From coils of clay to a Scandinavian vase collection
When Jennifer and Louise first started with the GODTAGBAR collection they knew they wanted a family of functional vases with the expressiveness that comes from handmade techniques. They also had to find a way to carry it through to mass production and bring the feeling of the craftsmanship to the many people. This is how they did it.
There it is! Jennifer Idrizi and Louise Edwards have just opened the kiln that has finally cooled down. The designer and the product developer are in the pottery workshop in Älmhult to see the very first idea for the future vase collection.
What they don’t yet know is that they will soon give up on this form, but right now they are just excited to see how the glaze, surface and the blue pattern turned out. This is the start of a collection of traditional Scandinavian vases with a contemporary feel.
The walls in the Studio in Älmhult are covered with photos and drawings and on each page of Jennifer’s many sketchbooks are jars and vases in all shapes and sizes. Research is key to Jennifer’s design process and it seems no idea was left unexplored. Now it is time to decide which ones to continue with, which is always a tricky business. However, when building a family of vases it is important to keep the totality in mind; ensuring a number of different shapes and sizes to offer the customer different functions for different occasions.
“When designing the GODTAGBAR collection, I looked at classic vase forms throughout Scandinavian history. My vision is to make the vases myself through hand-building with clay and add a modern twist,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer sorted the vases into four groups and shows Louise drawings of vases with “ears” in different sizes. They decide to skip the ones with bigger handles sticking out even if they both like them because they are afraid they would be too fragile and the shape seems too generous to be Scandinavian. Then they turn to a group of vases without handles.
“I visualise this vase filled with tulips or a fuller winter bouquet,” says Jennifer.
“Yes, right now we have some vases that look great, but the perfect function is not there yet. That is what we are going to look into this next step. Scandinavian style is all about functionality, says Louise.
“And I really feel that a semi-matte glaze would work much better than the shiny one. The shine reflects the pattern too much right now, and I would like to calm it down a bit,” says Jennifer.
At the end of the day, they decide to continue with a family of four vases in different shapes and sizes.
“Now we need to start making them,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer has moved over to the IKEA pottery workshop and works with two vases in parallel. While one is drying a little, she rolls a coil of clay and adds it to the other vase. Slowly, slowly, you can see the shape emerge.
“For this project, I used the coiling technique, which is one of the oldest pottery techniques in the world. You can really adapt the form to what you want along the way,” says Jennifer.
The way of building the vases with the coiling technique suits this project, because she wants the texture and expression in it. By developing designs through physically building, Jennifer is able to understand the tactility of the vases and understand how they work together as a family.
Jennifer sends the five samples she made in the pottery studio to the supplier where they make plaster moulds out of them. They then pour liquid clay into the moulds, let the thick layer of clay form and pour out the excess. The process is called slip casting. When dried and fired, the vases (and a candle holder that was added later to the collection) are dipped in glaze and fired again. Now it is time for decoration. Talented craftsmen paint the blue stripes as the vase turns on a pottery wheel.
“It takes great skill to get the stripes right, and the depth of the blue is exactly like Jennifer’s drawings,” says Louise.
For the first time, Jennifer and Louise can hold and feel the final collection when the prototypes have arrived from the supplier. And it is an opportunity to sum-up the project.
“It was interesting to work in a way where I actually hand-built the originals instead of just drawing them. This way, they immediately understood at the factory what kind of surface I wanted. I love how expressive this collection is, and the surface is just right with the hand-dipped glaze and the hand-painted blue stripes. I think it is so cool because the people at the factory put their expression into it as well,” says Jennifer.
“It was good to have that time, in the beginning, to try different shapes and look at the GODTAGBAR family as a whole. When I look at the result now each piece works beautifully on its own, but they sing when they are all together,” says Louise.
To Jennifer, this project meant that she learned even more about vases and what really works in a home.
“We looked into the vase function the way a florist does. Here we have a vase for the most common arrangements: the fit and flare, the bouquet, the small flower bud and the long stems. The function is especially vital for this project, what with it being a traditional Scandinavian family,” says Jennifer.
The GODTAGBAR collection will be in stores in October 2019.