The Ghostly Advent Calendar: 9th December – Bjorn Wiinblad’s Christmas plates

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Are you looking for something different to put your Christmas cake on this year? If so, you could do far worse than hunt out one of Bjorn Wiinblad’s vintage plates – they’ll add a touch of spookiness to your festive feast.

These plates were produced in glass and porcelain by Rosenthal from 1971 to 1994, and there’s something incredibly eerie and strange about them. Wiinblad’s work was everywhere in its day. He designed everything from playing cards to posters for the Royal Danish Ballet, from candlesticks to plant pots. Today, his work is harder to find – a little like the now almost-forgotten French illustrator Raymond Peynet, his hugely commercial design aesthetic hasn’t lived long in the memory. (However, Jonathan Adler acknowledges Wiinblad as a major influence in his Happy Chic: Accessorizing book).

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Unlike Peynet, whose delicate lines are sweet-hearted and innocent, there’s something darker in Wiinblad’s work. There’s a much more sinister whimsy in his drawings that’s most appealing to a ghostly gentlewoman, and a sense that his round-faced maidens and highly stylised flora and fauna are glimpses of a pagan world. Rather like the Moomins, this very European approach to illustration (at a time, don’t forget, when the design world was obsessed with modernism, moulded plastic and clean lines) makes us think of dark winters and the spindly shadows of leafless trees, and of those very odd animations that the BBC used to show on Saturday evenings before the football results.

You can still buy Wiinblad’s work, including his Christmas plates, by doing a bit of online detective work. They’re worth the trouble if you like your pottery with a bit of peculiarity.

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Categories: Art, Design

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