Thursday, June 1, 2017

Block Chromatics

For years and years I have come across pieces of a dinnerware pattern called Chromatics made by the Block China company. I even got a full set, still in boxes, as part of a lot I bought from a design professor friend back in 2001. It's just so cool and always been a favorite, and oddly it has not been well-documented online.

Graphic, stackable and of obviously high quality, the Chromatics dinnerware pattern is one of the most stunning modern dinnerware patterns to come out of the late mid-century period. Introduced in 1970 by Block China, it consisted of boldly-colored sculptural pieces in porcelain that were designed to stack and fit together with their concave and convex edges. It also had coordinating stainless steel flatware and glassware, which are harder to find but if you get the set ... so good (I got the set). The pattern came in several complementary color combinations - Brown/Gold, Black/Beige, Blue/Green, Red/Lavender, and an unusual black/white pattern called Games.

Block Chromatics was designed by Gerald Gulotta, an American industrial designer and educator who, among other accomplishments, studied under modern master Eva Zeisel at Pratt and eventually took over teaching her ceramics class when she retired. The dinnerware was produced at Porzellanfabrik Arzberg in Germany, one of the great Bavarian porcelain manufacturers (you may be familiar with their wonderful white porcelain relief vases).

It represents an real evolution in thinking about the dinnerware service for 1970, and today you can see the spirit of it in other dinnerware patterns such as Hasami dinnerware from Japan. Architectural, sophisticated and and incredibly cool - it's as good a design choice today as it was in 1970!

Here are some pics of the great starter set we had at the store a while back, still in the box from Hudson's Department Store. A total wedding gift.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Nordiska Treasury of Rya Rugs

A recent find: two catalogs, Nordiskas Design, published by Nordiska Industri AB, a Swedish manufacturer of rya rugs. One from 1967, one from 1968.

The rya rug sometimes gets lumped in with the general "shag" rug trend of the 60s and 70s, but it is an age-old textile technique that goes back thousands of years. From the catalog:
As a warming quilt it was found during most the 18th century in the homes of the nobility as well as in simple peasant cottages. It belonged to the standard equipment at sea until the end of the last century.
During the 18th century a new rya was introduced, now with the pile turned upwards. Beautiful rugs with many colours. Family emblems were knotted in, so were initials together with the number of the year and other kinds of decorative designs. The technique was also used for wall tapestries, cushions and stool covers. Many are still preserved.
Since 1879 Nordiska has carried on this old tradition. Everything has been preserved in our ryas. The design, however, is still in keeping, following with today's modern requirements.
Nordiska appears to have produced both completed rya rugs as well as rug kits to be knotted at home.

A good rya rug today is a great find. Here are a whole slew of highlights from the catalogs (even more after the jump.)

Isblomma, design Aappo Härkönen 

Mila, design Gerd Stenberg-Allert

Symfoni, design Maud Johanneson

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Richard Nissen

There were many companies producing teak housewares in the latter half of the 20th century, and the biggest by far was Dansk Designs. The originality and quality of the designs produced made them a sensation from their introduction in the 1950s well into the 1980s (and of course again today). The history of the company and the designer, Jens Quistgaard, is well-documented.

Less is written about the other companies that followed that trend. Companies such as Digsmed, Laurids Lonborg, Ernest Sohn and others all made interesting designs in teak over the years, but in my experience the company that really hit the mark on quality rivaling that of Dansk was Richard Nissen of Denmark. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to discover that they were, in manufacturing at least, the same company.

Nissen ice bucket and bowl, at the 2nd Hugh pop-up, 2010.