There are several antique markets that are held regularly around the streets and squares of Copenhagen. Many of the stall holders have shops in the city but at least during the Summer they seem to find open market stalls an enjoyable and sociable way to trade. There is certainly a good selection on these stalls of mid 20th-century design from lamps to glassware and of course china and art ceramics.
These antique markets have been disrupted over the last couple of years by the extensive engineering work needed for the extension of the metro which seems to have taken over an amazing number of squares and public spaces so you have to ask or search around for information about the places and times or days on which markets are open. For instance Gammel Strand, which had a particularly good and regular antique market, is now completely filled with hoardings and the equipment of engineering contractors. At least some of the stall holders from there have crossed over the canal to set up on Bertel Thorvaldsens Plad, immediately to the west of the Thorvaldsen Museum.
It was here on this trip that I found a set of cutlery that was designed in the early 50s by the Norwegian Tias Eckhoff. It was first produced for the Norwegian market and then, a few years later, they were made, like the set I bought, by Lundtofte in Denmark.
Sven, the antique dealer, made an important point as we discussed the design of the cutlery. When these knives and forks and spoons were first produced, he said, they were expensive - probably 13 or 14 Kroner each. Ordinary people could not afford to buy a full service in one go - so they saved and bought a few pieces at a time until they had the number of place settings they wanted.
This raises several very interesting points that I will come back to frequently in this blog. Reading back through my recent posts it would be too easy to write off good design as a luxury for the middle classes, particularly in the present economic situation, and it would be too easy to conclude that well-designed and beautifully made pieces of furniture or tableware are so expensive that ordinary people simply cannot afford good design.
One glib answer is that it all depends on your priorities - what anyone wants to spend their money on should be their own business. But good design - is that an expensive add on? I don’t think so! Good design is or should be an essential part of any manufacturing process by any commercial company producing furniture or tableware or electronics or white goods. It actually takes a similar amount of time, and possibly a peculiar skill, to design something badly.
Quality of materials and quality of manufacture are slightly different and are subject to a trade off against the need for realistic price tags but then you could draw more complicated graphs where presumably the life of the item increases as the quality of the materials and the quality of manufacture are improved.
The more complex and more difficult determinant is that possibly an awareness of good design makes some people want to invest in things they really want and things they really like so actually in things they cherish and want to keep. If something was cheap but is badly designed are you happier to throw it away if you get a chance to replace it?
Maybe that suggests that good design just isn’t what serial consumers are looking for - they need fashion.