Good things come in small packages, like Danish modernism in Dansk-emblazoned boxes. In the 1960s, industrial designer Jens Quistgaard introduced his country’s aesthetic to America via a collection of tiny teak pepper mills, featured in our November 2008 In the Modern World section.
But because we’re hamstrung by the 8.5”x11” page sizes of the printed magazine, not all of our interview with Quistgaard expert Mark Perlson, author of Danish Pepper: Jens Quistgaard’s Teak Pepper Mills, made it into your mailbox. Here’s the back-story on how Perlson developed a palate for pepper mills and how the “super structure” spiced up the American kitchen.
How it all began: I can’t remember why I ended up with my first Quistgaard mill but then I got another and then I found one at an antique store for $5 and I recognized it as a Quistgaard, too. Once you have three then it’s like “Huh, there are more of these?”
Building his collection: Somebody won an auction with a Dansk catalogue in it. I emailed the guy and asked for a copy. Once I got that I had this checklist for the collection.
From blog to book: I kept piecing together all this information—from photos, descriptions, the catalogue, old Dansk ads—and I got the idea to write a book because there was nothing out there about Dansk or about Quistgaard, and it’s such a rich history and amazing collection of design.
Required registration: If you got married in the 60s, Dansk was the nice stuff that you got. After I started collecting the mills I looked through my mom’s china cabinet and, sure enough, there was all this Dansk stuff that she’d gotten for her wedding.
Touchable recognition: You can just tell if a mill is by Quistgaard just by picking it up: how it feels, how it’s finished, how it’s formed. Sometimes you buy a mill on eBay hoping it’s a Quistgaard but you can tell right away from touch if it’s genuine or not.
Perlson’s pepper mills: People think it’s really weird that I wrote a book about pepper mills—and it is. But when they see the book they say, “Oh my god, this is really cool.” Pepper mills are not something most people think of collecting but you see one, then you start seeing a couple of them, you realize what a body of work Quistgaard’s mills are.