Monday, July 29, 2013

Graveren by Ragnar Grimsrud

I'm so excited over here, I've managed to dig up some information about the large Graveren plate I bought in a charity store in Stavanger, look here. It is indeed a Ragnar Grimsrud piece!! I searched for Graveren pieces on the web to see if I could find a similar one, and thereby date it and find out who designed it. I finally did, in a site called Digitalt Museum. It's a great resource that I often use, it's basically the collections of the major museums, digitalized.

I found a picture of a bowl that has almost exactly the same pattern as my plate that was dated 1930-39, designed by Ragnar Grimsrud during his time as head artist/designer at Graveren. I also found two other pictures of pieces in the same wonderful Art Deco style, a liqueur carafe and a vase. They are both in the dark end of the colors used in the pattern on my plate and I'm therefore suspecting they were all part of a series. The carafe is also dated to that same period 1930-39, while the vase is a bit earlier, 1928-33. All the pieces are part of museum collections, the bowl in Norsk Folkemuseum, the carafe and vase in The National Museum.

Many artists were connected to Graverens Teglverk. Ragnar Grimsrud (who also worked for Figgjo and is considered one of our most talented pottery makers of the 1900s) is the most renowned, and became head designer (artistic leader) in 1928. His work was among the most appreciated during his time in the company, and after Graveren's participation on the Paris fair of 1925, one of his pieces were added to the collection at the ceramics museum in Sevres. 

Many Graveren pieces are marked like this, with two three- digit numbers, the upper  number being the number of the design, and the lower the decor.There's also the little factory stamp with the pipe and the letters "Gr". It's hard to see in this picture, it's in the upper right corner, upside down.

I feel like I struck gold with this one. Due to a small imperfection, a little crack along the edge, the price was only 30 NOk, that's just 5 USD or 3,30 GBP!! I don't mind that little flaw one bit, I'm never gonna sell this beauty anyway! I've moved stuff around a little bit and paired it with my older Graveren storage jar turned planter on the dining table.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dune architecture

If you read my last post, this is what's behind that belt of sanddunes. When you cross the dunes you leave the windswept beach and enter a sheltered green area where you can still smell the salty North sea, but also an intense smell of grass and straw, and there's the chirping and humming of birds and insects.

I wanna show you a piece of great design and an outstanding piece of well adjusted architecture. I never thought I could fall in love with bicycle parking, but this one is something else. Inspired by the straw growing in the dunes, it looks like a great abstract scupture. Not so sure about the functionality, though, but I tend to choose beauty over it. It was a project for Jæren Friluftsråd (not sure how to translate that, but it's an organization that is responsible for the preservation of the Jæren landscape), and I know you can find them on two other beaches, maybe more.


This particular piece of great design is located in the area behind the dunes to accomodate beachwalkers arriving by bike. On one of the most beautiful of the Jæren beaches, it's situated in the opposite end from where my aunt has a small cabin, which I wrote about in this post.  

The dunes are in constant movement. In the 1800s, many farms were endangered by sand being blown over the fields. A belt of straw was planted to keep the sand in place and this caused large dunes to build up. Today, the area behind the dunes is sheltered and very fertile. Where there are not farms, there are all kinds of wild flowers and a large amounts of birds and insects. The beaches here in the southwest of Norway are where the migrating bird are seen first when they come back in the early spring.

Next to the bicycle parking is Friluftshuset, a beautiful piece of architecture designed by local architect Per Line. It was built in 1987 and extended in 1992. It burned to the ground in 1999, but was raised again excactly like it was. Line sadly died in 1997, only 61 years old. He was greatly admired for his interpretation of the traditional Jæren architecture and landscape features in his buildings. This building is concidered his most important work. He did some beautiful renovations and additions to old buildings too, one of them a wonderful old vicorage turned into an art gallery.

Friluftshuset is an exhibition/ information center for the preservation of the local flora, fauna and landscape. There is a lot of information about the protected landscape and how we can help preserving it, as well as the prosesses that has shaped it, from the ice age and up until now. It has a sheltering atrium serving as a picnic area or just a refuge on windy days. Each summer, a local artist is invited to exhibit his or her work for a period from march to october.

The building is in Nordic "humane modernism", a reaction to the non- compromising style of modernism. Line worked for Knut Knutsen at the beginning of his career, whose cabin in Portør, inspired a whole generation of architects.

The building is  a perfect "answer" to the surrounding landscape. It refers to local phenomena, the traditional groundhugging architecture, the driftwood, the irregular and flowing shape of the dunes.   Like it or not, you gotta admit it´s well adjusted to it´s surroundings, right?


 Cool car full of dutch surfers, notice the color match?

Traditional houses in Jæren were placed along the prevailing wind direction, facing the sea, and both ends extended towards the ground to let the wind pass easily over them. In both ends there were peet storage for (fyring), peet because the stoney stretch of coast had no natural forests. The peet storage also helped insulate the house.

Life was all about the sea. The facades had windows towards it, the other sides were sheltered by stone walls, a bit similar to historic houses on the Orkneys, Shetland and Faroe islands. As the import of wood from the inland parts of the country was made possible, more of the facades got wood cladding, while you could pick out poor people's houses by the amount of stone... There are very few really old houses left in this area. Can you imagine why? The little wood materials people had were used again to build new ones. Even timber from shipwrecks were used.

Back to Per Line's masterpiece. The weathered surfaces, the ruggedness and the way it sits in the landscape reminds me a lot of Sea Ranch by architects Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, William Turnbull, and Richard Whitaker, built in the 60s on a piece of rugged Californian coast. This might also very well have been a source of inspiration to Line. If you don´t know it already, look it up- it´s a wonderful peace of architecture in an amazing landscape. 

Sadly, the atrium and interior was closed the day we visited, due to a private arrangement. However, I have this great catalogue from a Per Line exhibition that has some beautiful pictures of the atrium and how the landscape looks like in the late fall and winter.There are also the plans, including the roof plan, to give you a better understanding of it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Surf's up!

Italy was amazing. There´s no end to all the beauty, but my home town on the Jæren coast is my paradise. It´s where my heart is, and I miss living there so much it´s almost painful to visit. Not to mention leaving it again...

I took my kids surfing a few days ago. There are 70 kilometres of gorgeous, wide, white sandy beaches in an almost continuous belt. The rough North sea sends waves crashing into shore, which makes the area a mecca for surfers year around. There´s also a lot of kiting and windsurfing going on. Notice sunbathers on the beach? That´s right, there aren´t many! It wasn't cold, but very windy. Those who ventured out that day, stayed behind the dunes where the local microclimate is sheltered and warm. I actually enjoy this climate. I wouldn´t mind if it was a little bit warmer in the summer, but the winters are mild (and often wet), not like the freezing cold, snowy ones that´s more common in Norway. When most of the country gets snow, Jæren gets rain. The landscape outside Stavanger and Sandnes is flat and very fertile farmland, and due to the mild climate, the very first potatoes in the spring comes from this area. 

The beaches are not only used in the summer, but year around. Walks here in the winter is great, that´s when the biggest waves roll in. During Easter there´s the traditional boiling of Easter eggs typical for this area, where people bring firewood and and find a nice spot between the dunes to boil the eggs with some onions to make them nice and yellow. The rest of the country goes skiing...

The two dudes flanking the group are mine. The one on the left is the little thrifter:-)

Carrying the boards across the steep dunes after we're done is not the most popular task of the day.... I can't believe I didn't get any pics of them actually standing on the boards, but then again, I'd have to be real quick:-)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thrifting heaven

My home town proved to be thrifting heaven. The concentration of pieces by Figgjo and Stavangerflint is higher here, after all, this is where it all was made, and the Egersund factory was just an hours drive further south. I guess the selection of domestic pottery in the stores wasn 't quite as large and international as now. There is also the fact that a lot of people bought their sets directly from the factories, both for the discounted prices and out of loyalty to those local companies. The generation that bought Figgjo and Stavangerflint for their homes during their 60s and 70s heydays were of course our mums and dads. Many of them are now are now in the process of selling their houses and downsizing both their homes and number of dinner- and coffee-sets, so consequently these are now up for grabs. I'm so glad mine still live in my childhood home, it's a typical late 60s/early 70s one story house, so no steep stairs:-)

I thrifted with my mum, who's closets and drawers are even fuller than mine:-) I wish I had her around for every thrift round, we had such a nice mother and daughter time! She thinks her house is full enough, though, so she doesn't search for anything particular. Only egg cups. I'll get to that.

When I'm over, I'm mainly looking for local stuff, Figgjo and Stavangerflint goes without saying, but Graveren pieces and older Sandnes pottery are also a thrill to find. I found this traditional storage jar and baking bowl, both made at Sandnes potteries. They're common household pieces from pre- plastic times, and all our grandmothers had them. They were probably the last generation to use them in the traditional sense. My dad told me he remembers his mother also used her bowl to mince fish for fish cakes. They were made both by Graveren, Gann and Eie, a former Egersund pottery. I usually put a plant in mine. They can rarely be found flawless, but I guess the small beauty marks are part of the charm, years and years of use by hardworking women with their bread doughs makes them very precious. The jars are glazed inside and out, the bowls only inside. You can see another post about the traditional Sandnes pottery here.

Graverens Teglverk was founded in 1852, the production of colored ceramics started in 1926. Until them, Graveren had only produced brown traditional pottery that had been produced in large amounts ever since the 17th century, due to the high quality and good supply of clay in the area. The Sandnes potteries also produced roof tiles, that were even in some cases used on walls due to the lack of timber. Graveren was for a long time the largest pottery in Sandnes and was known to hire great artists.

Graverens Teglverk merged with Ganns Potteri in 1976 and became Gann Graveren. The ceramic production was closed down in 1982, and today, even the roof tile production is history.

Many artists were connected to Graverens Teglverk. Ragnar Grimsrud (who also worked for Figgjo and is considered one of our most talented pottery makers of the 1900s) is perhaps the most renowned, and became head designer (artistic leader) in 1928. His wife, Elsa Grimsrud, was the company's first decorator (illustrator? Neither sounds right...) His work was among the most appreciated during his time in the company, and after Graveren's participation on the paris fair of 1925, one of his pieces were added to the collection at the ceramics museum in Sevres. William Knutzon took over in 1946 and was there until 1949.

I don't know who made this large plate by Graveren, but I fell in love instantly. The art deco inspired pattern makes me guess it's from the 20s or early 30s. If anyone has some information about this or similar pieces, please give me a holler, as I'm dying to know more about it! I think the colors are wonderful and the pattern reminds me a little bit about some Egersund pieces I've seen at the fayence museum.

Speaking of Egersund, I was lucky enough to find a Korulen breakfast/ lunch set for eight a while ago, as well as various serving dishes. They are rare finds in thrift stores. In Stavanger I found six more plates in that same pattern and a yellow milk jug. The design is called Unique (Kaare Blokk Johansen) and came in, as far as I've been able to find out, the Korulen pattern (Unni Margrethe Johnsen, in production from 71-76) and two color combinations, brown with orange accents and this orangey, sunny yellow with the brownish green. For the color of the milk jug I've only seen the name Unique, the decor/ color combo might have another name. I love the sunny milk jug combined with the Korulen pattern, even more that if it had the same pattern. It sure is a sunny way to start the day:-)


Now some more on the egg cup matter. I´m constantly on the search for Figgjo egg cups, and was happy to find six. The pattern is Hedda (1977-80) by Rolf Frøyland who, alongside Turi Gramstad Oliver, was a local designer with a lot of great patterns on his conscience. It´s a pattern I haven´t really collected before and can´t really remember from way back when, but the brown pattern goes very well with all my other brown stuff and the Egersund Korulen set that I often use for breakfast, a real yellow and brown 70s combo. I also have two egg cups in Tor Viking that you can see in this post. That´s a pattern I do remember and cherish, we had it when I was growing up. 

The design, however, is by Ragnar Grimsrud from the 60s and is pure genius. You can put your egg shells or your salt, butter or little pieces of anchovies in the little bowl. Due to their shape they also stack really well. These egg cups are quite hard to find, so if you come by one, grab it and run. I try to collect some light blue ones for my mum, she only has a few of her old ones left, so I´m hoping to find her some more.

Another serving piece, this dish is Stavangerflint Sera, designed by Inger Waage and in production from 1970 to 79. I love the shape with the handle. It looks like it originally had a lid, and I can imagine how the lid looked like. It´s in the smaller end of medium sized an will be great for vegetables. I even use dishes like these for fruit or popcorn. It´s from their oven proof line so it can also be used for an oven dish. I´m always terrified of putting these treasures in the oven, though....


Another handled dish! This time a danish studio piece by KK Denmark. I found a small dish with that same stamp earlier, shown in this post, the pattern is almost identical. I still haven´t been able to find out who the maker is. Anyone?

This vase to the right is another mystery piece, though I´m quite sure it´s norwegian. I love the combination of the rough surface and the refined glazed top. The red ladybug wall plaque is made in the 60s by Pottemaker Simonsen, a local Sandnes pottery maker who are still making the traditional brown household pottery that I mentioned in the beginning of this post, and have been doing so for several generations. They have this wonderful workshop and shop in the center of the town. I visited on a rainy day (yes, it often rains there...) when the streets were very quiet, and was asked if I wanted a tour of his workshop. Would I ever?!? It was so great to see everything, the tools, the different stages of the drying prosess etc. I commented on the ladybug hanging on a wall in the workshop, and the pottery maker said it was mine if I wanted it!!! They make the jars with the white lines, my old ones are plain brown. The bowls, however, I´ve only seen with the lines around the edge.



More planters.... These are unmarked, but must be german. I have some other german ones that have that same lava glaze. I also found this Haldensleben vase (below) in the very same pattern that I have on two other pieces. They´ll make a nice trio.

Muy mum found this Marbell stone art piece for me, of this peaceful- looking little boy, isn´t it adorable? I´m usually not much for adorable, but this one is irresistable. I have another one of these belgian stone pieces that I got earlier, it´s far more abstract. There´s very little to be found on the web about Marbell stone art, so I don´t know a great deal about them, other than remembering them from the time I lived in Belgium.

The last piece this time is my very first Midwinter Stonehenge piece. the pattern is Greenleaves, which both mum and I fell for instantly. It´s just a single dinner plate, but I guess I can serve something from it, cookies maybe? I didn´t know before looking at it now that Midwinter is part of the Wedgewood group.

That was it, really, except for one lovely print by a local Jæren artist, which I left behind with my parents. They will visit this fall and bring it along. I´ll be sure to show you:-) I found so much on our first round that I had to stop, concidering we we' re travelling by plane... A few days later, I popped into a store that was so full of Figgjo that I had to rub my eyes. And at such good prices. The store owner assured me that she always had this much, so not to worry, I would find just as much on my next trip home. Look at it!!! I already knew my luggage had reached it´s maximum weight for the plain ride... I´ll definitely go back, but what to choose when faced with all that gorgeousness?? It´s gonna be hard...

I`ve left my beloved coast now and started working again. I desperately want to go back, I´ll have to try to squeeze in a weekend there soon, I miss it like crazy. 

PS. I´ve linked in with Max over at Blackbird has spoken. Pop over and have a look at her lovely blog!
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