Jane Wålstedt was one of the leading Swedish ceramists of the 1950s. She worked out of Laholm.
Jane Wålstedt was born in Malmö in 1917. She grew up in Stockholm where her father was a bank director as well as the Argentine consul. After finishing her basic education she attended Tekniska skolan (later Konstfack, school of arts, crafts and design) in Stockholm. Jane Wålstedt completed her studies in 1945, having also taken a short sculpting course offered by the exiled Professor Harald Isenstein from Berlin Academy of Fine Arts. Jane Wålstedt then worked in Sjöbo, for the potter Elfstrand, and later on in Höganäs with Andersson & Johansson. Eventually she got a position at Olof Larsson’s ceramic workshop in Laholm where she met her future husband and work partner Nils Larsson. In 1950 they purchased a large building at Krukmakaregränd 8 in Laholm where they based their studio for twenty years.
Jane Wålstedt and Nils Larsson named their studio JANI (taking the first two letters of each of their Christian names), giving rise to their trademark: JANI-keramik. They hired several ceramists, supplemented during the summer months by apprentices from elsewhere, including Konstfack. Initially Jane Wålstedt produced similar designs to those she had created for Olof Larsson, using white tin glazing which served as a perfect underlay for her neat, feather-light summer flowers, fish, cats, and branches bearing apples and plums. What is now considered to be classic Jane Wålstedt flower patterns, hearts, dill-stems and blueberry branches came to decorate jugs and pitchers, bowls, plates, coffee sets, cutting boards, cheese boards, and serving trenchers. Her salt-and-pepper shakers, and sugar, oil and vinegar holders all became popular. JANI-keramik often produced three-sided dishes and bowls. They made use of oxide paint also known as set glazing: using soft brushes metallic oxide washes were painted directly onto the items. In order to achieve really distinctive patterns specific patches were covered by wax to keep them paint-free or a scraping technique was applied. The wax melted away during the firing process. Lastly the items were glazed and placed in the oven for firing. Nils Larsson was in charge of the ovens and glazing. He also took care of the business whilst Jane Wålstedt did the decorative painting. Only rarely did she turn items herself, choosing to leave that to the turners. At its peak around twenty people worked at the workshop.
During the early years Jane Wålstedt created new motifs, portraying carrots, open shelled peas, paprikas, lemons, sliced limes, oranges and both red and white onions, topped or untopped. She decorated small and large serving dishes, marking the edges with black pigment. The peak of her pattern-making was represented by large oval platters covered in still lifes depicting fruit and fish. The plates bearing facing flatfish with elegant fins became very popular. In the spring of 1952 the workshop received a commission to produce a magnificent lidded urn to be presented to Prince Bertil on his 40th birthday. This became a tin-glazed white urn surrounded in decorative flowers.
Jane Wålstedt and Nils Larsson experimented with different clays until they found the right type with which to turn slender items. The clay had to tolerate having patterns scraped or covered in wax so that the decoration was more prominent. The technique was almost the same as that used in producing batik, albeit adjusted to ceramics and the firing process. Another method used entailed scraping off the glazing around the coloured sections and allowing the colour of the clay to form a decorative element. Porcelain-thin bowls, plates, vases, boxes for sweets, coffee serving sets and jugs were all produced. Cylindrical umbrella stands, figurines, floor vases and lamp pedestals were amongst JANI-keramik’s innovations. The enamel-like glazed pattern details in grey-green, yellow-green, yellow and purple tones stood out well against the red clay background. Jane Wålstedt painted her decorations freehand whilst the girls hired to paint often needed to use pattern paper.
Jane Wålstedt’s platters portraying fantastical images of African women formed a special category of their own. She had met some African women at a major reception in Paris which inspired her to create fantastical decorated images comprising African women with big hair, Rastafarian braids, and turbans as well as oversized earrings. Many of these platters were intended to be hung on the wall – and they contained holes for inserting hooks with which to hang them. Jane Wålstedt used enamel-like colours when painting on red copper and marked the edges with black lines. She created hundreds of different images of women, both facing the viewer and in profile.
An article in the Göteborgs-Tidningen newspaper of 4 December 1955 noted that a hotel director in Sarasota, Florida, had learned of a series of decorative platters with Viking saga motifs which had been commissioned by Svenska Amerika Linien. He wanted to acquire some for his hotel. The article reveals that it was thanks to the Viking saga elements on the goods sold to the shipping company that Jane Wålstedt had been heavily written-up. The twelve decorative items were sold many years later at an international auction of discontinued shipping-line inventories and finally ended up in Sweden. They are important for the history of Swedish form and design.
In the mid-1950s JANI-keramik was commissioned to produce a largescale relief to decorate a wall for Sjukstugan (now Vårdcentralen on Danska vägen) in Laholm. Its motif is inspired by Den barmhärtige samariten (The Good Samaritan) and is strongly reminiscent of Bror Hjort’s stylised wooden art. Nordiska Kompaniet (NK) department store in Stockholm placed a special commission with JANI-keramik for a magnificent bowl nearly 55 cm in diameter to be displayed in a shop window. Both NK and Ferdinand Lundkvist warehouse in Gothenburg sold ceramics produced by Jane Wålstedt and Nils Larsson and their items also proved to be lucrative exports to the USA.
Towards the end of the 1960s Jane Wåhlstedt began to produce manger scenes and animals. Rustic beetles and hedgehogs were all the rage. She also produced chamotte figurines that were half a metre tall. Around this time it became difficult for Swedish ceramic workshops to make a profit. The larger department stores and gift shops were beginning to import cheap ceramics from southern Europe and Asia. In the summer of 1970 Laholms Konstklubb held an exhibition of various artists’ work including that of JANI-keramik’s new star-shaped wall-decorations. The Wålstedt-Larsson couple gradually reduced their workshop output, eventually closing it down.
Jane Wålstedt took up painting in pastels and watercolours during her senior years. Her preferred motif was flowers, often colourful sunflowers, sky-blue irises, and bright-red tulips. Landscapes depicting billowing chamomile fields and blooming poppy fields formed the highlight of her painting efforts. She visited the barren Lofoten coasts but she was also inspired by the soft, rolling hills of Provence and their grey-green olive trees and lavender fields. The rocky beaches of Bretagne also formed some of her favourite motifs.
In 1993 Keramikmuseet (museum of ceramics) opened in Laholm at the former JANI-keramik workshops at Krukmakaregränd.
Jane Wålstedt died in Laholm in 2009.