HERTHA BENGTSON (1917-1993)
Hertha Bengtson is one of the well-known representatives of the Swedish ceramic design of the 20th century. She was one of the leading designers for the Rörstrand factory in the 1950s.
Early in life, Hertha developed an interest in drawing, though her family lacked the financial means to support full-time studies. When she reached 18, Hertha finally pursued her interest in art at an evening school for porcelain painting. Only two years later, in 1939, she became employed as a pattern designer at Hackefors porcelain factory in Linkoping. After three weeks of trial work, Hertha was offered permanent employment, starting with pattern design and decor. Soon, she had a hand in most of the factory’s production. Beyond her design interests, she took on responsibilities including the management of production costs and payroll. In 1939, World War II broke out; the factory’s supervisor was called to duty. At 22 years old, Hertha was appointed the head of her department.
Two years later starting at Rörstrand’s Porcelain Factory, the company was in need of new talent. Hertha quickly seized the opportunity. Though she was hired to work with painting and decoration, Hertha’s curiosity steered her towards work in formal design. At that time, there were many accomplished artists established at the company, including Gunnar Nylund and Carl-Harry Stålhane. The level of camaraderie was equal to that of the competition for resources. Hertha had a strong interest in porcelain service, which was not considered particularly inspiring by her fellow designers.
Bolstered by the success of Blue Fire, Hertha was given near full freedom at the Rörstrand to bring her artistic vision to life. Over the course of twenty-three years at Rörstrand, Hertha designed a total of six service sets, including the popular "Koka" (Cook), the refined tea service, "Ceylon", and the classically beautiful "Rosmarin" (Rosemary). Hertha also undertook small-production and experimental art works. At the same time, Hertha became something of an informal spokesperson for the factory. She was unwaveringly knowledgeable, dedicated, and eloquent.
In 1964, Hertha’s surprise decision to leave Rörstrand was she wished to broaden her horizons by working with stoneware. She reached out to Hoganas ceramics and was received with open arms. That year, Hertha presented "Jasmine", her first tableware set for the company, handmade from clay. Hertha's time at Hoganas resulted in one additional dinner set, and a series of unique individual stoneware. In the Spring of 1969, Hertha’s collaboration with Hoganas ended.
At 52 years old, Hertha found herself unemployed and without collaborative support for the first time in her professional life. Later the same year, Hertha contacted the German porcelain giant Rosenthal, which had already taken notice of the ambitious Swede's eye for design and profitability. From 1969-1981, Hertha worked as a freelance artist and designer for Rosenthal. In total, she produced six service sets for the company.
In the 1970s, Hertha developed an interest in glassware. She embarked on a collaboration with Strömbergshyttans Glassworks and began to design artistic glass pieces. With her unwavering energy and work ethic, Hertha worked until her death in 1993, leaving behind a legacy of dynamic design.