Designer Desire: John ffrench

Mosaic of John ffrench pottery designs | H is for Home

John ffrench (1928-2010) was an Irish studio potter / ceramic artist whose work is fantastically colourful and unique.

ffrench attended the National College of Art in Dublin after which he moved to Florence to attend the Instituto Statale D’Arte to specialise in ceramics. He returned to Ireland in 1962 where he was a founding member of Arklow Studio Pottery. In 1969, he emigrated to Massachusetts to teach and where he he founded The Dolphin Studio. However, he maintained a studio in County Galway where he spent time making each summer.

Check out eBay and Etsy for available pieces. His work occasionally comes up for sale in places such as Sotheby’s and Tennant’s Auctioneers.

At the end of this post is a very short film featuring the artist. It’s part of a 2007 retrospective exhibition entitled A Life of Colour. There’s a book available (shown in the montage above) which contains almost 750 illustrations of his work.

Portrait of John ffrenchcredit

John ffrench video clip from David Shaw-smith on Vimeo.

Additional image credits:

Crawford Gallery | Pinterest

Designer Desire: Jacob Hull

Mosaic of Jacob Hull jewellery designs | H is for Home

This Christmas, my top Christmas present was an amazing, vintage, brutalist choker that Justin gave me (It’s pictured bottom, left in the image above). It’s silver with a tiger eye centrepiece – and it’s HUGE!

It was designed by Jacob Hull, a Danish sculptor and jewellery designer active from the 1970s who worked for Buch & Diechmann and under his own name. He worked primarily in silver and gold plate decorated with semi-precious stones and glass.

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find out much about him on the internet, the portrait of him below is the only one I came across.

eBay and Etsy are two places to begin your search if you’ve fallen in love with his jewellery like I have.

Portrait of Jacob Hullcredit

Additional image credits:

1st Dibs

Designer Desire: Enzo Mari

Mosaic of Enzo Mari designs | H is for Home

Enzo Mari is an Italian product designer who is, in our opinion, under-valued and -appreciated. He’s a life-long communist and infamous firebrand known for his staunch views on design and life in general. “Design is dead” and “form is everything” are statements made during his regular outbursts.

He states that during his design process he’s more interested in pleasing the factory worker than the consumer. Evidence of this can be seen in his 1973 Proposta per un’autoprogettazione – a manual for creating a collection of basic, DIY furniture simply using plain planks of wood and nails.

He’s produced designs for brands such as Driade, Poltronova, Alessi, KPM Berlin and, most famously, Danese Milano. It was only when researching Mari that I discovered he designed the ‘Mama’ range for Le Creuset in 1972.

Many of his designs are still in production and are available from Houzz and Made in Design, Vintage and discontinued examples are for sale at Connox, Ebay, Etsy and Pomono.

Portrait of Enzo Maricredit

Additional image credits:

1st Dibs

Designer Desire: Kaj Franck

Mosaic of Kaj Franck designs | H is for Home

What? We’ve never featured Kaj Franck on Designer Desire before? How did that happen?!

We have some of his designs in our home and in our shop. So far, we own a ‘Muki’ mug decorated with Raija Uosikkinen’s ‘Lintu’ pattern and a large ‘Kulho’ bowl with Esteri Tomula’s ‘Tatti’ mushrooms pattern (6th from top, on the left).

The one design on his wares that I really, really desire is ‘Sydän’, the red hearts on white enamelware range (3rd from top, on the right). This pattern was designed by Gunvor Olin-Grönqvist. I’ve seen it on bowls, plates, kettles, jugs and mugs – but the condition and price has never been right.

Kaj Franck (1911-1989) was one of the leading modernist Finnish designers working in glass, ceramics, enamel and metalware. He was artistic director at Arabia (now Iittala) and produced many of their designs as well as ones for their subsidiary company, Finel. He also designed many pieces for glassware company, Notsjö Nuutajärvi.

After researching Franck’s back catalogue, we realised that there’s a similar scenario to the design collaboration between Cathrineholm designers Grete Prytz Kittelsen and Arne Clausen. One person designed the vessel (which was Franck’s domain) and others, such as Esteri Tomula and Raija Uosikkinen, produced the applied pattern.

Some of his popular ranges – such as Teema crockery, Scandia Cutlery and Kartio glassware – are still being manufactured and are available from the Scandinavian Design Center and Finnish Design Shop. I prefer his more colourful, more interesting vintage designs which are always available on eBay, Etsy, Pamono and Bukowskis.

There’s a book on Franck that I’d love to buy, or failing that, have a flick through entitled Kaj Franck – Muotoilija / Formgivare / Designer, currently on sale at around the £100 mark.

Portrait of Kaj Franckcredit

Additional image credits:
1st Dibs | Bukowskis

Designer Desire: Sheila Bownas

Mosaic of Sheila Bownas textile designs | H is for Home

What a coincidence that, just a week after our trip to the Yorkshire Dales, we’re featuring one of its local creatives.

Sheila Bownas (1925-2007) was a fine artist and surface pattern designer from the village of Linton in Craven near Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. In 1946, she won a scholarship to London’s Slade School of Fine Art where she won further awards which included a year’s extension to study History of Art in Florence. She freelanced as a textile and wallpaper designer for companies such as Liberty and Co., Marks and Spencer and Laura Ashley. She also worked for the Natural History Museum in the 1960s, creating botanical studies. She returned to Linton in the 1970s, where she settled unobtrusively for the rest of her life. She was the only child of the village shopkeepers, she never married nor had children of her own.

Some of Sheila Bownas’ design archive was rediscovered by Chelsea Cefai, an art gallery professional, when it came up for sale at an auction house in Ilkley in 2008. Cefai purchased some 210 of her original textile pattern prints and slowly set about researching the designer and celebrating her designs.

Bonas was indefatigable in her efforts to secure salaried employment. She apparently applied for around jobs in the 1950s and 60s. In 1959 in yet another rejection letter, this time from Crown Wallpaper, Bonas was told:

Thank you for your letter enclosing your design… I have decided to retain this design so would you please let us have your invoice? With reference to your desire to obtain a position in our studio, the Director feels that should an appointment be made at all, a male designer would be preferable…

Last summer, a retrospective of her work was shown at Rugby Art Gallery & Museum and is currently showing at Harrogate’s Mercer Art Gallery until 7th January 2018. If you’re unable to make it, a catalogue of the exhibition is available.

Cefai has set about collaborating with artists & designers reintroducing Bonas’ work in limited-edition prints, furniture, ceramics and other homewares.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Cefai shared:

It’s been hard work and there have been times when I felt like giving up but then I feel like it’s something I have to do. I love her work and it saddens me to think that an artist with such wonderful talent could so easily slip through the net of recognition That’s what drives me. Sheila Bownas is not just a number in a file now, she’s a name in the limelight.

Have a look at the Sheila Bownas website for many more of her wonderful designs.

Portrait of Sheila Bownascredit

Additional image credits:

The Guardian | The Northern Echo

Designer Desire: Bjørn Wiinblad

Mosaic of Bjørn Wiinblad designs | H is for Home

We’ve mentioned Bjørn Wiinblad a number of times on our blog in the past but for some reason have never dedicated an entire, detailed post to the man with pictorial examples showing the range of his work. Wiinblad (1918-2006) was primarily a ceramicist; his plates, vases, candle-holders figures et al are decorated with wistful and magical figures. We have a colourful charger from his ‘1001 Nights’ series for Rosenthal which firmly fits this description. He also designed and produced many pieces using other materials such as glass, metal and textiles.

According to the man himself:

It can never be the quantity of a thing that is wrong – it can only be the quality. I put just as much thought, just as many deliberations, and just as great zeal into doing the right thing in my work when I make wrapping paper as I do when I create a decoration for the Royal Ballet.

Some of his designs are still being produced today and can be found on websites such as Connox and Trouva. If his vintage work is more your thing, check out eBay and Etsy.

Portrait of Bjørn Wiinbladcredit

Additional image credits:

1st Dibs