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The Very Limited T-Shirt for Cwyn's Tea Fund

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tea Storage in Europe is a Glorious Crock


Stig Lindberg poster at Etsy
Since the first installment of "Puerh Storage is a Crock," I have had a number of people write to me about storage in Europe and the UK. Folks are looking around to augment their current storage systems. Anyone bringing up the topic of European ceramics is like asking an old lady "how are you feeling today" because I'll start talking and never shut up. If I move to Europe or the UK, I'd be storing tea quite stylishly in vintage ceramics. I'll share with you a few of my favorite vintage ceramics. Lest you fear we are gonna get too far away from gongfu tea, consider this vintage Veckla series piece by Sweden's Stig Lindberg (1916-1982).
Veckla Series by Stig Lindberg
Is this what we think it is? Not convinced? How about another one:

More Stig Lindberg Veckla which means "fold"
Not all Stig Lindberg is serious, a tea cup isn't storage but worth a look.

Lindberg tea cup, photo by Fiona Martin, Pinterest
Oh yes, I think some recovering teaware addict just lost six months of therapy progess. Mid-century modern Scandinavian ceramic artists took a whole lot of inspiration from tea. And it doesn't get any better than Stig Lindberg, so here's some more.

Black earthenware by Stig Lindberg
Porcelain or earthenware canisters with large cork or teak wood lids are easy vintage pieces to look for.
Lindberg Berså Wood Lid Canister

Living in a small space with no room? Hang a few crocks on the wall.
Stig Lindberg Berså hanging ceramic canisters
Don't buy those, I'm saving up the $167-and-change for the pair. And if I had just one or two cakes at a time to save space at home, I'd consider this crock/teapot/cup combination from Stig Lindberg's Von Ming line. That's right, I said Ming. No guesswork needed about where Lindberg looked for inspiration. 
Lindberg's ceramic Von Ming Teapot/infuser/cup combination
Ah, now one of my old loves, pieces from Sweden's Gustavsberg workshop. 
Carl Harry Stalhåne (1920-1990) for Rörstrand
The Gustavsberg workshop produced some of my favorite porcelain and earthenware of all time. I don't dare post the sublime green Argenta Art Deco pieces embellished with silver mermaids, or I might yearn for the tea cups I used to own in that pattern. And I'd better stay away from Gunnar Nylund's (1904-1997) work which was the real reason I got into repairing chipped ceramics to begin with, a slippery slope of addiction for me. Like lounging in a wet, rumpled bed with an old lover I haven't seen in awhile, back to a time when I had more hair with actual color. Many of the same Gustavsberg artists like Nylund worked for the Rörstrand workshop too. And they worked for Upsala-Ekeby.
Berit Turnell for Upsala-Ekeby
Can't go wrong with Kaj Franck storage jars from Finland for under €30. 
Kaj Franck canisters at allmodern.com
These jars have been in continuous production with improvements over time since 1953, over 60 years of experience speaks for itself. And I can't resist Franck's 1970s crock-y teapot with infuser from Arabia of Finland.
Arabia Finland Ruska Franck Teapot
Take twenty years off me and I could be combing vintage shops for as much of this pattern as possible. So modern, and yet also timeless. On Etsy.com I see at least five pages of gorgeous stuff by Kaj Franck. Can't handle going through them all because it's so hard to believe most of it is under $100. I've paid more than that for some of my Jian Shui teapots.

In Norway, I think I'd be crocking my 2005 Naka in Figgjo Flint, some of these covered bowls go for €30 or less! My only worry would be some idiot friend of mine might confuse my maocha with tobacco and try to smoke it.
1960s Flint casserole dish
Belgium lard crocks are now used as garden pieces, apparently.  If I were there myself, I'd rescue and boil these for my tea storage. 
Vintage Belgian earthenware crock
In Denmark, I'd be a complete hoarder of tea storage pieces without even trying.
Pot by Karen Margrethe Karberg, retropottery.net
Yep, I'd have no problem crocking up my tuos in Denmark because 1960s Soholm pieces are enough to make me swoon. I did own a vase at one point and sold it, alas. Don't click on the link without smelling salts, seriously.
Lidded crock by Maria Philippi
See, now I warned you not to click on that. Nor this next one neither unless you're prepared to hop a plane to the Netherlands. Can we guess which tea this Dutch artist probably drinks?
Carla Vrijer, Holland
In Germany, fermentation is a science unrivaled anywhere, and crocks with a built-in seal are my choice for oolong and shou puerh. The quality of Nik Schmitt's fermentation crocks, for example, easily rivals that of the former Hausch workshop. (warning, hide your wallet before you click on their website).
Cute Schmitt tea canister, but I'd buy me one of these crocks instead
Now I'm a good part Polish myself, and something about the gorgeously painted fermentation crocks from Poland tells me that these are forever purchases. France is about the most gorgeous tea with shops like Nina's and Mariage, the sublime first flush of everything tea, and food containers for every possible delicacy.  I've seen a lot of French lidded crocks in orange glazes, and I'd be hunting these down everywhere. Nobody has to speak French like a native to say Le Creuset.

Le Creuset stoneware 4.5L Bean pot at macys.com
Don't have to go too far over the border to find decent stoneware, I can't resist this 1870s made-in-Canada crock to hold a bunch of cakes.
1870s Ontario, cobalt glaze hand thrown Huron Pottery crock, Ebay
I'm told by a reader in the UK that "utility crocks" can easily be found in charity and junk shops. One choice for me would be 19th century vintage crocks by Doulton and Co., and I've seen big ones with lids for less than £20 on Ebay.uk. Only purple periwinkles could get my personal Hyacinth Bucket on better than this.
Doulton & Co. South Canterbury Museum
My own beat-up old farm crocks now seem rather sad after such a glorious look at European ceramics. Maybe I should aspire to something more pretty. Back in the US, Molly Kite Spadone makes fermentation crocks to order with transfers of pretty designs like these pine cones. 
Made to order fermentation crock by Molly Kite Spadone
Thanks to all of you who emailed me, I've now taken to my bed with Stendhal Syndrome, a ancient malady of fainting caused by looking at the finest art. It's been a few years for me since I've revisited some of these vintage ceramics I love so much. The prices have come down quite a bit in the past few years, making so many pieces very affordable. Compared to just five years ago, the market in vintage mid-century ceramics now favors the buyer over the seller in Europe much as it does in my US location. Economics have brought vintage retail prices down a bit for all of us.

Time for a recovery cuppa...Good luck with storage and let me know what you find! 



3 comments:

  1. John Clappison / Hornsea pottery from the late 1950s / 1960s has lot of similarities to good mid 20th century Scandihooligan pottery design. Much of it was produced in large quantities and some ranges can be found cheaply on line and in UK junk / charity shops. There were also a lot of small manufacturers in the Potteries and elsewhere making salt-glazed earthenware like Lambeth /Doulton. The UK has huge potential for good old crocks.

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    1. Thanks for the tip! Would you estimate under £20 or so?

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    2. A quick check on eBay shows that the mass produced (boring brown) large storage jars go for about £5.00. The more attractive ranges are scarcer but go for just a little more. Only problem is they are hardly worth shipping to the USA.

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