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Bloesem on Ceramics

Monday, 11 January 2010 by Irene Hoofs

GustavsbergfishplaqueI have always been attracted to vintage ceramics. It combines all things I like about design: prints, colors, illustrations and functionality. Not that I know much about the technique of producing tableware, porcelain or ceramics in general. My only criterion is whether I think a particular piece is beautiful. The variety in vintage ceramics is overwhelming, and the jargon can be confusing: I just use the generic name ‘ceramics’ for all items made out of clay…(or similar material if that is even possible…). My own modest collection of vintage ceramics I found on flea markets and garage sales. Now and again you get lucky and find a really great designer piece… so far I managed to only find Scandinavian and Dutch pieces, so naturally my focus has been on designs from these regions. This read has the same focus. I realize that this is just uncovering a tiny bit of the vintage ceramics that are out there. Great names such as Bitossi or Rosenthal that have designed (and are still doing so) beautiful ceramics deserve attention and their work would easily take up one or more weekend reads… I am hoping to show you some of their beautiful items on Bloesem soon or perhaps in a next weekend read. Just a quick note of caution: the items I show here you cannot find on the companies’ official websites, I found these by looking in books, browsing the web, searching on-line stores and collectors’ websites, where possible I have of course included a link for your reference, but if you really want to find that special piece I encourage you to search for yourself, I am sure it is there waiting to be found!

 

Arabia

Arabia_mix

What amazes me about a company such as Arabia that they have been in business for over a hundred years and have consistently produced high quality and unique pieces of porcelain, ceramics and other pottery. An incredible achievement for – at least initially - a small company established in 1874 in the outskirts of Helsinki. I wonder whether there are still some pieces left (without cracks…) from their first collections…Something that I didn’t know about Arabia is that it was part of Rörstrand for a long time until it became independent. The first Arabia tableware that I saw was at my stepmothers’ place maybe twenty years ago or so, she collects Arabia’s Ruska collection by Ulla Procopé, dark chocolate brown with black lining, a very simple design but absolutely gorgeous on a white table cloth…I had to get used to the dark colors which I didn’t particularly liked at first but  came to appreciate only years later when I noticed the timelessness of the design, it never gets boring. Some of the most famous and talented designers have collaborated with Arabia; to name just a few: Kaj Franck, Ulla Procopé, Toini Muona, Birger Kaipianen, Stefan Lindfors, Kati Tuominen-Niittyla and Harri Koskinen

 

Porsgrund

Porsgrund_mix

Johan Jeremiassen established Porsgrunds Porselænsfabrik AS in 1885 in Porsgrund, Norway and started operations two years later. Since then not much has changed at Porsgrund, they use the same original production processes and even the factory looks the same. One thing has changed though: Porsgrund’s reputation has spread around the world fast… and has a loyal following of customers, including the Norwegian Royal Family, so I guess we’re in good company…Porsgrunds celebrates its 120th birthday this year with special birthday collections and offers available in all of their outlets, so keep an eye open to snatch up one of these collector’s items before the Royals beat you to it…

 

Figgjo

Figgjo_mix


Figgjo was founded in 1941, and is located in Figgjo, near Stavanger, on the west coast of Norway. Figgjo’s delicately illustrated ceramics are characterized by the stories they tell. Collections have names as Saga, Viking, Lotte, Daisy and Corsica. When you put Figgjo on the dinner table your guests will never be out of conversation… the illustrations really fire up the imagination and you will never get bored looking at the amazing Norwegian craftsmanship. These are just some of my favorite designs, they are so colorful and just bring you in a good mood, thinking of a spring picnic or summer garden party…

Gustavsberg

Gustavsberg_mix


Gustavsberg history dates back to 1826, but the company has experienced good and bad times during its long existence… The company was broken up in the 1990’s and sold off in bits and pieces much to the dismay of many “Gustavsbergers”. But there was a passionate core of craftsmen and women that have continued producing ceramics and household porcelain in the true Gustavsberg tradition and let’s hope they keep doing this for many years to come. Probably one of Gustavsberg's most famous collections is the “Nobel Porcelain” produced in 1994.

Rorstrand

Rorstrand_mix

Without a doubt one of the most impressive and oldest ceramics producers in the world is Rörstrand. The Swedish company has been in business for over 250 years and is still going strong. The Rörstrand name is synonymous with high quality and special collections of ceramics. Its history is interwoven with that of Sweden and its designs reflect the cultural developments of the country and the city of Rörstrand itself. It founded Arabia to focus on ceramics trade with Russia. Those lucky Russians… there must be an Arabia piece on every table from St. Petersburg to Moscow…

 

Stig Lindberg

Stig_viamodernity

{images from Modernity}

Unfortunately, Stig Lindberg is no longer among us, but I am sure his work will be for ages to come. He was one of the most famous and influential designers in Scandinavia and the world. Stig Lindberg is especially representative for Swedish design of the 1950’s. There is probably no home in Sweden that does not have a Stig object displayed in a special place. Colorful tableware, textiles and children’s books, as well as ceramic art which you can find in museum collections worldwide.

Bersa_1

Aster

It is incredible what Stig Lindberg achieved during his lifetime and I could spend one or more  weekend reads on his work, but for now I just wanted to show you what I think are his most beautiful ceramic designs: Bersa and Aster which he designed for Gustavsberg. Stig had a long relationship with Gustavsberg where he started as a painter after graduating from  the Swedish State School of arts, crafts and design in Stockholm, assuming the position of the company’s art director in 1949. Lindberg kept working with Gustavsberg’s studio until 1980, he then moved to Italy to establish his own studio.

Books

Should you be in the neighborhood, there is a special Stig Lindberg exhibition in the National museum of Sweden until the end of next week. There are a number of great books about Stig Lindberg’s life and work but they are not that easy to come by I find. I believe you can email the National museum to order books, but the site was not entirely clear on this. One address that I found that sells books about Stig Lindberg is retro home in Sweden. Please let me know if you know any other shops that carry these books, I would love to hear from you!

 

Esteri Tomula

Esteri_tomula

 

Esteri Tomula was a decoration designer and worked with Arabia for almost 40 years. Much of her work was inspired by Finish flora. She was especially famous for Fennica and Krokus series, and several coffee cup and dinner service decorations as well as Botanica wall plates. Esteri’s used a technique of both print and painting: black outline drawings were printed and then completed by hand painted details in different colors. It is incredible how much time and devotion was put in one single item to get a perfect result. Esteri collaborated often with Kaj Franck who did the ceramic designs.

Esteritomula

There is a great book on Esteri Tomula’s work called “Esteri Tomula Arabia 1947-1984”; it describes her life and friends and includes pictures of most of her work and some prototypes as well. If anyone knows where I can buy this book please let me know!!

 

Regout Pastels

Reguetpastel_1

Regoutpastel

One of my Dutch favorites is Regout from Maastricht, the most southern city of the Netherlands where it is actually quite hilly and a great place for weekend escapes and long walks along the “Geul” river. Petrus Regout started his ceramics factory in 1836 and his name has been associated with Dutch ceramics ever since. His company grew ever bigger and started to focus more on sanitary ceramics and tiles over the years. Unfortunately, the company stopped producing decorative ceramics and tableware in 1969 altogether. But luckily you can still find Regout ceramics in many Dutch vintage shops. I love these pastel series, a simple but sleek design. I found these pictures at a website of a Regout collector.

 

And there is much, much more...

Classicmodern_couk

Hilomodern_royalcop

{I have added some interesting links in the text of online shops where you can buy ceramics}
As said, once you start searching for ceramics it is easy to get lost…it is collectors’ heaven for sure…there are so many beautiful designs out there… it is hard to make a choice. These are just some of the pieces I found and particularly like. Interestingly, there are many Japanese on-line stores that sell vintage ceramics; the Japanese most love their ceramics…it is impossible for me to decipher the descriptions but just looking at the pictures makes me happy!

Ourshowhome

You probably already heard about OurShowhome. Their on-line store is a very good destination to find some wonderful vintage ceramic pieces.

 

My very small colection

Irene_nymolle

Here are some Danish tiles I picked up today at the St. Lawrence flea market! These were made by Nymolle in Demark, I had never heard of them but did a quick Google search. Apparently, Nymolle is a well-known Danish producer of decorative tiles. So I guess I got lucky this time...I am sure they will look great on a white wall together with some Dutch “Delfsblauw” tiles.

 

Special thanks to these websites:

Japanese sites:  BioTope, Kana-co, Flaska, Fuku-ya, 13th-f, DoggieNough

Other countries: Svenskt-porslin, Zimmerdahl, Hiandlomodern, Modernity, Flabbergaster Organ, Oliko, Ourshowhome, Modcats, Designaddict

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