Shiva Vase by Ettore Sottsass

Ettore Sottsass' penis-shaped Shiva Vase now comes in gold

Shiva Vase by Ettore Sottsass

News: Spanish design brand BD Barcelona has released a limited-edition gold version of the suggestively shaped Shiva Vase by late Italian Postmodernist designer Ettore Sottsass.

Ettore Sottsass, a leading member of the 1980s Memphis group, designed the original ceramic Shiva Vase for BD Barcelona in 1973.

The 23-centimetre-tall pink-glazed vessel, shaped like an erect penis, has an opening in the top for displaying flowers and is balanced by two low rounded elements on either side.

Two years before Sottsass' death in 2005, a prototype version of the vase was created with a gold finish as a reward for an international student design competition. It has now been produced in a limited and numbered edition of 50 copies.

Shiva Vase by Ettore Sottsass
Ettore Sottsass with the gold prototype version of the Shiva Vase

Sottsass began designing for BD Barcelona in the early 1970s, when he made many trips to the Catalan capital.

Describing how Sottsass proposed the design to the company, general manager Jordi Arnau told Dezeen that "the only explanation that our partners and founders give (laughing) is that at that time he was really in love with a girlfriend in Barcelona that he visited frequently".

"We love to have this iconic design in our catalogue," said Arnau. "I think it represents very well the transgressive character of our company, a value that we must never lose."

Sottsass' first design for the brand was his Mettsass table in 1972, followed by the Manhattan ceramic ashtray, the Element Architecture glass vase and the Knossos lamp.

The 1973 Shiva Vase – named after the Hindu god responsible for the destruction of the universe to pave way for its regeneration, who is often represented by a phallic object called a lingam – was designed following Sottsass' visits to India and appeared in BD Barcelona's first catalogue.

Shiva Vase by Ettore Sottsass
The original pink-glazed ceramic Shiva Vase

At the time, Sottsass wrote: "...I continue to produce small, small, small architectures, such as this ceramic piece, for example, a little like monuments, a little like tombs, a little like the abandoned temples of the gods, a little like the ruins of the ancient and unknown civilisation in which something – they say – was known; it is said that they understood the axes, the curves, the intersections, perhaps even the causation of the courses of the cosmic bodies, along which each day slide the private vertices of the atoms that make up our fragile flesh and blood."

A decade later, he went on to co-found the Memphis group of designers and artists in Milan, whose bold, colourful style resurfaced at the city's design week earlier this year.

Sottsass was born in Austria in 1917 and studied design at the Polytechnic University of Turin. From 1956 he worked for 20 years as a design consultant for communication device production company Olivetti, where he designed the famous Valentine typewriter in 1969.