These small ashtrays are Norwegian, designed by Richard Duborgh (1932-2007), and made by the arts and crafts commune PLUS in the 1960â€™s and 70â€™s. They were meant to accompany each place setting at the dinner table, in an era when most people smoked. They were also popular gifts, and corporations, town councils and others often ordered these ashtrays with their own logos imprinted on them, which explains the wide variety of images to be found.
Designer Richard Duborghâ€™s original craft was pottery, but he designed some nice if uncomplicated glass while at PLUS. He was in charge of glass design and production there from 1960 until 1970, when Benny Motzfeldt took over. Duborgh returned to pottery, setting up his own workshop.
PLUS was situated in the town of Fredrikstad, in southeastern Norway. It started in 1957 and was active for exactly 20 years. They made glass, pottery, furniture, textiles and other objects created by some of Norwayâ€™s leading designers. The idea was to refine public taste through offering good, modern design at affordable prices. In the 1960â€™s and early 1970â€™s PLUS was a huge success. But as the 1970â€™s became increasingly politicized, PLUS gradually broke up, as the artists associated with the movement engaged in the heated debate over whether their skills should be used to create political art, or merely fill bougouise homes with pleasant objects. By 1978, PLUS disintegrated totally, and officially came to an end. 1500 choice and/or representative objects (glass, textiles, pottery etc.) were donated to Fredrikstad Museum.
In their time, PLUS was an influential movement in Norway, producing some very good arts and crafts objects, improving people's tastes and homes, and it was a very good school for up-and-coming artists and designers. After its demise, PLUS was long forgotten, but recently, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its birth (and the 30th anniversary of its death), there was a large exhibition here in Norway, with an accompanying book published.
Yes, Swedish glass artist Erik HÃ¶glund made similar but somewhat larger ashtrays, and I can see why the confusion arises. But the ashtrays in question are definitely from PLUS in Norway. They pop up at every flea market here, and even if theyâ€™re truly inexpensive, Iâ€™ve stopped buying them. Who has twenty smokers at the table these days?