When I first began selling vintage treasures in 2008, it opened my eyes to a whole new world of vintage designers, production companies, and manufacturers. One of the first designs I was drawn to that year was the iconic lotus pattern that decorated Cathrineholm’s enamelware. I had never actually seen the pattern in the ‘wild’, but every time I came across a piece in a magazine or blog, I swooned. About a year later I was visiting one of my favorite antique stores, and a bright yellow charger plate caught my eye from across the room. I practically ran toward it, and my eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw the $14 price tag. Needless to say, the plate came home with me, and it’s still a favorite piece of mine that I have prominently displayed in my kitchen.
Once I had finally obtained my first oh-so-lovely dish, I was very interested in learning a bit more about the history of these gorgeous vintage pieces. There’s not a ton of information out there, but I thought I’d share what I’ve managed to dig up, as I’m sure I’m not the only one with a love for vintage Cathrineholm and a thirst for more info surrounding it!
The Cathrineholm company was located in Norway from roughly 1907 – 1970, and the lotus pattern was produced during the mid to late 1960s. The forms and colors of the lotus line were created by one of Cathrineholm’s most famous in-house designers, Grete Prytz Kittelsen. Kittelsen was a huge influence on Scandinavian design throughout the sixties, and won many accolades for her work with enamel, gold, and other metals. She was known for her use of bold colors, minimal designs, and ultra simple, clean lines.
Though Kittelsen is often credited for the lotus design as well as the forms and colors, it was actually another Cathrineholm employee, Arne Clausen, who designed the beloved pattern itself. In fact, Kittelsen was rumored to outright loathe the pattern, saying, “Using a lotus design to make a flower ruins the plates, in my opinion. My basic view is that dishes and plates look best in a single color.” Rumor has it that Kittelsen’s pieces were distributed to a test market of Norwegian house wives in a variety of patterns and that the lotus pattern was favored by a landslide. Apparently, the dishes were then put into production adorned with Clausen’s lotus pattern without Kittelsen’s approval.
During its relatively short production run during the 1960s, the lotus line came in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Pieces included plates, bowls, coffee pots, kettles, canisters, spice jars, salt and pepper shakers, and cookware. A few of the pieces (kitchen canisters and spice jars) were outsourced to Japan for production instead of being made at the Cathrineholm plant in Norway. These pieces are a bit harder to find, and can sometimes be found with the original ‘Made in Japan’ foil label still attached. During the earlier years, pieces were produced in bright, bold colors, but were eventually offered in more subdued tones to appeal to the ‘earthy’ aesthetic of the 1970s.
As Cathrineholm’s lotus pattern has gained popularity over the past few years, prices have risen accordingly. For this reason, my own personal collection consists mainly of damaged pieces – a rusty sauté pan makes a great place to rally small plants, and you can’t even see the big enamel chip in one of my favorite bowls so long as it’s full of fruit. If you’re on the lookout for a few pieces of your own, don’t be afraid to think creatively – just because a piece is damaged doesn’t mean you can’t find good use for it! And if pristine is what you aim for, I would just advise you to be careful when purchasing online – a trusted seller with clear photos is always your best bet, as my experience has proven one seller’s definition of ‘perfect’ may not match your own. As someone with a very critical eye, I would like to humbly suggest starting your hunt for vintage Cathrineholm in my own shop, Wise Apple Vintage. Click right here to see what’s currently in stock.
I hope you learned a thing or two – I know I sure did! Now get out there and go find yourself some vintage enamelware, would ya?