposing more traditional objects from a company or artist, by marrying it with other, more contemporary work."
Their new venture, Vessel Editions, is about working with upcoming artists to produce exclusive collections for Vessel. Most notably, they have worked with Kelly Allsopp to develop her stunning hand-painted porcelain spiders. More recently, the pair has also undergone plans to develop a consultancy service, which sources pieces for yachts, hotel suites and show flats. Vessel says it aims to be a modern Mecca for all those who appreciate good design and beauty in their life, to look at and to use. “It’s about buying something that’s absolutely awe-inspiring, that takes your breath away – and crafts are the things that can deliver it,” says Demetriou Ladas.
Vessel is currently exhibiting works by Vic Bamforth, Lynn Read and Simon Moore.
View Vessel on the Domus Nova Design Guide.
Vessel, 114 Kensington Park Road, London W11; vesselgallery.com