True Nordic: How Scandinavia Influenced Design in Canada

On Saturday, while my recent glaze firing was cooling, Al and I sky-trained in to Vancouver for a gallery day. Our primary destination was Coastal Peoples Gallery in Gastown but I hadn’t seen the current shows at Vancouver Art Gallery so we spent some time there first. Our son Mike joined us as he’s particularly interested in Mid-Century Modern Design. True Nordic is on the third floor and has two sections, Scandinavian influenced designs from mid twentieth century, and work in a similar vein being produced now by Canadian artists.

This quote from the Gallery’s website describes the intent of the show:

This ground-breaking exhibition examines the significant influence of Scandinavian craft and industrial design on the development of Canadian culture. Spanning more than seven decades, True Nordic reveals how Scandinavian design was introduced in Canada and how its aesthetics and material forms were adopted, revised and transformed. Featuring a wide array of furniture, textiles, ceramics, glass and metalwork, the exhibition offers a critical survey of Canadian design practices from the 1930s to the present.

Immigrants from Scandinavian countries who chose to settle in Canada, where the climate is similar and comparable politics prevail, brought their design sensibilities and training with them. In this show there are selections of furniture, weavings, lamps, silver, wooden pieces, early colourful plastic and to my delight, work by well-known early Canadian potters.

Vase 1962 Deichmanns
stoneware with cobalt underglaze



Kjeld and Erica Deichmann were potting in New Brunswick in the 1950s and 1960s. The little display of their work includes matt-glazed functional wares and a couple of whimsical sculptures. This deep bowl, labelled as a vase, has a charming animal painted in cobalt. It is good to have the opportunity to see what was being produced on the other side of the country back then.




Pitcher c. 1938
Axel Ebring


Next was a group of pieces by our well-known BC pottery pioneer, Axel Ebring, who had immigrated from Sweden. Bob Kingsmill gave us an enthusiastic account of his work at a recent Shadbolt Clay Symposium. The display includes a bowl, a plate, a lamp-base and this exuberant pitcher.






Work by Quebec designer Gaétan Beaudin was rather more elegant and restrained.

Gaetan Beaudin

Gaetan Beaudin
Two carafes 1978 porcelain & stoneware
Mugs 1950s slipcast earthenware









Work by Alberta potter Luke Lindoe is included, even though he was born in Canada, I expect because his pieces show Scandinavian influence and because he is best-known as the founder of Plainsman Clays in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

vase 1952 (maker unrecorded by me)
Luke Lindoe Two-toned bottle c. 1974




My one photo of furniture in this show is this beautifully designed stained oak stool, with a seat woven of paper twine. It reminds me of work being made in England when I was a girl. For fans of Mid-Century furniture there are some fine pieces on display as well as similar work being made here now.

John Stene stool 1958





Mike was impressed by the Danish Modern ceramic lamp bases, and further on, by a piece of Contemporary weaving in gorgeous greens.








This herb pot caught my fancy for its simplicity and fine terra cotta finish.

Herb pot 2014 Filipa Pimentel





True Nordic can be seen at Vancouver Art Gallery until February 4th 2018.



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