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Mari Simmulson Swedish Mid Century Ceramist

October 7, 2019

Mari Simmulson (1911-2000) is a familiar name when talking about Swedish ceramic design of the 20th century. Born to Estonian parents in St Petersburg, Russia. At the start of the Russian revolution in 1917, Mari’s family moved back to Estonia. During the 1930s, she studied at the State Art School in Tallinn and later further developed her skills at the nearby Arabia porcelain factory in Helsinki.

After marrying, Mari moved to Munich where she studied sculpture. When World War II began,  she fled to Sweden on a fishing boat. She was forced to leave behind her family and relatives, with whom, sadly she would never be reunited.
In 1945, Mari began working at Gustavsbergs Porcelain Factory, where she was fortunate to work alongside the factory’s legendary leader, Wilhelm Kage (who preceeded Stig Lindberg). Mari’s creative output ranged from unique sculptures to small animal figurines.
Mari left Gustavsberg in 1949, taking a position at Upsala-Ekeby. Together with Hjordis Oldfors and Ingrid Atterberg, she completed a trio of influential female designers who set the tone for the company in the fifties. Mari would remain at the factory until 1972, designing a variety of dishware, vases, wall plates, bowls, and figurines. She often opted for bold, colorful decor, offering a clear contrast to dark, unadorned pottery.
The 1950s fascination with exotic cultures found its way into Mariʼs design. This stylistic trend influenced the form, decor, and naming of the objects. She often took a theme (such as a leaf motif) and explored all the possible ways to decorate a vase or pot using this idea.
The acclaimed grand sculptures depicting women from Africa and Asia are fine examples of exoticism. She often expressed admiration for the posture and demeanor of women all over the world.
Highly influenced by the air-themed paintings of Marc Chagall, it is no coincidence that birds are a recurring theme in her artwork. Mari’s daughter recalls that “Air was important for her. She said clearly that she did not want to be buried in the ground”
Women are ubiquitous in Mari’s artwork. They are often represented with almond-shaped eyes behind heavy eye lids.
The women typically have deep, thoughtful expressions, which contrasts with the playful colours.
Mari’s world was a contrast of light and dark, laughter and solemnity, all at the same time.
There’s touches of all these emotions in her ceramic ‘portraits’.
Captivating, engaging, faces with a fixed stare are a feature in Mari’s work.
Mari left Upsala-Ekeby in 1972, finishing her career with a few brief stints at other Swedish ceramic factories.
She is remembered as a prolific artist with a strong personality who held fast to her artistic integrity. At the same time, she understood that the objects she created should be marketable as well as beautiful. Interest in Mari’s artwork is at an all-time high today, and her two daughters give frequent lectures on her life and artistry.
Many thanks to Mother Sweden for the infomation on Mari. If you would like to buy some of her work, head over to their site for a large range of available ceramics here.
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