Be water: an interview with the co-founder of the glassware brand Solid Water


Artist Anastasia Mikhailenko and restorer Anatoly Nikolaev decided to work with glass back in 2014. Today, their joint brand Solid Water, based in St. Petersburg, has its own production and an impressive list of customers. With BURO. Anastasia talked about the formation of the brand, favorite products and compliance with the principles of zero waste.

Be water: an interview with the co-founder of the Solid Water glassware brand (photo 1)

Anastasia Mikhailenko

artist, co-founder of Solid Water brand

Be water: an interview with the co-founder of the Solid Water glassware brand (photo 2)


At the age of 16, I entered the Stieglitz St. Petersburg State Art Academy in the department of Artistic Ceramics and Glass, which I chose by coincidence. After the training, I came to the understanding that, most likely, I would not be able to find a place in working with artistic modern glass and I would have to determine the further vector of movement myself.

During my studies, I worked in the restaurant business, so I knew everything about dishes. Although at that time I did not plan to link all the available skills and knowledge together.

Chance led me to stained glass assembly. One day I met Anatoly, a stained glass restorer by education. We both had a good background in working with the same material, which helped us come up with a joint project.

Be water: an interview with the co-founder of the Solid Water glassware brand (photo 3)
Be water: an interview with the co-founder of the Solid Water glassware brand (photo 4)


The name Solid Water came even before meeting with Anatoly — in my last year I already made glass jewelry in the form of corals under this brand. «Solid water» is a kind of metaphor for a material, glass. Like water, it can exist in three states: solid, viscous and liquid. Given this, you can play with the design of items. What we have been doing for almost 8 years.

In fact, we do a lot of things in Solid Water intuitively. At first we didn’t have any marketing strategy, positioning. I am still guided by intuition — forgive me entrepreneurs with well-thought-out business plans. I see the brand as a combination of craft, art and design. We have a small but complex universe in which there are many ways of development.

Minimalism is always a good idea. It sounds different in different contexts. Anatoly and I were born and raised in St. Petersburg, a city of shades of gray. So our dishes have a discreet color scheme. Plus, minimalism is always relevant, it seeks to highlight the essence of the subject, and not hide it behind unnecessary decor. Minimalism is restrained boldness.


Checkered meals. More recently, we have returned them to the range, but in other sizes and colors. And in our first full-fledged collection there were items from wine bottles. At that time, the topic of recycling and upcycling was new, it had not yet become a trend. People reacted differently. Someone was sincerely surprised that a new functional object could be made from «garbage». And someone scolded us for selling “garbage” for “big money”. I must say that a dish from a bottle cost no more than 500 rubles. People could not appreciate our work, but we did not give up and continued to create something new.

Our path began in the midst of the 2014 crisis, when the ruble weakened sharply. For so many years, we, like all other entrepreneurs, have experienced more than one serious crisis. And this, of course, is another test of strength. To be honest, I do not believe that people are able to actively develop in a relaxed atmosphere. The fastest growth occurs against the backdrop of crises and difficult life situations. Today we are supported by the St. Petersburg design community. Many Muscovites say that it is stronger than the capital. I think it’s because Peter is smaller and everyone knows each other.

Be water: an interview with the co-founder of the Solid Water glassware brand (photo 5)
Be water: an interview with the co-founder of the Solid Water glassware brand (photo 6)


First, the preparatory work on the design. We draw sketches, specify the dimensions of the object and its characteristics — after all, we make objects for life, for daily use.

In glass, as in ceramics, there is a moment of surprise. You prepare, design the shape, choose the type and thickness of glass, types of processing, temperature. And then this workpiece, this piece of glass gets into the furnace, and there different things can happen to it. Despite our long experience with glass, we run into the unexpected when what comes out of the oven is not what we expected. Roasting takes place at a temperature of 750–900 degrees, so it is impossible to intervene in the process of melting itself.


Two or three years ago, we got a little bored. Often, materials really open up and start to “sound” only when there are others in contrast next to them. Wood, stone, metal and textiles have become a great addition to glass, they add warmth.

We chose several valuable species — oak, ash, beech — and began to experiment. All wood items have a calm design and are made to be a convenient and competent addition to our glass.

We like to work with natural materials, but this is a luxury these days. Now there are many modern man-made materials, such as sheet plastic made from recycled caps of goodness or felt from plastic bottles, which are also interesting to interact with and harmoniously introduce into the existing assortment.

Working with new materials develops us as designers and researchers. Each has its own characteristics — it’s very curious.

Be water: an interview with the co-founder of the Solid Water glassware brand (photo 7)
Be water: an interview with the co-founder of the Solid Water glassware brand (photo 8)


I repeat, we do a lot of things in this project intuitively, without any well-defined marketing strategies. So working with recyclables was a kind of game for us. In 2014, no one took recycling seriously. The trend has just begun.

Our goal then and now is to show that items made from recycled materials can be of high quality, stylish, practical and not always, as a result, cheap. We continue to break the stereotype that recycled goods are fast, cheap and shabby looking. The fact that some of our items are made from wine bottles or glass shards of our own production only adds value to them, but is not the main goal. And to be completely honest, we initially resorted to wine bottles as the basis for dishes only because there were no funds for glass.

Our production accumulates a large number of fragments, and working with them is a practical use of resources, because sheet glass is a relatively expensive material to purchase. After cutting blanks, a fairly large amount of material remains that is not used for the production of plates, bowls. So why should we throw it away?

Careful use of resources is a global macro trend. We as founders broadcast this. You know, Solid Water, like a caravan of camels, just calmly continues to move and develop at its own pace, listening to intuition. I believe that we can do a lot as a local brand: tell about ourselves, our path, support the local community of creators, receive feedback from them and, most importantly, delight and inspire.

Personally, I am very energized by people’s feedback and successfully launched products that we managed to bring to life from an idea to a real object.


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