Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Design Spotlight: Vintage Berggren Ceramic Wall Hangings

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Artists Audrey and Arthur Berggren founded a gift products and home wares company in 1948 located in Libertyville, Illinois. That company, eventually known as the Berggren Shelton Trayner Corporation, produced decorative hand screened ceramic tiles, and enamelware decorated with decals in the Swedish folk tradition style known as 'Dalmalningar'. The Berggrens proudly specialized in developing reproduction techniques in which patterns and colors of a uniquely Scandinavian folk art style were faithfully recreated on a variety of home products such as cookware, cutting boards, porcelain, china, and of course ceramic tiles.

The Berggrens' products were sold in many specialty and gift shops, as well as large department stores such as Carson, Pirie, Scott, and Marshall Field's. In 1953, the Chicago Tribune announced that Berggren Trayner was commissioned to reproduce the works of the famous painter Grandma Moses, and at least one of those pieces resides today in the collection of the New York Historical Society. 

In 1986 Bergquist Imports Incorporated bought Berggren Trayner and moved operations and manufacturing to Cloquet, Minnesota the following year. It is still in operation today, and continues to sell Swedish style wares under the Berggren Trayner brand name. 

Although my collection of vintage Berggren Trayner ceramics is just the three pieces shown above, it is clear, when placed together, that the consistency and vibrancy of the colors used are of craftsmanship quality. For me, these are decorative items, but they have had prior use and constant exposure to light - even so, those vibrant colors and the ceramics and porcelain have stood the test of time rather well.  

Common among the three pieces are whimsical floral patterns, white backgrounds, and the use of black outlines which adds detail; as well, they all have dual functions, as either decorative wall hangings or as trivets and plates. The two square tiles, both measuring 6 inches, have very similar stylistic themes and each has a folk saying written in Swedish. Here's a closer look:

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The translation for the saying on the above tile is "The road to a good friend is short", and you can see the Berggren signature on the right edge, next to the green building. 

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'Welcome to our home' is the translation for this second tile, which also has the trademark signature on the right. It's interesting how the simple, straightforward colors of red, yellow, blue, and green provide a striking color burst against the white tiles. Furthermore, the array of many tiny details in the patterned borders give the eye plenty of detail to look at, and the fanciful treatment of the large floral sprays are what really spark a warm, whimsical feeling.  

In contrast to the above square tiles is this circular porcelain or china plate, where the absence of blue in no way diminishes from the interest of colors used (the same red, yellow and green as in the tiles above), and its ornate, dynamic motif lends an energetic, organic impression:

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The Berggren name appears on this piece as well, albeit in very tiny letters on the bottom left.  

Do you enjoy collecting any vintage home wares?  Feel free to leave me a comment and tell me about it! And if you are interested in seeing more vintage Berggren home wares, you may like to visit my Pinterest page here.

Thank you for reading!


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3 comments

  1. These are lovely pieces. I have a bit of a collection of vintage pottery, but not a specific artist or make. Some pieces are family heirlooms others pieces that have taken my fancy.
    I'm off to have a look at your Pinterest board!
    xx

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  2. Thanks Madeline! No doubt your vintage pottery pieces make a unique collection that you enjoy having on display. Thanks for sharing a little bit about it.

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  3. I love Berggren! I have fond memories of using pieces in my grandmothers kitchen, and have spent a few years collecting. My dining room wall currently holds my collection. I wish I could upload a picture to show you.

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