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

Iden seek!

Three pieces of vintage Iden pottery | H is for Home

We love a bit of Iden Pottery – the subtle colours, interesting patterns and tactile surfaces. You may need to be a bit selective however, some of the early hand made studio ware is gorgeous.

Vintage Iden Pottery lamp base | H is for Home

We bought this fabulous lamp base a while ago, but still haven’t married it up with a suitable shade. We’ve been keeping an eye out for a cream or beige Hessian shade but alas, nothing of the right size or shape has appeared on our travels. We need to make a more determined effort – perhaps an internet trawl is required. It’s such a shame to leave this lovely piece languishing in a storage box.

Detail from vintage Iden Pottery mug | H is for Home Detail from vintage Iden Pottery lamp base | H is for Home Detail from vintage Iden Pottery vase | H is for Home

Iden Pottery was founded by Dennis Townsend when he left Rye Pottery in 1959. The wares were sold by Harrod’s and Heal’s and are well regarded for their quality of design and finish. Their pared back subtlety means that they don’t scream at you from a distance – so keep your eyes peeled for hidden gems on flea market stalls or charity shop shelves.

Vintage Iden Pottery base stamp | H is for Home

Larger objects such as the lamp base work well as stand alone pieces in a variety of interior styles. We like grouping smaller pieces in groups alongside other pieces of Iden – or as part of a general collection of studio pottery from the same era.

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

Get their look: Modern vintage sitting room

Modern vintage sitting roomcredit

I could spend a lot of time in this sociable, modern vintage sitting room. The space is dotted with two of my favourites – vintage ‘fat lava‘ pottery and original gulvvases. There’s a lot of colour, however it’s used thoughtfully – primarily reds, yellows and oranges – complementing the wood of the floor and furniture.

The original parquet floor is softened by the neutral area rug. I love the double-sided fire – heating two living rooms for the price of one!

  1. Vintage Bitossi Sahara table lamp designed by Aldo Londi for Raymor
  2. Vintage Holmegaard amber gulvvases designed by Otto Brauer
  3. Vintage G Plan Quadrille teak nest of tables
  4. Vintage West German ‘fat lava’ vases
  5. Premier Housewares Stockholm armchair
  6. Premier Housewares Stockholm sofa
  7. Herringbone oak natural lacquered parquet flooring
  8. Firebelly FB2 conventional flue double sided gas stove

Get their look: Modern vintage sitting room | H is for Home

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

Designer Desire: Bent Gabrielsen

Mosaic of Bent Gabrielsen jewellery | H is for Home

Every week that goes by, I discover yet another brilliant Scandinavian jeweller. Today, it’s multi-award-winning Bent Gabrielsen (1928-2014).

In 1949 in Copenhagen, Gabrielsen completed his gold-smithing apprenticeship. He followed this with a 3-year course at the College of Jewelry, Silversmithing, and Professional Trade Design in the city. He went on immediately to work for Hans Hansen from 1953 as a jewellery designer where he remained until 1969, by which time he’d become responsible for the company’s entire output. After leaving the company, he set up in partnership with his wife under the name, ‘Gabrielsen’s Guldsmedie’.

When he won the Lunning Prize in 1964, Erik Bohr, the Chairman of the Committee commented:

Bent Gabrielsen’s jewelry carries absolute conviction as to its function; his handling of materials is so restrained and well considered that one feels this could hardly be otherwise. His jewelry is simple and clearly constructed, often with links connecting naturally with each other so that the complete piece makes up a beautiful whole. Every single detail of his things is worked out. There are no false effects. He does not take the easy way out.

Here’s a film giving an in-depth look at the maker’s life, work and ethos.

Find available examples of his work on eBay and Etsy.

Portrait of Bent Gabrielsencredit

Additional image credits:

1stDibs | Artnet