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.






9 comments:

Unknown said...

Wowsers, they are gorgeous! What treasure!

Venetus said...

Your set is awesome! I have an almost complete set (service for 8) of this pattern in the BlueGreen color scheme. I also have the matching liquor decanter and shot glasses. Of which I have never seen online anywhere. I took the decanter and shot glasses to an Antiques Roadshow and their appraisers had never seen them either. The set was my mother’s and I’ve searched high and low for a few missing pieces and information about this cleaver and beautiful China and crystal. Loved hearing about the designer! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I am not sure who copied who, but I have this design from a company called Arzberg Germany.

Ross said...

Do you still have this set? I have an almost full blue green set but am missing wine and water glasses, decantor and shot glasses, and vegetable bowl. I would be interested in buying your whole set. Thank you

Ross said...

Can I buy this brown set?

Anonymous said...

Have brown set though incomplete.

Walter Lokau said...

Launched for the German market in 1971 in three idiosyncratic color combinations – golden brown / grey beige / lavender red – the multifunctional Arzberg 1000 “Chromatics” dinnerware was intended to usher in the post-L√∂ffelhardt era for the German Arzberg porcelain factory and as a “porcelain program with a future showing the way to new taste”, as the advertising praised. Designed by American designer Gerald Gulotta (1921-2018) and colored by Jack Prince, the eye-catching dinnerware was based on the shape of the indented or distended cylinder and masked its somewhat stiff geometry by colorfully alternating the concave with the convex. Plates, bowls, and cups were stackable and could be used in a variety of ways, while the accompanying cutlery, colorful drinking glasses, and color-coordinated linen placemats made “Chromatics” a complete program for a set table. But not only did the unusual color palette cause horrendous costs during development, but the whole thing was also badly received in Germany: The concept tableware, which sought to accommodate relaxed table manners and bring color to the table, was too unorthodox for the conservative clientele and was probably a bit over the top in terms of the chromatics. The situation was quite different in the USA, where it was offered in other color variations and with geometric designs, and marketed with great advertising effort by Block China Inc. Gerald Gulotta, trained at the Academy of Applied Arts in Chicago and at the Pratt Institute in New York, where he later worked as a lecturer for 30 years, continued to work for Block but never again for Arzberg.
Dr. Walter Lokau, Germany

Walter Lokau said...

PS Even in Germany "Chromatics" was honored in the Grassi Museum of Applied Arts:

https://www.grassimak.de/en/museum/special-exhibitions/modern-goods/

https://sammlung.grassimak.de/detail/collection/ef0728da-9d7a-4aec-9a62-1b157ab94365

WL

Laura Robinson said...

You forgot the pattern “FUN” which is the red, blue, green, & yellow set! I have a set of these—& it’s one of my most prized possessions! I wish I was able to share a picture of them. But you can find some images if you search Block Chromatics Fun.