Domestic Goddess: Ilse Crawford for Georg Jensen

Intrigued by the nature of daily rituals, Ilse Crawford creates a functional but poetic line for Georg Jensen.

The small tasks at the beginning and end of a day, entering or exiting a home, are of great interest to designer Ilse Crawford. The objects touched, the small items collected, the putting down or picking up of keys, rings on, watch off, pockets emptied and coins saved. 

These rituals, soothingly familiar but so innocuous they are typically performed without consideration, are celebrated in Georg Jensen’s Ilse Collection, the first collaboration between the luxury Danish design house and Crawford, the influential British interiors and product designer.

Built around this concept of daily ritual, the collection comprises two bowls, two vases, three boxes and a candleholder, designed to house objects deemed special by virtue of their daily use.

“The Ilse collection is for holding the special things that you use every day,” explains Crawford. “We wanted to make a series of pieces that could be integrated within your daily life and that wouldn’t be stuck away in a cupboard for ‘best’. I imagine them being next to the bed, in the bathroom, on a desk – those places around the home where you put things so you can find them again.”

The range is imbued with the essential humanity and discreet beauty that is a hallmark of Crawford and her design firm Studioilse. Key to the design process was a sensitivity and awareness of the myriad ways in which human beings interact with objects and their environment.

Further inspiration for the collection came from delving into the Georg Jensen archives, consulting with their artisans and immersion in aspects of Scandinavian culture and sensibilities.

Apart from their elegant form, value is imparted via straightforward functionality, with all pieces adaptable for different contexts. Edges are soft and materials mixed; the chilly elegance of stainless steel is tempered by warm brass, rich copper and solemn black glass.

There is a gentle and expressive femininity to the pieces, conveyed most dramatically within the magnificent sinuous curves of the ‘Mama’ vase. The tactile, full-bellied form is undoubtedly the collection’s linchpin and has been identified as a potential design classic with its inauguration into Georg Jensen’s carefully edited line of signature items, Masterpieces. 

Crawford is the first female designer to receive this honour but observes that the elevated status of the vase was a happy accident and not by design. “We were just trying to do a collection that was as good as it could be.”

Crawford has Danish heritage and believes that this partly explains her easy affinity with Scandinavian culture and the values and approach of Georg Jensen. “I like very much that in Scandinavian culture there has never been a big division between the homely and the modern; those two together with humanistic design have always been one and the same.”

Crawford believes the influence this has on the creative process is palpable, creating an environment for pieces to evolve as “warm and usable and appealing to so many people as well as having great design credentials.” She may have just described the Ilse Crawford collection.

This story was first published in Vogue Living May/June 2012. Download a PDF of the story.