Looking for all the world like a sleek Danish mid century icon by Jacobsen or Quistgaard this slender and minimalist beauty is actually as British as a Mini or a cream tea. Durlston Designs was based out of Hersham in Surrey, hardly the hotbed of industrial design in Europe, but the range of mirrors produced here are valued by collectors worldwide. There is scant information out there about the manufacturer but the design is usually attributed to Owen F Thomas either independently or in association with Robert Welch. There is something of an Old Hall feel to it, but perhaps the composition is more sophisticated in its Danish leanings. Various different finishes were produced in powder coated paint, steel and chrome with varying sizes of mirror attached. The bases vary from double pronged horizontals, through angled to three pronged, even swivel versions on marble all with excellently conceived proportions. Interestingly the UK market does not value these as highly as the USA where you can expect to pay up to $1000 for a good example. This one is listed on the site for £225. The quality of construction and finish would be very expensive to buy new today, making these classics a stylish bargain.
One of the most traditional artisan skills that goes back several thousand years is the creation of blown glass. A primal material that was used to great decorative effect by the Romans, it has a long and proud history in Italy. And within Italy, it finds its most creative expression amongst the many workshops, both large and small on the island of Murano, Venice. Originally there were glassmakers in Venice throughout the city, but in 1291 it was decided to move them across to Murano for fear of fire hazards from the furnaces. The great esteem in which the glassmakers were held was demonstrated by the fact that they were immune from prosecution by the Venetian authorities. Many of the last centuries manufacturers are still in existence including Salviati, Barovier & Toso, & Venini. Many manufacturers specialized in particular design and techniques including antique revival styles, use of gold (aventurine) and artistic creations. The range of designs and quality levels vary tremendously from cheap lampwork animals through to one-off vessels by some pre-eminent designers. The artistic directors of Venini in particular in the 20th century reads like a Who’s Who of modern design – Carlo Scarpa, Fulvio Bianconi, Gio Ponti and many more. Under Paolo Venini’s direction, the glass sculptures, vessels, lighting and even utility ware transcended mere objects born of heat and silica and became truly artistic works in their own right. Creating new techniques such as Battuto, Pezzato and Fasce meant that Venini was at the forefront of innovation and served to keep an ancient art entirely modern and relevant. The very best work from this period was never cheap in the first place and has more than held its value – and is frequently sold in excess of six figures in auction. Even now, the legacy of the Murano tradition is still alive and there are still a number of people who are producing exceptional work, and important designers and architects are still queuing up to design for the best ateliers
The idea behind Modernforms was always to offer affordable, quirky and yet still individualistic items for the keen collector or curious amateur. However, sourced on our travels and in our sheds, attics and outbuildings there are additional pieces that transcend these perameters. With this in mind, and looking to the to the global market, Individuality.Design was formed. A solely online resource, this is a dealer page on 1st Dibs, where some amazing things are to be seen. When it first launched it was the ne plus ultra of decorative arts sites, filled with amazing rare and fabulously expensive items. Competition within the industry has opened the market but 1st Dibs is still the benchmark. The darling of the American Interior Design industry, 1st Dibs will offer opportunities to source the unique and rare, usually curated with an amazing eye for style and taste. In partnership with an enlightened fellow dealer, we are delighted to showcase our very best pieces on 1st Dibs and we hope that you will follow this link to have a quick look! www.1stdibs.com/dealers/individualitydesign/
In addition to the website there is now a dedicated Instagram feed Modernforms.co.uk which has been running now for around three months and will showcase current stock, both on Modernforms and on our 1st Dibs dealer page trading as Individuality.Design. Also on the image stream are architectural curiousities, design classics from the UK and abroad, and a range of inspiring books and publications from this century and the last. It serves as an insight into the mind of the owners - from where we draw inspiration - and what we have been buying lately. What I can almost certainly promise is that there will be no selfies!
In amongst the items across the site and that come and go through our hands, are many, many items of ceramics. The specialism is in French artist designed ceramics of the 1950's but if a piece is a good enough design or has "something about it" then it will make the grade. What is curious is how different European countries approached the medium around this time, of c.1948-68. As a very broad overview, the key nations could be considered to be France, Germany, the UK, Scandinavia and Italy. The colourful handpainted artistic wares of France and Italy (Vallauris, San Marino, Turin) are in contrast to the cool an subdued tones of much Scandinavian pottery. A glaring exception is probably Stig Lindberg whose designs perhaps have more in common with his Southern European counterparts. Often produced in moulded series, much Scandinavian pottery relied on the multiple variations and nuances in glazes to create the effects. German pottery was again produced in large quantities, rather more cheaply than in Scandinavia but with the textured and three-dimensional glazes seen in Vallauris pottery, especially the so called "fat lava" technique. The UK plowed it's own furrow, with a few exceptions not really paying to much attention to the avant-garde, and producing slightly watered down versions of the continental styles. Ceramics (studio pottery excepted) were still more frequently seen as functional and not artistic in their own right - interesting work was always being done at Poole of course, but this was the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps national characteristics at this time on a small scale could be seen expressed through the medium of clay?