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Vintage Enamel


Thank you very much for the many nice comments on the vintage ceramics weekend read! I am happy that so many of you also have a passion for ceramics and it is comforting to know that I am not the only one who flips over plates and cups to check for the manufacturer’s seal…I have updated the read with vintage enamel designs (not really ceramics… but very beautiful) and also added a few ceramics pieces that I especially like. Anna of red.house was kind enough to send me further information on Rörstrand, she actually grew up in the town of Lidköping where the company was located. I used her information to correct some mistakes in the history part of Rörstrand. And before I forget a special thanks to all the great websites who have helped me create this weekend read and allowed me use their beautiful pictures. At the bottom of the read I have made a list of all these sites. Have a great weekend and hope to see you back on Monday!

Grete Prytz Kittelsen for Cathrineholm


Grete Prytz Kittelsen was born 1917 in Oslo, Norway. She is renowned for her work with stainless steel and enamel for Cathrineholm. I am sure you have seen one or more of her designs. My first memory of these beautiful enamel pieces is from skiing trips in Austria where we the cheese fondue was served in Cathrineholm. Grete’s designs have won many prestigious awards. She was a major influence on Scandinavian design in the forties and fifties. In 2003, when she was already 86, Grete went on her first trip to China. During her stay, she visited one of the few traditional Chinese enamel factories still in operation and decided to start designing again. Chang & Biörck has acquired exclusive rights to reproduce some of her work, among which a bowl and a plate, that she designed using the same colors as her original 1950s designs. Cathrineholm of Norway started production of enamel in 1907.

Antti Nurmesniemi  

Antti Nurmesniemi is one of the pioneers in Finnish design industry. His products were manufactured over the decades and his designs are famous. Like the Jakkara Stool. I especially like his enamel designs and at auction prices for his coffee pots are in excess of 200 USD, a true classic. So if you have one these pots hold on to it!


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Vintage Ceramics Part 1

Bloesem on Ceramics


I 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!



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 FranckUlla ProcopéToini MuonaBirger Kaipianen, Stefan Lindfors, Kati Tuominen-Niittyla andHarri Koskinen




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 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 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 Gustavsbergtradition 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.




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. TheRörstrand 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…


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Vintage Ceramics Part 2

Stig Lindberg


{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 Lindbergis 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.



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.


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 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.


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!!

Ulla Procopé



I mentioned Ulla Procopé in the first edition of this read, but now wanted to show you the Ruska collection she did for Arabia and some of her other designs such as the Kosmos series. Simply beautiful!

Tapio Wirkkala


{Rosenthal Jahresteller, tableware for Rosenthal, 'Pollo' vase}
Another symbolic figure for Finnish design was Tapio Wirkkala. He was an artist of exceptional diversity and left no area of design unexplored. Although his artwork and unique objects are to be found in the world’s leading museums, people have used his more anonymous objects for decades. His work ranges from plastic ketchup bottles and metal ware to advanced unique pieces of glass, ceramics and plywood. In 1946 Wirkkala won his first design award in a competition organized by Iittala. He was made artistic director of the firm and begun a lifelong relationship with the company. He also designed for other international companies, for example glass for Venini and ceramics forRosenthal.

Posted by Bloesem on March 03, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (10)



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Vintage Ceramics Part 3

Regout Pastels



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 awebsite of a Regout collector.

And there is much, much more...



{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! 


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


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:  BioTopeKana-coFlaskaFuku-ya13th-fDoggieNough

Other countries: Svenskt-porslinZimmerdahlHiandlomodernModernityFlabbergaster Organ,OlikoOurshowhomeModcatsDesignaddict


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Illustrators of Children’s Books

Sweet, sweet memories… Whenever I see my 10-month old son looking in amazement at his illustrated baby books, I start thinking about my own childhood and how crazy I was about illustrated books. For me these books were the ultimate escape to a world of fantasy and adventure. My mother tells me that I would sit on the couch for hours surrounded by books illustrated by Dick Bruna and Fiep Westendorp with a big blush on my cheeks of excitement. I still get excited about illustrations by Bruna, Fiep Westendorp and many other illustrators of children’s books. The variety and contrast in the work of these artists is incredible and create so many different worlds of wonder for children. The apparent ease with which Bruna creates his beautiful illustrations, only a few strokes of a pencil… and the detailed work of Fiep Westendorp never ceases to amaze me. Their illustrations are true works of art. Browsing the web I found it impressive to see how much knowledge and information the Japanese have in this area. There is an active trading market for collectors of illustrations and books and many Japanese websites are practically libraries of children books and illustrations. So… as you have guessed by now…this read is in honor of the two Dutch illustrators who made my childhood great fun and hopefully will have the same impact on generations to come… but also I would like to show you some of the fabulous illustrations for children’s books by Paul Rand and Stig Lindberg.
{image from Freckle Wonder, a great vintage store and Blog

Fiep Westendorp


If someone would ask me to describe the work of Fiep Westendorp, I would say her work is full of humor. It is also very colorful and incredibly creative, she has such a great eye for detail… the illustrations tell their own story, there is almost no need to be able to read, just look at the illustrations and you will instantly make up your own fantasy… Sophia Maria Westendorp was born in Zaltbommel, the Netherlands on 17 December 1916 (for those of you familiar with the “low lands”, when you cross the bridge over the “Waal” river you will see the famous tower of the old Zaltbommel church  rising above the trees, a beautiful sight…). Fiep Westendorp has illustrated many books of which only a few were written by Annie M.G. Schmidt. However, in the minds of the Dutch the work of these two women is very much linked. They collaborated for more than forty years, starting in 1952 on the children's page of a Dutch newspaper with the adventures of “Yip and Yannika).


At that time, newspaper-printing techniques offered only limited possibilities to print illustrations.  Given these constraints Fiep had to figure out a way to create catching illustrations. She came up with the idea of black and white silhouettes. This distinctive style has characterized Yip and Yannikaand has made them famous throughout the world. Interestingly, Yip and Yannika’s parents were only occasionally featured in Fiep’s illustrations. Fiep wanted her fans to create imagine their own versions of the parents. 


Also, in the 1950’s Yip and Yannika’s publisher introduced curtains with the black and white silhouettes. Such a great idea and would look absolutely amazing in your baby’s bedroom. If you are lucky enough to own these, please hold on to them…priceless collector’s items… The curtains were produced by a company called Dehnert & Jansen under the label Picture Book Curtains which also included curtains with Pippalloo Bear and Beverley Beps illustrations. 


My favorite Fiep illustration is “Floddertje” or “Messy-Lou”. I remember being so jealous of my older sister when someone gave her a copy as a present…and although she would allow me to read it whenever I wanted, I have always wanted to have my own copy (…which I know do...I gave it to my son…)


One thing that I particularly love about Fieps works is that her drawings always show people a bit like caricatures. It makes me smile and realize what funny creatures we really are… Fiep was struck by how crazy people and situations can be and she felt compelled to draw that craziness. ArtUnlimitedsells a great collection of cards illustrated by Fiep Westendorp. Looking for information about Fiep’s work I was happy to find that two of wonderful blogs, Crust Station and Wee Wonderfuls, have posted about her work. Fiep has done so many beautiful illustrations.. I can only show you a limited sample of the ones that I particularly like, but if you Google her name you will find many more illustrated books and products

Dick Bruna


{image from Duvekot}
Without a doubt Dick Bruna is one of the most famous illustrators of children’s books in the world. Some of his famous creations are Snuffie the dog, Poppie Pig, the bears Boris and Barbara, and his most renowned character, Miffy, the white rabbit (probably the world’s most famous rabbit after bugs bunny…) Miffy was appointed as New York City's Family Tourism Ambassador in 2003, to give the Big Apple a new appeal to children as well as European and Asian visitors (remember Miffy Loves New York City…). 


I just love this stamp series for the Japanese market. Almost too precious to stick on the back of an envelope…


Bruna’s drawings are icons and need no words to tell a story. I think this goes to the heart of Bruna’s talent and the success of Miffy. Dick Bruna has also collaborated with organizations such as UNICEF, Terre des Hommes and the Red Cross. His illustrations for these organizations are simple but yet so powerful in how they get the message across. There is a permanent exhibition dedicated to him, which opened at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht in 2000. Make sure to go there on your next visit to the Netherlands!



During the first thirty years of his career Dick Bruna created more than 2000 (!) book covers for his fathers publishing company A.W. Bruna & Zoon. The clear and simply designed covers made the company famous. Book series such as The Saint, the detective series Havank as well as the spy paperbacks OSS 117 all bear Bruna’s signature (my husband just told me his father has the complete OSS 117 series in boxes on the attic, so I guess if I tear off all the covers I can make an impressive collage… I am not sure whether my father in law will think this is such a great idea… but I intend to use my daughter in law charms on him…). 


Paul Rand


As a child I didn’t know Paul Rand’s illustrated children’s books but only was introduced to his illustrations a few years ago. If you would like to share your experiences with Rand’s children’s books, could you please let me know and I will update this section. Many thanks! Paul Rand made some fabulous illustrations. He was a truly exceptional designer and left behind a great legacy. Randis especially famous for his work in the field of corporate  identity. He collaborated with companies such as IBM, ABC, and UPS to create their well-known logos.


Rand also published children's books with his wife, Ann Rand. These illustrated books are characterized by their playful style and are also very educational. His children’s books include “Little 1”, "Do you want to be my friend?" and “Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words”, Other books are “Listen! Listen!” and “I know a lot of things”.


The illustrations by Paul Rand are simply unique. I love the splashes of color as well as the oddly shaped and overlapping objects, mixed with black and white.  His posters are true collector’s items and you would easily pay in excess of a couple of hundred dollars to get your hands on one, but I think it would be worth the investment! Just recently I came across an old version of “Sparkle and Spin” in my favorite Toronto bookstore… I will be on the look out for more of such great finds…



Stig Lindberg


You might recall that in the vintage weekend read I mentioned the illustrations by Stig Lindberg. This is just a selection of the children’s books he illustrated. His style is very distinctive. I love the strong colors against the black and white backgrounds. You can buy illustrated prints by Stig at Zimmerdahl.


Other beautiful illustrations…


{images from a wonderful Japanese website called Curio Books}

When preparing this read I found many other very beautiful illustrations. I am not familiar with the artists but just wanted to show you a collage of some of the illustrations that just make you happy by looking at them…

Some of my handy work…


And here is some my early artistic work… they say that when you stay within the lines you are afraid to show your creativity… I sort of like this interpretation… but will let you be the judge of that… Can you believe that this book is thirty years old? It is just amazing how timeless Bruna's work is...

{originally posted in March 2007}

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Irene Hoofs portrait
Hi and welcome to Bloesem! My name is Irene Hoofs and I started this journal in 2006 wanting to share my passion for design, art and craft with you. New to Bloesem? Here are my 10 favorite posts to get you started. Or would you like to see the necklaces I make?