1923–1925 Bauhaus student
Wilhelm Wagenfeld completed an apprenticeship at the design office of the Bremen silverware factory of Koch & Bergfeld during the First World War. In addition, he attended the local applied arts school from 1916 to 1919. Between 1919 and 1922, he received a scholarship to the State Design Academy of Hanau/Main and trained to become a silversmith. In 1923, he set up a workshop at the Barkenhoff in Worpswede with Bernhard Hoetger and Heinrich Vogeler. This is also the year that he began studying at the State Bauhaus in Weimar. During this time, Wagenfeld designed works such as his famous Bauhaus lamp in 1924.
After the dissolution of the Bauhaus Weimar on 1 April 1925, he became a member of the German Werkbund and accepted the position of assistant to Richard Winkelmayer, the head of the metal workshop at the State Academy of Crafts and Architecture in Weimar. In 1928, he took over the direction of these metal workshops. He and many of the other teachers at the academy were fired in 1930 at the insistence of the NSDAP party, which was represented in the Thuringian Landtag.
Starting in 1930, this was followed by freelance work and a commission from the Thuringian Economics Ministry to supervise independent glassblowers. In addition, he was asked to begin teaching at the State Art Academy Grunewaldstrasse in Berlin-Schöneberg in 1931 and began working as a freelance employee of the Jena Schott & Gen. glass factory at that time. From 1935 to 1947, he was the artistic director of the United Lausitzer Glass Works (Vereinigte Lausitzer Glaswerke) in Weisswasser/Oberlausitz. In 1937, his work exhibited at the Paris World Exhibition was distinguished with the Grand Prix. The same award was bestowed on him in 1940 by the Milan Triennale.
Following his military service in 1944 and war imprisonment in 1945, Wagenfeld returned to Weisswasser. He subsequently received numerous appointments to academies. This included a lectureship at the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts through Hans Scharoun, as well as the directorship for the Typing and Standardisation Department at the Institute for Civil Engineering at the German Academy of the Sciences. In 1949, Wagenfeld was given a position as a consultant for industrial design at the Württemberg State Office of Trade in Stuttgart. Between 1950 and 1977, he collaborated with the Württemberg Metal Works (Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik AG, WMF) in Geislingen. He founded the Experimental and Developmental Workshop for Industry Models in Stuttgart in 1954, which existed until 1978. This is where designs were created for many industrial enterprises such as the Rosenthal-Porzellan AG, the Peill & Putzler Glashüttenwerke GmbH, the Braun Company and the Pelikan factory.
- Bröhan, Torsten (1992): Glaskunst der Moderne. Von Josef Hoffmann bis Wilhelm Wagenfeld, München.
- Burschel, Carlo & Beate Manske (1997): Zeitgemäß und zeitbeständig. Industrieformen von Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Bremen.
- Hannes, Alfons (1989): Die Sammlung Wolfgang Kermer, Glasmuseum Frauenau. Glas des 20. Jahrhunderts, 50er bis 70er Jahre (= Bayerische Museen, Band 9), München/Zürich.
- Kermer, France (1989): Wilhelm Wagenfeld. témoin vivant du Bauhaus, in: Revue de la Céramique et du Verre, no. 45, mars/avril, S. 20–21.Kroll, Rüdiger (2014): Zu Tisch mit Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Ein Formenschatz vom Weimarer Bauhaus bis zur WMF, Verein für Heimatschutz e.V., Kranenburg, Goch.
- Manske, Beate (2012): Zeitgemäß und zeitbeständig. 2. Industrieformen von Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Bremen.
- Scheiffele, Walter (1994): Wilhelm Wagenfeld und die moderne Glasindustrie. Eine Geschichte der deutschen Glasgestaltung von Bruno Mauder, Richard Süssmuth, Heinrich Fuchs und Wilhelm Wagenfeld bis Heinrich Löffelhardt, Stuttgart.
- Wagenfeld, Wilhelm (1990/2002): Wesen und Gestalt der Dinge um uns. Essays aus den Jahren 1938 bis 1948, Worpswede.