What’s in a Bowl

green metal bowlI grabbed this olive green bowl from the top of a kitchen cabinet yesterday to hold some dark purple grapes. Mostly it sits up there high above the stove with two other bowls, one black and one dark brown. All three are the same shape, all made of enamel-coated metal.

On the other set of cabinets I have three more enameled bowls, one the same shape but white with a mushroom pattern, a smaller one in red, and one bigger and not as steep in black with a white lotus pattern.

All the bowls except the last were designed by Kaj Franck for Arabia Finel of Finland. The lotus-patterned bowl is from Catherineholm. Catherine is not a person, but the name of a Norwegian company. These familiar designs are the work of Grete Prytz–sort of.  Although she came from a family of well-known enamelists in Oslo, and became the chief designer at the Catherineholm factory, the in-house lotus pattern was added to her collection without her approval. Apparently she never liked the design.

As a rule I’m not a fan of things stuck on top of kitchen cabinets. Baskets on cabinets I don’t like. Random cookie jars, fake deli meats, old steins with (or without) lids, plates with farm scenes—somebody likes these things on top of their kitchen cabinets, but not me.  These bowls, however, look great. And when I take them down the cabinets look naked.

I’m not sure why I should like my bowls so much. Bowls are containers, and many people enjoy collecting containers of one sort or another–jars, boxes, bowls, teapots, piggy banks, the aforementioned baskets and cookie jars. I don’t know why. Maybe because vessels allow us to hold and possess and squirrel away things. And of course, many of these containers were skillfully designed and crafted and are beautiful objects themselves.

Though they are in excellent condition my bowls are not relegated to a purely decorative existence. Enameled bowls do have limits, because they scratch easily and can lose enamel at the edges. Still, I would use them even more if I would remember they are up there when I need a bowl.

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