Danish

The Dansk Collection We Found in a 1960s Time Capsule

Yes, and the original ad too.

September 26, 2018
Photo by Ad Courtesy of Dansk

This is an ad for dishes. And yet, somehow, it reminds you of a scent. Freshly clipped grass, maybe. That and just-bleached whites billowing on the laundry line. (Let’s have a moment of silent appreciation for the days of thinly sliced hard boiled egg props and discoteque font.) But back to this memory: you’ve been outside all day building forts. Well, spacecraft to be precise, made with wood and blankets held together with household objects you didn’t get permission to borrow. You have dirt under your nails. You’re so hungry you can’t remember what food tastes like. You’ve been nosing into the kitchen every ten minutes asking when dinner would be ready only to be booted out. And then suddenly, just when you thought you would die of starvation, you hear a call from the window. The call comes out on the wings of the sweetest smells in the universe: Cream of chicken soup. Paprika. Golden onion crisps left just two minutes too long under the broiler. You run inside. You don’t even take off your shoes. Because there, on the table before you is a Dansk pan, still bubbling, sending up great curlicues of steam.

Tuck in your napkin first. Photo by Ty Mecham & Rocky Luten

Maybe this is why so many of us find ourselves digging around flea markets and earnestly scouring ebay. We’re looking for that deep blue casserole pan our mother sold at a yard sale decades ago, aren’t we? (We were too young to know it was a Danish icon—one we’d covet for our tables later.)

With a strong Scandinavian minimalist structure (and a songbird-egg-like speckle) Dansk Generations evokes a time where canned yams were a novelty and everything tasted better with pineapple rings on top. But few people know how the line all got started. In the late 1950s, Neils Refsgaard was just out of college and bent on being a studio potter. He built his own kiln from the wreckage of a demolished one. He did it all by hand. And in the very same wood-burning beast, not long after, he collaborated with Dansk to make the line you see today. The casserole pans, roasters, and bowls started humbly, globbily taking shape on his wheel in a quiet workshop in Denmark. As time passed, Neils stuck to low-technology methods—the ones he’d picked up as a student at Kunsthåndværkerskolen i København (the School for Arts and Crafts). To stay as involved as possible during collaborations he often set up camp next door to factories where his designs were being produced—for weeks. Often, months. And sometimes years.

Still overseen by the man, the myth, and the legend, Neils himself. Photo by Ty Mecham & Rocky Luten

Which brings us back to the ad. It says that promises to redefine china, that “delicate eggshell stuff you could see a candle through.” Together with Neil’s pottery wheel, Dansk was offering a line of dishware that celebrated flaws as a sign of hand-crafted-ness. And the name? They call it Generations because they had it feeling it might start something—safe to say it did.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“My Mom gave me the one that she bought Waaaay Back in the day. She used to make some killer dishes in this!! I inherited from her in 1990 and haven't done things with it anywhere near her delicacies! 13 1/4" span x 3 1/2" deep. (Photos are with FB post)”
— Sam B.
Comment

Over half a century later, Neils is still making his rounds in the Dansk factory, now for the exclusive relaunch of the Generations line. That childhood casserole scene? Maybe you could reenact that this Wednesday. With all the oven-to-table charm of the 1960s the line is back in a dusky blue and an exclusive-to-Food52 speckle. Now, instead of haggling and bidding, you can start looking at roast recipes (how bout this one for starters?) and you can tell your dinner guests you’re serving it from a dish made by the original Danish designer

Have a favorite Dansk (or vintage dishwater) memory? Please tell us about it in the comments below!

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4 Comments

Sam B. September 27, 2018
My Mom gave me the one that she bought Waaaay Back in the day. She used to make some killer dishes in this!! I inherited from her in 1990 and haven't done things with it anywhere near her delicacies! 13 1/4" span x 3 1/2" deep. (Photos are with FB post)
 
Author Comment
Maggie S. September 30, 2018
What a wonderful heirloom! Would love to know what her favorite recipes were.
 
maggie September 26, 2018
AHH, dansk! loved it then and still do. Bring it on and THANKS
 
Author Comment
Maggie S. September 30, 2018
Another Maggie! So happy you enjoyed. I'm purchasing my first Dansk soon and can't wait to make something autumnal in it.