The Collector: Geoff Kirk, Dublin, Ireland
The Collection: The work of Swedish designer, Stig Lindberg.
The story behind the collection...
It all began one Sunday morning, just over 20 years ago. I was an Advertising Creative Director in those days with a keen interest in graphics and design.
I already had the collecting bug by then. I’d started in the mid-80s with hand-painted Clarice Cliff pieces, then I got seriously into post war ceramics - Jessie Tait, Eva Zeisel and the Freeform pottery produced by Poole in UK. In retrospect, I see how I was reconnecting with objects that fascinated me as a child growing up in the late 50s.
This particular morning I was trawling one of my favourite hunting grounds, The Stables in Camden Market., when an odd-looking bowl caught my attention. It was glowing with quality and looked, more “studio”, more masculine than other ceramics I’d seen. The shape was organic, slightly wonky; the colours, a great combination of mustards, blues and greens, were blazing with intensity; I noticed the beautiful faience glaze, and the pattern was crisp, graphic, joyful. It seemed to have a sense of humour. Each element worked individually. Together they were the very essence of the 50s. I bought it . . . and so it all began.
First I researched the Gustavsberg factory and learned Stig Lindberg was creative director there and that he was a bit of a maverick as well as a great showman. I was surprised to discover that most of the work was produced in the late 1940s and early 50s before any of the factories in the UK had really got going after the war, and well in advance of The Festival of Britain in 1951.
The look was bright fresh and optimistic and when I took my first trip to Sweden and saw the landscapes, colours, shapes and the light I began to appreciate the connection with the country and its design aesthetic.
My collection quickly grew in the early years as very few people seemed interested in his designs and the couple of dealers I discovered would source and keep pieces for me. I was delighted to discover the Stig Lindberg book, even though it was only published in Swedish, as it gave me vital information about all the painters marks and it enabled me to attribute each piece and seek out pieces missing from the collection. One of my prized pieces is a rare dish signed in red, which is believed to be an early sign that it was painted by Stig himself.
His leaf bowls are amazing, iconic. They are 3-d leaf shapes, painted with abstracted leaf patterns and the overall effect is a wowing simplicity. They don’t look like leaves but they evoke leaves – and are so tactile. This part of my collection is really very joyful and uplifting to look at and touch.
I still collect, but it is getting harder to find good original pieces from the hand painted range. I have a collection of furniture, studio pieces, printed ware, fabric and books by Stig Lindberg but my first love is still the faience pieces. My favourite pieces are the collection of covered gourd bowls as they are such tactile and pleasing shapes. My overall favourite piece, and the one I would grab if the house was on fire, is the large Spektrum Leaf gourd, which I think is the epitome of design form and colour. I was speechless when I first saw one of these in the V&A collection and never thought I would find another, or get the chance to have one of my own. It takes pride of place in my collection and is the one piece I could never imagine selling.
Images © Geoff Kirk and used with his kind permission.