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Cinde W. Ingram

Danish designs for universal appeal Monica Ritterband sets no boundaries

Designers Within

Monica Ritterband
Her Morso 7600 design created a circular shape and wide viewing window.

Monica Ritterband's designs shine new light on traditional and functional objects far beyond Denmark, where her art appears as cultural icons in sculpture, murals, carpets and dinnerware.

The petite blonde applied her artistic vision to the cast-iron Morso 7600 wood stove series, which launched to the U.S. hearth market earlier this year. She designed the stove to appeal to all the senses and cast-iron accents to add light-hearted touches to the chores of tending the fire. While developing her Feet line of hearth accessories, she imagined a log holder going outside to fetch more wood.

“With accessories, you can call for a smile,” Ritterband said.

The Danish artist and designer sought a softer shape for the stove because she knows homeowners will live with it for many years, and for months each year when it's not needed for heat. She also wanted users to be able to appreciate the ambience of dancing flames.

Ritterband spent four years researching the technical aspects of stoves as she developed the Morso 7600 series, which has a circular shape with a wide glass door viewing area. “When they watch fire, they can think of it as a painting that keeps moving,” she said.

“I think the stove is the most important piece of furniture in the house,” she said. “The new generation of wood stove owner does not want the same style as their parents. Because a stove has to be in a house for 20 to 30 years, it has a limit in how modern it can be.” Consumers can choose from four versions of the stove.

“The 7600 series is outstanding in terms of artist designs and advanced engineering,” Morso President Craig Shankster said. “Morso raised the bar in terms of stove innovation by collaborating with a famous Danish artist and designer, creating the largest viewing window in Morso's 156-year history, and instituting the greenest possible practices from manufacturing to delivery.”

Winning the Nordic Swan Eco-label for her environmentally friendly designs was an extra bonus for Ritterband.

“I would like it if people can see the organic, human touch and maybe use it for the rest of their lives,” she said. “I'm hoping my design will be an evergreen.”

Early in life, Ritterband was influenced by her mother's large mosaics and her aunt's huge sculptures. Although educated as a journalist, her creative muse moved beyond writing articles to find expression through art ranging from mosaics and sculptures to musical lyrics and welding.

In 1997, she left her career as a communications manager and vice president to take the plunge as a full-time artist. She purposefully sets no limits for her art. Her works range from massive to tiny. Balance is a theme she returns to time after time. Many of her large sculptures rest on a single bearing point and appear weightless.

Though her grandfather died years before her birth, studying the shapely notes and curvy treble cliffs of his hand-written compositions inspired her Musica figurines that play across Royal Copenhagen's porcelain dinnerware. The Musica figures represent the human characteristics themes she repeats as do the abstract Dancers she created for Ege carpets. Based on the idea of X and Y chromosomes, five figures dance or fight on blocks of carpet homeowners can configure and customize.

“The idea was that people should make their own art,” Ritterband said. Her Dancers wander into a range of mosaic pictures, paintings and jewelry, sometimes as secondary players. Their graphic lives spawned her Seducer and Seductress figures, which appear on paintings, mosaics and damask-woven bed linens and pillows. Her Humans and Raindrops figures take on personalities reproduced on tablecloths, forged in gold, formed in steel and painted as a school wall mural.

When asked which material is her favorite Ritterband said, “The latest material I have in my hand is the material I have in my mind. I like contradictions; I like to move between my poles.”

She uses her journalistic skills and also draws passion from her inner spirit as she develops different artistic and commercial design projects. “It is research of the heart,” Ritterband said. “The difference between art and journalism is art comes through the soul.”

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