Axel Salto (1889-1961) is counted among the masters of Danish design, although his tenets for creative work often went against the functionalist aesthetics of his contemporaries and successors. Salto's decorative ceramics were couched in sculptural, rather than functional, forms. His outcome was highly respected, and his pieces were bought during the height of his career for the collection at the Copenhagen Industrial Arts Museum. Formally trained at the Copenhagen Academy of Art, his style evolved from heavy, somber woodcuts, to painting and ceramics. He painted his entire life, illustrated several books of children's stories and poetry, designed textiles for L.F. Foght and was one of the founders of the journal Klingen, in 1917. It was his sensual and unprecedentedapproach to ceramics, though, that brought his career into the international spotlight.
Salto's early work is inspired heavily by classical languages and Greek mythology -- his undergraduate major -- as well as by the visual motifs of Art Deco, religious and especially demonic iconography. His pieces later turned to the forms of nature, such as seedpods, budding flowers or fruit, for their fertile energy and form. Salto's approach was to "create in accordance with nature, rather than to copy its exterior." Using relief patterns on the surface of his pieces, Salto was also able to use his ornamentation as a vehicle for the different glazing techniques. Rows of "seeds" or a more angular hive pattern on the outside of a vase would reveal the properties of the glaze as it slidbetween grooves, exposing its varying thickness and sheen.
He worked first at Bing & Grondahl from 1923-29 and later at Royal Copenhagen where he developed several glazes specifically for his pieces and experimented with colors new to the Danish palette, like bright turquoise. Salto maintained his own studio as well, primarily for his painting, but also for his collaborations with other artistslike Carl Halier.
Salto's best known works are grouped into three categories: "budding," "sprouting," and "fluted." The names refer to the form of the pieces, which range from the angular horn shapes to low, rotund vases. Salto's work was unique for its time because of his uninhibited and passionate approach to developing and manipulating new shapes and colors. This energy went against the prevailing trend, which was to create in the serene, cool style of Japanese and Chinese ceramics. He won a number of awards, including a silver medal for work he did at Bing & Grondahl at the 1925 Paris World Exhibition, the 1937 Paris World Exhibition Grand Prix and the 1951 Milan Triennial Grand Prix.