Cathrineholm of Norway Enamelware – Lotus Pattern I found a Cathrineholm of Norway, white on blue, tea kettle with the lotus pattern a few years ago at an antique store for $10. I vaguely remembered it as a pattern seen during my childhood, but I also knew at the time it was fetching quite high prices by collectors on ebay. Regrettably (now) I sold that teakettle on ebay for a tidy sum, x15 what I paid. The only upside was I sold it to a lady in Norway and I liked the idea of the piece going back to its home turf. I adored the teakettle and was torn about selling it, but at the time thought I don’t drink tea, it’s the only piece I own, it seems quite expensive to buy off ebay, so I might as well just sell it and get some money to buy something I do collect. A few weeks later my boyfriend went to an estate sale and dug up a small Cathrineholm (CH) red on white lotus pattern 4 inch bowl. He woke me up that Saturday morning by presenting it to me and from that moment on I was hooked. I had never seen or handled one of the bowls and was amazed at the quality. I didn’t realize the bowls were enamelware too, in fact almost everything produced with the lotus pattern is enamelware, and something about substance and durability of them being glass over metal really captivated me. It probably has something to do with living in such a plastic filled world, holding something made to last – and made to last a long time – holds a lot of appeal for me.
So from that morning on I started to collect Cathrineholm and I have learned a good deal about the company as a result. The company was founded in 1907 and closed in 1968. One of their most famous designers was Grete Prytz Kittelsen (born 1917 in Oslo, Norway, died 2010) but contrary to what you will read many places Grete did not design the Lotus Pattern, though she probably was responsible for the shape and bodies of the pieces the lotus pattern appears on. Grete created many pieces for Cathrineholm but she favored a more minimalist look, using solid primary colors contrasted by exposed metal. But she did not much care for the lotus pattern when it was introduced. In reality the lotus pattern was created by Arne Clausen, a decorator working at Cathrineholm in the 1960’s. Legend has it a series of designs was test marketed among some Norwegian housewives and they overwhelmingly favored the Lotus pattern enamelware so into production it went and it became a signature line of Cathrineholm. The pieces come in a variety of forms, from plates, to bowls, to cookware, to canisters to fondue sets. Strangely the large kitchen canisters (for coffee, flour, sugar, etc..) and spice rack canisters were not produced by the Cathrineholm factory in Norway. The canisters were produced in Japan and are made of aluminum. I think CH contracted out these pieces to a company in Japan to save costs and maybe because enamelware was not suited well to storage canisters. I’m not sure of all the details yet but I own a set of the large canisters and I’m doing more research into the subject. I’m only aware of the Japanese origin due to some of the canisters retaining a “Japan” sticker and the fact they are made of aluminum makes them stand apart from the enamelware line.
The salt and pepper shakers with the lotus pattern are extremely rare and there are two types and I’m not sure either were produced at the CH factory either. One type is a almost lotus/bullet shaped shaker with a small lotus pattern at the bottom and the top being a long, slender chrome triangle. Another Norwegian company produced the exact same shakers, only without the lotus pattern, so I’m thinking CH may have just contracted with them to produce some with the lotus pattern but I’m still trying to confirm this. But of the two types, these are the most likely to be from the CH factory and are the hardest to find.
The other shaker looks much like the spice canister, only with the holes at the top as shaker instead of a lid, and were produced in Japan. I’m thinking the Norwegian bullet shaped shakers came first and then later on when they contracted with the Japanese company to do the canisters they went ahead and made shakers too. There are several weird little issues with Cathrineholm lotus pieces. Some pieces are marked with the Cathrineholm logo on the bottom, some are not. Different logos are used on various pieces. I hope to try and figure out the timeline involved with the marks, if they were marked early on in production or later. The fact American company started producing a series of plastic bowls that imitated the lotus pattern may have spurred Cathrineholm to start marking their pieces, but this is just my theory so far.
The lotus pattern pieces are usually brightly colored, but were later available in the more earthy tones that were coming into vogue as the 1970’s drew near. (Remember the three standard kitchen colors used on appliances in the 1970s – avocado, gold and rust?) . Mostly the lotus pattern pieces are white/contrasted with a color – as in a white lotus pattern on blue background or blue lotus pattern on a white background but there were some pieces made that used color on color, such as a deep blue lotus pattern on a light blue background. The colors I’m aware of that were produced are as follows, contrasted with white unless otherwise noted: Bright Orange Green Bright Yellow Wheat Yellow Red Navy Blue Sky Blue Pink Black Sage Rust / Brown Sky Blue on Pastel Blue Green on pastel lime green From my experience the rarest color, or hardest to find color for cathrineholm lotus pattern, is pink. True red is also a difficult to find color. Many people sometimes mistake the bright orange used by CH as “red” but it is not and orange is one of the more common and popular colors. The Cathrineholm bowls came in a variety of sizes, six in all, and were made to nest into each other for storage. The smallest bowl is mere 3 inches and seems to be for dips or sauces. The largest bowl is a whopping 11 inches. The exact measurements for all the lotus bowls in from smallest to largest in order are 3-7/8″, 5-1/2″, 7-1/8″, 7-7/8″, 9-1/2″, 11″
I’ll be posting more photos in the next several days of the different pieces available in the line but you get a pretty good idea from the top photo that shows many pieces displayed on the shelves. The pieces not shown in the photo are some of the cookware pans such a saute pans, double boilers, skillets, baking/lasanga pan of which I have examples of to post later if I get around to it. One very neat little aspect of the pots and pans is the lids acting a trivets for serving.
2016 Update: Well, I’ve moved into a new (mid century modern) home with a much larger kitchen so my display of Cathrineholm pieces has drastically changed. Since the kitchen is wrap around and large it’s hard to capture it in a photo, but here is one section where I have a lot grouped together (along with some Jen Quistgaard enamelware pieces for Dansk). I’ve also been able to use the tops of my cabinets all around my kitchen to display all of my CH cookware, much of which had been tucked away in cabinets until the move. The white kitchen cabinets and countertops compliment the lotus pattern and bold colors perfectly.