You can call me a newbie, call me what you will, but when I heard the word “Cathrineholm” I assumed “she” was the designer of the stunning enamelware you see from time to time. OK, so I was very wrong.
Cathrineholm, actually about as unromantic as you can imagine, is the name of an ironworks (or at least they started as an ironworks when the company was formed in 1827) in Norway. If you don’t believe me about being unromantic, here is a shot of the place:
And in their unromantic way, they started out producing wrought iron, chains, nails and agricultural equipment that fueled industrial development in Norway in the late 1800s. But as the need for those kind of basic materials became fulfilled, making such things became much less profitable and the company looked for other ways to make a living.
Around 1907 they started applying enamel to steel to make ”sanitary” cookware and also enamalled signs for advertising. Catherineholm was known for its high quality products, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that the now iconic designs were associated with their products.
The designer of the now famous Cathrineholm designs was Grete Prytz Kittelsen. Kittelsen was born in Oslo in 1917 and just passed way last year on the 25th of September. Her father was the rector of the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry, which Kittelsen attended as a student. She started out as a goldsmith, as not only was her father a goldsmith, but three generations before him as well.
Kittelsen worked both with individual pieces, but also industrial design and her talents were soon recognized. She received a Fulbright scholarship in 1949 and 1950, living and studying in the United States.
Perhaps it was her time in the US that inspired the iconic lotus design which was produced by Catherineholm. The bright strong colors and simple lines made the line a huge success with sales of millions of units throughout the world.
Her work is still cherished today, with Cathrineholm produced wares being particularly collectible. Unfortunately, though, even with their great success, Catherineholm was not able to compete as the quality of materials and price declined in the cookware industry and closed in 1970, although some of their craftsmen moved to Hammerstrøm AS, which opened in 1965, which, although I don’t read Norweigen, looks like it has taken a different direction in metalworking.
An exhibit of her works was mounted in Norway in 2010, but I cannot find any listing of a current exhibition.
We have come into a few pieces of Cathrineholm enamelware, check them out our Etsy shop.