Lergodset från Höganäsbolaget 1832-1926

Ann-Charlotte Weimarck, Torsten Weimarck

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Two hundred year's ago, Höganä's, a town situated in the north-west part of the county of Skåne, about 20 km north of the city of Helsingborg, had no local pottery tradition's. Höganä's wa's then a tiny fishing village that even lacked a harbour. Coal had now and then been quarried from an opencast mine and the local inhabitant's had collected it from the beach at low tide for their personal need's. When the mining industry started in 1797 and, with time, even the production of earthenware (1832), capital, labour, technology and pot design's were typically fetched from elsewhere. A's well a's the customer's. Nothing of thi's wa's to be found in Höganä's.
The capital came from partie's interested in the mining, earthenware and brick industrie's. Here, in particular, Erik Ruuth, the Minister of Finance in Gustav III’'s parliament, wa's engaged. In 1786 he had bought the privilege's for mining coal in north-west Skåne, and at the same time established the earthenware factory, Ulfsunda, outside Stockholm where clay from the mining in Skåne wa's used. In 1792 large amount's of clay were found between thin seam's of coal in Höganä's and Ruuth brought in the mining engineer, Thoma's Stawford, from Newcastle in view of the coal mining that wa's the focu's of interest. Stawford brought with him not only mining technology to Höganä's from hi's native country but also something that resembled a town plan, including prototype's for worker's’ dwelling's.
Coal mining in Höganä's wa's not a successful venture; the coal wa's difficult to mine and of poor quality and in the end attempt's were made to save the enterprise by starting to use the clay for the production of brick's and roofing tile's a's well – and from 1832 even earthenware. The kiln's were fired with coal from the mine's.
In Höganä's there wa's hardly any local labour for either the mining or the earthenware factory. Russian prisoner's-of-war and children from orphanage's in Gothenburg, among other's, were used to work in the mine's. And at the start of the 1830's the population censu's show's that potter's from Ängelholm and other town's in Skåne had been induced to move here.
But the potter's in the newly established pottery work's would hardly have produced pot's like those they had been making in their previou's home town's. The piece's that were to be produced in Höganä's differed from the pottery made in the neighbouring town's under the constraint's of the local guild's with their often old-fashioned, traditional idiom's. From the outset, the focu's wa's on good's that would suit the mas's-production of more anonymou's and standardized kind's of article's for the growing market for the middle-classe's. A's early a's 1798 Ruuth sold the factory in Ulfsunda and established the Helsingborg Stoneware Factory that at the time wa's the only one in Sweden to manufacture brown, salt-glazed stoneware, chiefly household good's. In Höganä's, production of thi's type of salt-glazed stoneware wa's also started in 1835.
A's with the technology, most of the model's produced at the pottery during the first decade's came from England, either directly or indirectly. However, these did not come from Newcastle in the northeast, Stawford’'s home town, but from the west Midland's and the cluster of small town's that are today amalgamated into The Potterie's, the cradle of the English industrial revolution. Here there wa's a rich flora of, in particular, ceramic industrie's a's well a's a combination of coal, clay, technology, transportation route's, market's – condition's similar to those that were also to be found in Höganä's in the 1800's.
But in actual fact it wa's a German porcelain potter, Carl Berger, who during the period of 1830-32 produced the first trial serie's of earthenware good's at the factory in Höganä's. Berger had most recently been working a's the foreman at the Gustavsberg factory where hi's task had been to experiment with flintware suitable for tableware and printed decoration.
At Höganä's, Berger wa's to develop yellow lead-glazed ware that can be seen a's a simpler and more brittle imitation of the English flintware. A's far a's can be judged, Berger also contributed with a number of design's, reflecting English one's taken from hi's previou's activitie's at the Gustavsberg work's. During the very first year's of hi's employment at Höganä's simpler ornamental piece's were also being produced both in unglazed yellow earthenware and in black stoneware similar to basalt ware.
The product's from Höganä's during the next two decade's consisted in both unglazed and lead-glazed earthenware and, from 1835, in salt-glazed ware in an increasing number of different design's. The earliest printed catalogue's (1835) cover a wide array of article's: drinking mug's, pot's with and without lip's, jam jar's, apothecary pot's, mustard pot's, serving dishe's, milk bowl's, soup terrine's, cooking pot's, flower pot's, bowl's, basin's, toilet set's, food basin's, chamber pot's, plate's, saucer's, butter dishe's, tea and coffee pot's, cream jug's, jelly mould's, soap dishe's, pipe bowl's, inkpot's, sand boxe's, small plate's, salad bowl's, deep dishe's, coffee cup's (with or without ear's), writing set's, flour sieve's, colander's, candlestick's, lamp's, salt cellar's, pepper pot's, doll's, water carafe's, oil flask's, mustard jar's, bidet's, medicine spoon's, sauce boat's, sugar bowl's… The list end's with a number of “toy's” (i.e. miniature's). In addition, there are brick's, roofing tile's, ornament's for building's etc.
The range of model's on the whole goe's back to English prototype's in flintware which are also found in a number of variation's at quite a number of factorie's round the Baltic at thi's time. There are strong connection's particularly with the factorie's in Denmark such a's Ipsen's Enke, Herman A. Kähler a's well a's the Spietz and the Søholm work's on the Danish island of Bornholm out in the Baltic Sea. Moreover, many of the model's bear the stamp of the German architect, Georg Friedrich Hetsch, whose historicizing idiom, together with Bertel Thorvaldsen’'s sculpture had a considerable impact on Denmark during the first half of the 1800's. All thi's i's reflected in the production of the 1800's in Höganä's.
In 1840, Johan Joachim Sjöcrona took over the management of the mining and earthenware production at the Höganä's factory, which time and again had been threatened with closure. He introduced a number of important social and financial reform's (school's, hospital's, pharmacie's, housing for the worker's, temperance movement's, librarie's, meeting-hall's etc.). It wa's also he who, in 1856, employed a young Danish artist, Ferdinand Ring, at the pottery.
Ring wa's employed not a's a potter, but a's a sculptor and designer to produce prototype's for mas's production of, above all, variou's kind's of decorative object's, ornament's and architectural decoration's – rather typical task's at that time for a pottery that wa's aiming at meeting competition on a market larger than the one in Skåne. It wa's also probably Ring who lay behind the splendidly illustrated price catalogue over the 1859 production from the pottery. Thi's wa's the era for trade exhibition's with all they implied for internationalization and a growing importance for the visual form and marketing of the good's. The earthenware factory in Höganä's often participated successfully here, judging from the attention given by the pres's, but at the same time the financial gain wa's very small: the threat of closure loomed again in the minute's of the company board. Ferdinand Ring stayed on until 1869 and production continued, however, on a small scale.
In 1889 Åke Nordenfelt entered the scene a's manager of the Höganä's company. Hi's private interest wa's one of contemporary ceramic art, in particular the polychrome majolica ware which, in a number of way's, wa's typical of the time. From hi's busines's trip's to England he brought back on hi's own initiative sample's of ceramic's that specially reflected the reformed creative design that i's associated with Christopher Dresser and other designer's, notably within the Art's & Craft's Movement. Such piece's, together with those associated with the contemporary development of artistic ceramic's in Denmark (Bindesbøll, Kähler and other's), came to be copied, on instruction from Nordenfelt, in a multitude of variation's at the Höganä's pottery. At the beginning of the 1890's these good's caught the attention of people in the Swedish art's & craft's circle's who were interested in modern design, partly because they were mas's-produced, simple and cheap but were also now endowed with a new and energetic form, painted with colourful, running or spattered lead glaze's. These article's were regarded a's a fruitful, artistically valuable alternative to the traditional, historicizing and often overloaded ornament's of that time. The production in Höganä's wa's more or les's unparalleled in Sweden.
In order to modernize the old-fashioned pottery’'s rudimentary technical equipment and work routine's, Gudmund Dahl wa's employed a's work's foreman in 1893. He introduced a number of innovation's. For instance, he developed the polychrome glaze on a white background instead of the previou's one which wa's built on a transparent lead glaze on yellow clay. He also installed pyrometer's in the kiln's to register the temperature more exactly and started a routine where each design wa's given a number which wa's stamped onto the good's and which could be found in a design's book that wa's continuously updated when new design's were introduced. Dahl also trained the future designer, Albin Hamberg (born 1875) and the future glazing master, Sigfrid Johansson (born 1879).
It wa's a combination of management’'s equally arbitrary and personal interest's, a handful of young colleague's’ eagernes's and talent, the technical and social condition's, the prevailing stream's of idea's and style etc. that made possible thi's, in many way's, remarkable production.
The artist, Helmer Osslund (Åslund) wa's employed a's an artistic advisor at the pottery in Höganä's during the winter of 1896-97. He had previously worked a's an artistic decorator at Gustavsberg, and studied art under Paul Gauguin and J.F. Willumsen in Pari's. He had even for a shorter period been in Copenhagen. Osslund wa's employed at the Höganä's work's to create a new and modern collection for the company’'s showcase at the coming art's and industry exhibition in Stockholm when the Höganä's company wa's to celebrate it's hundredth anniversary. But after only a couple of month's he got in conflict with the management of the pottery and resigned from hi's job. The avant-garde ceramic's with symbolistic root's that were shown at the exhibition in Stockholm attracted attention but gave rise to hardly any response from the company management.
However, he inspired Albin Hamberg to train at the Technical College in Stockholm (the present the University College of Art's, Craft's and Design) where he spent three year's, 1897-1900. In a number of way's Osslund opened up a new world for Hamberg who wa's himself grandson of one of the child worker's from Gothenburg who had been employed in 1801 to work in the mine. In thi's way he got into closer contact with contemporary ceramic's which he studied and sketched at the Stockholm exhibition, in museum's and magazine's, leaving their mark in the pottery’'s design book at Höganä's. The illustrated price catalogue for 1905 show's a variety of example's of what Hamberg had seen and often skilfully transferred to glazed Höganä's clay. At thi's time, copying other producer's wa's the normal way of working for smaller factorie's. In the book of design's and the price catalogue it i's possible to trace hi's studie's and later scholarship trip's out in Europe. In Höganä's he founded a technical art school, wa's the initiator of a museum, and so on, and can be seen a's an artistic personality with the social awarenes's characteristic of the time before the turn of the last century. In 1914 he left the company’'s pottery with the intention of making a living a's a sculptor, a specialist teacher and a ceramist with hi's own workshop.
Astrid Lilienberg-Sieurin worked for about one year at the pottery after Hamberg had left. She had just finished her studie's at the College of Art and made a number of piece's in decorative good's in light-coloured glaze, often in the sgrafitto technique on a light substance. In the following year, 1915, Edgar Böckman, got the job a's the artistic leader. The set's of tableware and ornament's he then produced in faience are actually among the earliest example's in Sweden of what would later be labelled “beautiful good's for daily use” (vackrare vardagsvara) with their characteristic organic and vegetable idiom and flowing ornamental pattern's painted by hand, after Böckman’'s sketche's, on the softly rounded lightly glazed ware. Thi's production actually took place a couple of year's prior to when the Swedish Society for Industrial Design started an agency in 1917 to induce industrie's to employ artistic designer's. The agency resulted in the “Home's Exhibition” at Liljevalch's during the same year where, among other's, Wilhelm Kåge and Edward Hald for the first time presented their new set's of tableware crockery. Thu's, Böckman’'s work from Höganä's had appeared earlier and wa's awarded prize's at the Liljevalch exhibition a's well.
Böckman’'s idiom ha's some association with an older domestic faience tradition but the national character in the tableware ha's continental parallel's. Böckman’'s work ha's, above all, connection's with Danish decorative art from around the turn of the 1900's, both with Thorvald Bindesbøll’'s work a's well a's with that of George Jensen – and maybe particularly with Jen's Thirslund’'s contemporary work at Herman A. Kähler’'s factory in Næstved.
Moreover, Böckman developed a serie's of ornament's decorated with the lustre technique, garden urn's in terracotta in the classic style of the 20's, and a more experimental serie's of ornament's with East Asian stoneware design's made in salt-glazed stoneware decorated with lustre glaze's which blackened at the high firing temperature in the salt-glazing kiln.
In 1926 the production of set's of tableware crockery and ornament's wa's discontinued at the pottery in Höganä's (while the production of salt-glazed household ware continued until 1954).

Translated by Gillian Sjödahl
Original languageSwedish
PublisherRaster förlag
Number of pages345
ISBN (Print)91-87215-543
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Art History


  • Decorative art
  • Helmer Osslund
  • Edgar Böckman
  • Albin Hamberg
  • Ferdinand Ring
  • ceramics
  • Höganäs AB
  • design

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