The Japanese influence on Danish Design. The Design Museum, Kobenhaven

It isn’t often that one gets to shut out the world and deal with a single passion, but for the next month I will be in Denmark (with a skip over to France for the Third European Woodfire Conference at LeBorn) doing just that.  While there are many influences on 20th century and contemporary ceramics, two are the Japanese and the Scandinavians.  In fact, during a conversation with Bob Archambeau, several years ago, he reminded me that he, too, was influenced by the work coming from Scandinavia and that people often forget about their superb ceramics.   He is right.  Most books and exhibitions, in Canada, if not North America,  focus almost entirely on the impact of the British Studio Pottery Movement or the Japanese.  It is difficult to find books on Scandinavian or Danish ceramics.  One of the things I am trying to unearthing this summer is the difference in the aesthetics in Japanese and Danish wood firing.    I am searching for images and ideas to encapsulate these two traditions in a comparison that can more easily be understood by my students who will, no doubt, become bored by thousands of images!

You can imagine what a treat it was to look at the current exhibitions in Copenhagen and find a show at the Design Museum focused entirely on the Japanese influence on Danish design.  Several rooms contained ceramics, textiles, Danish furniture and lamps inspired by origami, wood, and metal.  One has to consider the minimalistic character of 20th century Danish modern and its relationship to that of Japan.  The featured image is of tableware inspired by Japan.  Notice the clean lines and then look at the use of colour.  Everywhere I look in Denmark there is some colour.  In other instances, it was difficult to see the relationship.  Large tsubo (storage containers) might also be kin to those found on the Greek islands, the ones with lugs used to hold olive and walnut oils.  Still, how lucky to be able to spend an entire day wrestling with one’s mind to understand and follow the logic of the curator who, after all, had to deal with works that were in the museum’s collection.

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Author: maryannsteggles

I am a Professor at the School of Art, University of Manitoba where I teach art history and studio ceramics. My current research is on the history of Canadian wood firing, the marginalization of women within ceramics, and the impact of Vietnam era migrants on the history of Canadian ceramics. You can reach me at my e-mail address: maryann.steggles@umanitoba.ca

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