x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Blow away vase

Object of desire Delftware, the Dutch version of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain is not cheesy at all.


I have always had a soft spot for Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. Whether an exquisite 17th-century Kangxi jar that I can only gaze at longingly in a saleroom catalogue or a set of inexpensive soup bowls from a market, there's something about the intricate patterns rendered in that simple colouring that I find really uplifting. (As an interesting historic footnote, among the first blue and white Chinese pieces were large dishes made for Arab tradesmen in Persia, who supplied the cobalt oxide needed to achieve the blue colouring).

That said, Delftware, the Dutch version of the genre, often seemed a little cheesy to me, with its pictures of windmills and seascapes. A bit too holiday souvenir, somehow. But there is nothing remotely cheesy about the Blow Away vase - except perhaps the pun I had to make, after seeing it in Moooi's new collection in Milan: I was blown away by it. First there is the purely aesthetic: that clearest of cobalt blues on the background of pure white Royal Delft porcelain; the flowing, almost organic shape of the top that makes it a beautiful stand-alone piece even without flowers.

Second, there is the clever wit of its creator, the Swedish design studio, Front, whose members - Sofia Lagerkvist, Charlotte von der Lancken, Anna Lindgren and Katja Sävström - have a special talent for making ordinary objects extraordinary (witness their life-sized Horse lamp and Pig coffee table, also designed for Moooi). And finally, there is the technology that has made possible this subversion of tradition. A classically painted Royal Delft vase was created and then, using CAD software, a 3-D image of it was subjected to a directional wind force that reshaped its form - something that would be impossible in reality. The animation of this, consisting of thousands upon thousands of frames, was "freeze-framed" and technicians used that frame to model the new form, developing a highly intricate mould for the porcelain itself, as well as the hyper-realistic "blown" image of the decoration.

A highly complex process for a deceptively simple - and deeply covetable - object. Tradition turned inside-out and put back together again. Love it. Available to order through Atmosphere in Abu Dhabi (02 666 5053) and B&B Italia in Dubai (04 340 5797), approximately Dh4,275. www.moooi.com