A graduate of Loughborough University with a degree in Product Design, Michael Rudak is a young, highly talented and hugely exciting glass designer.
Michael seamlessly combines artistic innovation with sound technical know-how, working from initial concepts right through to final production. Passionate about texture and tactility, and about pushing the boundaries of glass design and manufacture, his stunningly sculptural decanter for our 54 Year Old is his first project with Highland Park which he created as Senior Designer at Stoelzle Flaconnage. Visiting Orkney for the first time with John Galvin (the Master Craftsperson and Designer who designed the presentation case) they worked closely together – inspired by the natural contrasts of Orkney’s seascapes and landscapes – to create a union between glass and wood.
“The texture I found in Orkney was a huge inspiration. Adding texture to the glass connects you to the decanter, making you want to pick it up, to explore it and understand why it is the way it is. Walking around the Ring of Brodgar, you look at one side of the ancient monoliths and see the inscriptions and then walk all the way around because you want to see every side – that’s an aspect I wanted to work into my design. John Galvin and I agreed early on that we didn’t want to create a bottle and a box, but to meld the two together; to create art and an experience as opposed to a product, and to steep our design in the harmony of unexpected contrasts that’s found in the genesis of Orkney.
Glass can be notoriously difficult to work with. It’s a living material that you move from liquid to solid through intense heat and controlled cooling, taking it from its molten state to a functioning product. In stretching the material and the process to its limit, I felt there was a resonance between the wildness and harmony of Highland Park and the innovation and feasibility of my design.
“In Orkney you constantly see things that remind you of the juxtaposition of land and sea – serene sweeping landscapes and the reach of the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the cliffs in front of you. The islands are full of pushing and pulling from all angles.”
Every design element has its place in the 54 Year Old story. The glass is heavy, framing the whisky like a jewel, and the conical ‘push’ at the base of the decanter is inspired by the mash tuns at the distillery where the raw materials churn and combine to create the new make spirit. I wanted the decanter to be grounded in Orkney – when you hold it, you’re essentially touching the land where the whisky was made. So I developed the textural design from a detailed image I took of the layers of Devonian strata found in the old red sandstone at the Yesnaby Cliffs, one of the earliest formed parts of Orkney. The organic texture moving up and around the bottle and fading towards the top, where the neck finishes in an organic wave, is inspired by the idea of that surge of molten lava erupting from the seabed, slowing down as it solidifies and forms Orkney’s islands. It’s about the wildness and unpredictability of the natural elements of creation coming together to produce something beautiful and harmonious, where plants grow and people live and where this whisky was born.”