Swid Powell

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(established 1982)

Well known for its promotion of fashionable ceramics, silverware, and glass by leading international, generally Postmodernist, architect‐designers the New York‐based Swid Powell company was founded by Nan Swid and Addie Powell, both of whom had a background in contemporary furniture. They had worked for Knoll International, a firm well known for its production of Modernist classics, Swid as a director of product development, Powell as vice‐president of sales. Amongst the nine architects involved in preliminary discussions were former Modernist Philip Johnson, Stanley Tigerman, and Richard Meier, all of whom were enthusiastic about designing for a wider public than those able to commission buildings by fashionable designers. In 1984 the first Swid Powell collection of porcelain dinnerware, silverware, and glass was launched, proving highly commercial in design‐conscious retail outlets. Those designing for Swid Powell included many of the celebrity ‘names’ associated with international design, such as Arata Isosaki, Ettore Sottsass, Zaha Hadid, George Sowden, Robert Venturi, and Michael Graves. The diversity of references, historical and populist, found in Postmodernism is exemplified in work for Swid Powell. Richard Meier's decorative detailing drew on his familiarity with the early 20th‐century work of the Wiener Werkstätte and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Robert and Trix Haussman, on the other hand, referenced the ears of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse in the grinding mechanisms of their Swid Powell pepper grinder. Michael Graves was also keen to explore colour symbolism in his work for the company. In his Little Dripper drip‐filter coffee pot (1986), for example, the terracotta glazed base represented heat and the colour of coffee and the blue wavy lines signified water. The company continued to develop its fashionable profile in the late 20th century.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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