CARL HARRY STÅLHANE
Carl Harry Stålhane (1920-1990) was one of the most important ceramic artists and designers in Sweden during the 20th century. He worked for Rörstrand in 1939 to 1973 and for Designhuset between 1973 until his death in 1990. Stålhane was an innovator within ceramic art; he was indeed both trendy and versatile. Carl-Harry Stålhane’s production ranges from elegant graceful, studio pieces to mass produced ashtrays and pots, and unique, hand build sculptures. Stålhane was for Röstrand, what Stig Lindberg was for Gustavsberg in the 1950s and 60s.
OBJECTS FOR SALE
Carl Harry Stålhane was born in Mariestad in the west of Sweden. He was a great swimmer and water polo player. Stålhane was trained as a painter and sculptor and he first came to the Rörstrand factory in 1939. The outbreak of war the very same year meant that many were called to military service, and among them Stålhane. His theater talent placed him in an entertainment platoon, which had the task to entertain the soldiers in the tent camps far out in the woods or in the soldier barracks.
Whenever he had some days off, he worked diligently at Rörstrand. The expressionist painter Isaac Grünewald worked at Rörstrand for some time, and one of Stålhane’s first missions was to paint earthenware for him. Grünewald appreciated Stålhanes talent and in periods Stålhane was a student at Grünewald's art school in Stockholm. As a result of this collaboration, Stålhane was invited to an exhibition at the Swedish National Museum with his teacher Gunnar Nylund and Isaac Grûnewald in 1943. This was Stålhane’s public debut for which he gained critical acclaim.
When the war finally ended Stålhane went Paris for one year to get artistic inspiration from the French capital, before returning to Lidköping and the employment at Rörstrand. In the late 1940’s he first attracted international attention with his typical design for slender, symmetrical vases in monochrome, matt glazes, inspired by ancient Chinese Sung ceramics. Stålhane’s solo debut was made at the art gallery Ostermans in Stockholm in 1948. He continued to design these elegant pieces, alongside tableware for factory production. Stålhane was promoted to art director and chief designer of Rörstrand taking over from Gunnar Nylund in 1953.
In the early 1960’s Stålhane focused on larger, robust, massive forms with thickly applied glazes which were hailed as the new ceramics of the sixties. He experimented with different clays, found in the rich soil of the local surroundings of Rörstrand. Stålhane did not throw his own pieces, he was very depending on his throwers. Stålhane preferred to draw designs for forms and then he closely supervised expert potters who worked from his sketches. Applied decorations as well as hand-built forms, were executed by Stålhane personally. From 1963 to 1971, Stålhane also was a popular teacher in ceramics and glass at the School of Design and Crafts in Gothenburg (HDK).
Stålhane left Rörstrand in 1973, since he believed that they thought the artist was no longer important to their operations. He then opened his own studio, Designhuset, with the assistance of his master thrower, Kent Ericsson. He continued his artistic development with studio ceramics and went back to the Chinese and Japanese roots which had always fascinated him. Stålhane’s last exhibition was in Tibro in February 1990, and he died in April the same year during a lunch break on a normal working day.
Designhuset was converted into a school of ceramics in 1989. It lives on, but has been moved to some of Rörstrand’s old premises. Today the school is named Formakademien and trains ceramicists and model-makers notably for the car industry.
Stålhane’s art pottery work at Rörstrand can be divided into three categories:
Unique objects were signed be Stålhane himself with date and the number of the edition. The unique pieces were produced for exhibitions, museums and collectors.
Studio items were called semi-unique and were marked CHS-e. These objects were cast or thrown in series of 25 to a few hundred based on a unique original. These could often be bought at exhibitions at a lower price compared to unique objects. The shape of a specific studio item was the same, but glaze could be given a unique character.
Series production designed by Carl-Harry Stålhane were marked CHS. The collections were based on sales and marketing surveys. Series had to appeal to a larger audience and be suited for large scale production. Items were thrown or cast to be as similar as possible. Glazes were varied based on demand and season. Series pieces were produced in quantities of a few hounded up to a few thousand.
Stålhanes art pottery at Designhuset were signed with an “S” beneath a circumflex sign and:
Unique pieces were signed by hand by the artist, the production year and sometimes an indication of the glaze
Unique pieces from the wood fired Chinese kiln for the years 1985 to 1989 were marked with the signature and “ChingTe-Cheng” along with the production year, the glaze, etc.
Limited studio pieces made from 50 up to 100 copies were marked CHS-e
Larger series but with a “studio feeling” from 100 up to several hundreds were marked CHS
Regular series production; in series of several thousands were only signed with the Designhuset Studio mark (“S” beneath a circumflex sign)