College of Design

Goldstein Museum of Design


History and Future of Product Design: Student Research on Gustavsberg Vase



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by Jess LaRocca

I'm Jess LaRocca, a sophomore in the Retail Merchandising program at the University of Minnesota. I am extremely interested in the evolution of design and love exploring its history and trying to learn more about what people need from design. Right now, I am researching different products throughout history for PDes 3170: The History and Future of Product Design. I have been searching through the Goldstein Museum's online archives, and am always intrigued by finding something new every time I log on. I am interested in Scandinavian design, especially that during the mid-century modern era, so the Danish Modern exhibit at the Goldstein is a source of inspiration for me!


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This vase, produced by Swedish pottery company Gustavsberg in 1901, is an icon of Swedish Art Nouveau. The Art Nouveau Movement began in 19th century France and lasted through the early 20th century; it is best characterized by "whiplash" curves, stylized images inspired by nature, and often garish elements of style and form. However, at the root of this movement was a obsessive attention to detail in art and decorative pieces.

During the period of Art Nouveau, Sweden and Scandinavian countries began to develop their lasting design identities. In his book The History of Modern Design, David Raizman states that Scandinavian countries looked to traditional folklore and nostalgia, while also embracing modern expansions in design, which led to the development of "an appreciation for the decorative arts, deriving from a connection to nature, the dignity of handicraft, and the creation of modern national style."

The curvilinear properties of this design are a prime example of Art Nouveau pottery, but the overall simplicity of the form and its functionality reflect the Swedish dedication to handicraft and quality. The petal details also reflect both Art Nouveau principles and the Swedish tradition of drawing inspiration from nature through the use of stylized natural elements. Another important Art Nouveau element of this vase are the bowed lines from the petals to the mouth of the vase; these details create a sense of movement and focus, which were essential principles of Art Nouveau. The overall repetition creates an elegant example of the style in a way that also reflects the Swedish value of the beauty in usefulness.

Image:
Gustavsberg vase, 1901, 1982.007.001, gift of Marion John Nelson.



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