Friday, April 13, 2012

Dansk Candlestick Designs by Jens Quistgaard

As with his work with teak, flatware and humble pots and pans, Jens Quistgaard designed candlesticks for Dansk that were deceptively simple but refined and sculptural.   Cast iron and brass were his favored materials for candlesticks. 
Dansk cast-iron candle tree with pivoting arms
The cast-iron candlesticks have a ‘curious grainy texture and an elusive color--neither exactly black, nor brown, nor gray--which [gives them] the look of some ancient ritual object,’ according to a 1964 Dansk advertisement.  That is certainly true.  When examined closely, the iron surface has a very thin, almost powdery dark finish that shifts between dark brownish gray.  The finish is thin enough that the iron can sometime develop rust spots.
A group of small S-based candlesticks
I don’t have a lot of these iron candlesticks (though I am always looking to buy more), but many collect them for use as attractive table sculpture.   To actually use these for their intended purpose, you have to find a very thin candle, which can be a challenge. That 1964 Dansk advertisement chronicles the advent of the super skinny taper--’a whole new kind of candle’--necessitated by Quistgaard’s designs. 
Dansk advertisement, 1964
Many of Quistgaard’s candlesticks did not just hold one candle, but up to  a dozen.  A full twelve candles was more ‘magical...and in this electric-lit age, the only practical function of candles is magic.’  So the twelve had to be very skinny so they would fit in small candleholder and if skinny, they had to be very tall so that they would burn brightly (and drip free) through a 2 ½ hour dinner.  The result was a rather striking forest of tapers.

You can usually find boxes of Dansk tapers on eBay--they were offered in several colors including white, green, red and orange.
Dansk brass candlesticks, designed 1956
I find Quistgaard’s brass candlesticks to be quite beautiful.  Meant to hold a single candle, this 1956 design is an essay in gently curved lines.  You can see video of Quistgaard talking about this design here.   The candle socket was made to screw in to the base, a cost-cutting measure that did not compromise the design.  Some say this also allows the candlestick to be turned upside down and used as a vase. 
JHQ brass candlesticks
Same design in silver plate
The teak and glass hurricane lamps below are later Dansk, from the late 1970s, but I still kind of like them.

So that completes my brief tour of the wonderful world of Dansk, at least for the time being.  I'm always looking to buy exceptional pieces (the Rare Woods line, the Festivaal lacquered pieces, unusual pepper mills, early teak pieces--contact me through my website) and you can often find Dansk pieces for sale in my Etsy shop

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gotta Dansk - Fjord Flatware by Jens Quistgaard for Dansk

Dansk ad for flatware, 1961
A few months ago, I was lucky enough to acquire a large set of Dansk flatware in the Fjord pattern.  It came through a client I had worked with on a big consignment while I was at Christie’s.  When she asked what I was up to since I left the auction world, I told her I was buying and selling stuff, mostly mid-century modern and off-handedly mentioned Dansk.  She said, ‘Oh, my mom has some of that stuff down in the basement.  Would you like it?’  So I bought myself some Fjord flatware, along with a number of other Dansk pieces.
Fjord flatware in teak and stainless steel by Dansk
Fjord was the reason Dansk came into being.  To briefly summarize:  In 1953, Jens Quistgaard hand forged a set of stainless steel flatware with teak handles, a combination widely regarded as beautiful, but difficult to manufacture.  Denmark’s Kunsthandwaerkmuseet quickly purchased the original set, where it was discovered by American businessman Ted Nierenberg and his wife, Martha.  Nierenberg immediately sought out Quistgaard and convinced him that the flatware could be put into large-scale production.  Thus began their partnership and Dansk was born.  

Note the flat edge around the bowl of the spoon
I think designing flatware is a funny thing--so much depends on minute measurements and there aren’t a whole lot of other objects that need to account for how they will feel in your mouth.  Some flatware can look great, but when you use it, it’s just wrong.  The handle doesn’t fit your hand quite right, the spoon is a weird shape in your mouth or the weight isn’t balanced.  Quistgaard’s flatware does everything just right--the handles of Fjord are not perfectly round, but slightly ovoid which better fits your grip.  The business ends of forks and spoons taper just enough and are not too broad or deeply bowled for comfort.
Steel core visible at the end of the teak handle
So yes, I’m pretty excited about my Fjord.  It’s a modern classic, even MoMA thinks so!  The whole set is still sitting out on my counter so I can look at it.  No plans to sell it yet, I’m actually looking for more pieces!
Fjord serving pieces
Serving pieces?  Check.
Dansk Fjord serving spoon in its original box
Original boxes?  Check.

You’d think I might have enough Dansk flatware, but no, I have gotten more.  This set is in the ‘Fairwind’ pattern.  I don’t know a lot about it (still looking for product catalogues!), such as when it was designed, but it is similar in some ways to Fjord, particularly the shape of the tines and bowls and the ridge line at the center.
Dansk Fairwind stainless steel flatware

Dansk Fairwind stainless steel dinner fork, made in Germany
Detail of Fairwind fork

Early four duck mark, made in Germany

Fairwind and Fjord tablespoons
Early Dansk flatware was made in Germany, then production moved to Denmark and Finland, and later to Korea, Japan and China.  General consensus among collectors seems to be that earlier European-made pieces are the more desirable.

There are tons of other patterns of note--Odin, Variations, Tjorn (in sterling silver)--I will keep my eyes peeled for them in my travels...

Next time:  candlesticks!

See my earlier posts on Dansk Kobenstyle here and teak wares here

I have some Fjord and other Dansk listed in my shop--check it out here.

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg