Designer Desire: Mari Simmulson

Mosaic of Mari Simmulson designs | H is for Home

Born in St Petersburg, Mari Simmulson (1911-2000) was an Estonian-Swedish ceramic designer. After art school in Tallinn and Munich, she first went to work for Arabia in Finland. From there, she emigrated to Sweden producing designs for Gustavsberg between 1945 & 49 before moving on to Upsala Ekeby until 1972.

She primarily produced plates, plaques, vases and small sculptures. Like Laila Zink, who we featured in this series a couple of weeks ago, a recurring motif in Simmulson’s work was beautiful, almond-eyed women and animals such as birds, cats and fish.

Her work is surprisingly affordable and is often available on Etsy and eBay.

Portrait of Mari Simmulsoncredit

Additional image credits:

Bukowskis

Retro Magazine

"Retro Magazine" blog post banner

Retro Magazine with cup of tea and green & orange striped knitted cushion

This copy of Retro Magazine arrived last week. It was sent by the lovely people at Hus & Hem as we’d supplied an image of a yellow Finel coffee pot for them to use.

page from Retro Magazine showing a photo of H is for Home's yellow Finel percolator

Hus & Hem (and this off-shoot publication) hails from Sweden so we did have a slight problem to overcome with regards to the language barrier. We should be fluent in Swedish judged by the number of Scandinavian crime dramas we watch – but alas not!

sitting room

It didn’t stop this magazine being a very enjoyable “read” for us though. We could pick up on the general gist of the articles, but we mainly let the pictures do the talking.

vintage Volkswagen Golf feature

There’s certainly no shortage of them with lots of vintage retro gorgeousness to peruse.

dining table

Scandinavia is of course home to many great designers both past & present – and the source of many pieces so sought after by collectors. So it’s no surprise that they should have some excellent publications dedicated to the subject.

vintage decorated kitchen

The magazine crams loads in. There are some inspiring house tours, vintage fashion and features on classic design.

vintage fashion feature

As you can see from the article on Mari Simmulson & Upsala-Ekeby pottery for example, these articles are quite extensive and make great source material for identification or collecting.

selection of vintage Ekeby ceramic dishes

There are also current product pointers and a location tour with an eye to vintage design  & retail opportunities.

selection of vintage kitchenalia items

In this issue, Helsingfors (Helsinki in Swedish) is the destination – it’s gone onto our list for when we do that much longed for Scandinavian camper van tour.

Helsinki feature

The photography is excellent throughout. There’s also much use of vintage magazine articles & advertisements to display products or show items in situ.

selection of vintage loungers

It costs about £5.00 per issue.

selection of vintage chairs and stools

It’s definitely worth giving a try – you might even learn a new language!

R is for… Rorstrand

'R is for... Rorstrand' blog post banner

detail of a pear from a Rorstrand pottery dish | H is for Home

Swedish ceramic production has been dominated by 3 firms – Gustavsberg, Upsala-Ekeby and the subject of today’s blog… Rorstrand.

'Pop' series teapot by Inger Persson for RorstrandPop series teapot by Inger Persson

Rorstrand is in fact, the 2nd oldest porcelain manufacturer in Europe, having been established in 1726. However, most of its early production was based on successful ranges developed by other factories.

'Koka' teapot by Hertha Bengston for Rorstrand | H is for Home
Koka
range by Hertha Bengston

The arrival of Alf Wallander as Art Director in 1895 was very significant. The factory began producing original, distinctive and innovative ceramics of its own.

Small 'Eden' lidded pot by Marianne Westman | H is for HomeEden range by Marianne Westman
'Eden' casserole dish by Marianne Westman | H is for Home

Rorstrand has attracted some of the most talented artists & designers of the day. Names such as Edward Hald, Louise Adelberg, Carl-Harry Stalhane, Hertha Bengston, Gunnar Nylund, Marianne Westman, Inger Persson and Bertil Vallien.

Stoneware ewers by Gunner NylundStoneware ewers by Gunner Nylund

The mid-twentieth output is our own personal favourite – with its simple stoneware designs & informal tableware ranges such as Picknick and Eden.

Rorstrand 'Picknick' serving trayPicknick serving tray

Rorstrand 'Ark' plate and bowlArk plate and bowl

There have been various mergers & takeovers within Swedish ceramics – the ‘big three’ firms are today part of a single conglomerate – Designer Oy.

Rorstrand 'Granada' pattern milk jug | H is for HomeGranada pattern milk jug

Rorstrand is still producing great ceramics – take a look at their current designers & ranges.

Of the recent output, we’re fond of the Grade tableware designed by Pia Torwell in 2000 – simple, functional & beautiful.

Rorstrand 'Grade' ceramic kitchen/tablewareGrade kitchen/tableware

For more information about Rorstrand & Swedish ceramics in general check out the books listed below. They’re packed full of images!

Additional images courtesy:
Fischler, George & Gould, Barrett: Scandinavian Ceramics and Glass 1940s to 1980s
Fiell, Charlotte and Peter: Scandinavian Design