The Cathrineholm Series by Grete Prytz Kittelsen

In this analysis I have studied the works of The Norwegian designer and craftswoman Grete Prytz Kittelsen. The analysis will most and formally center around the works that were commissioned by the Norwegian enamel producer Cathrineholm AS.

 

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Grete Prytz Kittelsen was born in Oslo in 1917. The Prytz family was at the time the country’s most renowned goldsmith producer and had also owned the crafting company Tostrup AS for two generations.
In 1941 Grete graduated from the Statens Handverks- og kunstindustriskole (SHKS)  with a coffee set made in stainless steel and molded plastic handles. The set was greatly inspired by the front figures of the German Bauhaus school at the time, with its subtle and solid appearance. This coffee set was later produced by the Tostrup company.

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Sketch of the ‘Unika Coffee Maker’ by Grete Prytz Kittelsen

A couple of years later Grete met the now very famous Norwegian architect Arne Korsmo, who she later married. The couple moved to Stockholm due to the ongoing war and thereafter to Chicago, USA, in 1951, as got the opportunity to study at the New Bauhaus school.
During her one year study at the school Grete came in contact with the works of Wasily Kandinsky and Gyorgy Kepes. While the works of Kandinsky introduced Grete to using a defined language of abstract expressions and processes, Kepes taught her the relationship between decorative patterns and form and how they affect the general perception.

This short time at the New Bauhaus would be the starting point from where Grete would make her most iconic enamel series, when back in Oslo, in 1954, Grete started her collaboration with the enamel producer Cathrineholm AS. However, before she started designing enamel series for the producer, Grete developed further her studies at the New Bauhaus and transformed it into her craft. She did this by playing with different kinds of textures and how these could be created and expressed through in enamel. These type of studies of texture, which she continued though out her carreer, resulted in the late 50s as the series Strekk and Fjærn. Strekk was about group of unparalleled lines that deformed the appeal of the enamel plates making them ’feel’ flatter and asymmetric, even though they were not.
In the Fjærn series, Grete used instead an almost feather-like shape with different
transparencies, which gave the enamel a visual depth.

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Four series of Cathrineholm – Quadratic Lines, Fjærn, Lotus and Strekk.

In her later series during the 60s, Grete strove for creating these kind of play with patterns, altering the general appearance with higher contrast and depth.

In my illustrations for this analysis, I have chosen also to refer to Kenneth Goldsmith’s

’Uncreative Writing,’ where he talks about the ’unoriginal genius’. Goldsmith states in this text that, in modern society all aesthetic genres have already been discovered and explored, which means that later generations of designers cannot come up with something completely original, that is something that has never been done. Thus, the geniuses of tomorrow have to be able to reinvent ’ready-made’ material by using it in new contexts and ways. In that sense, I chose to use the different enamel series of Grete Prytz Kittelsen as fragments, or sample elements, from where I have been able to derive my own study of the elements in her enamel works and at the same time come up with a product that ties the Cathrineholm series toghether.

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Study of Pattern

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Illustration of what the sampled pattern could look like on enamel tableware.