The Design Culture and Whimsical Work of Ettore Sottsass

Born in 1917, in Innsbruck Austria, Ettore Sottsass brought ironic wit, bold colors and contemporary styling to everyday objects. In 1958, he started to work with Olivetti as a design consultant for more than twenty years. In 1967, together with Fernanda Pivano and the poet Allen Ginsberg, he founded the magazine ‘pianeta fresco’. In the 1980’s he created the Memphis group of international postmodern designers and architects. This design collective is known for neon colors, odd, angled shapes, kitsch suburban motifs and laminate patterns containing squiggle graphics.

The Carlton book case c.1981. Boasts the classic Memphis movement elements, wood and plastic laminate constructed in an array of colors, unusual angles and whimsy.
The ‘Eastside’ lounge chairs, c.1980 were commissioned by Knoll, in wool upholstery with metal frames.

The glazed stoneware ‘Lapislazzuli’ tea pot c.1972 is from Sotsass’ Indian Memories series.

This ceramic totem c.1978, contains stacks of smooth pleasing shapes in enameled ceramic over a central pole structure with a lacquer wooden base. Think towers, skyscrapers and monoliths.

Ettore Sotsass’ ‘Tahiti’ lamp c.1981, continues the functional yet whimsical Memphis story in painted metal and laminate with confetti patterned graphics. The ‘duck’ has a pivoting head which contains the bulb.

The ‘Enorme’ telephone was designed for the Turin-based company Brondi phone in1986. Made in plastic and silicone, the ‘Enorme’ telephone is now part of the permanent collection of MoMA.