Furniture and textile design have deep roots in Sweden history. One of the most famous designers, Josef Frank, changed modern design in Sweden. As an architect, he began to realize that Modernism was too standardized, cold, and harsh. This inspired him to try and bring beauty back into living spaces, wanting the space to be open, with the feeling of being able to breath and be free. In 1934 Josef joined Svenskt Tenn where his designs were inspired and enhanced by its owner Estrid Erickson. They both believed that beauty is for everyone. In his designs, Josef employed the use of bright colors and natural forms to try and bring the feeling of being outside into interior spaces.
As a graphic designer, in training, I am inspired by his designs. The free natural forms are beautiful and work in wallpapers, textiles, and modern advertisement designs.
Lars Pirak, a Sami artist, was born in 1932 in Jokkmokk, far north in Sweden. His art grew from the indigenous Sami culture spanning over Scandinavia and northern Russia that’s still active today. For his entire life he was surrounded by Sami duodji (craft) and grew to become a skilled artist in the form. Pirak’s fine art ranges from crafting sculptures such as his famous Ptarmigan (bird shaped salt cellar made from reindeer antler) and paintings of Sami life. He was well known for participating in festivals and singing joik (Sami songs). He died in 2008. What drew me to Pirak’s work was his illustrative detailed style in his paintings of landscape, reindeer, and people, and his use of vibrant colors contrasted with the arctic landscape.
I was interested in Celtic knot work and the interweaving of a design in 2D space. I studied Irish art and discovered that the patterns were introduced through Viking trading in Ireland. The Viking metal work was usually made with the metal from coins, jewelry, and other metal objects taken or paid to them as tribute. The surfaces would be decorated in a pattern of interlocking links, and transformed into the use of animal figures contorted in strange positions. The designs became more elaborate and delicate through the years 800-1100 CE and each style is named for the location where it was uncovered.
It’s amazing how much Kosta Boda and other glassworks have influenced the Swedish culture. Glass is a large facet of the art scene and is celebrated in cathedrals, the streets of Vaxjo, and in many Swedish homes. Bertil Vallien’s glass altarpiece is in the Vaxjo Cathedral, but his work can also be found in people’s homes, in such as Annika Olofsson’s, which we visited. Not only does he design one-of-a-kind fine decorative art, he also designs inexpensive pieces that everyone can afford. Bertil Vallien has been a designer for Kosta Boda for many years along with his wife, Ulric Hydman-Vallien. Kosta Boda has been making glass since 1742. Now they house designers from all over the world to design affordable glassworks for everyone to enjoy. Along with other colleagues, the Valliens create accessible art for all, carrying on the Kosta Boda tradition. I find significance in the way this art form has become a part of Swedish daily life. Finding beauty in everyday items and household décor remains an important and perpetuated Swedish tradition.
Annika Olofsson’s Kosebo Studio, May 24. The studio was so close to nature. I just love the forest and it was all around us. The studio had a good feeling with birds chirping, lambs grazing, and plants and snails everywhere. Annika also created a really open environment to make work. It was warm and welcoming. Because we couldn’t fire the clay, the process was more important than the final product. She walked around and loved everything people were doing.
Annika talked about how artists get lost in their work. Time isn’t really a factor, you forget about everything else and zone into it. She said it is important to have a spiritual side and let that show through your work.
My inspiration was the gnarled trees I saw when we first came to Vaxjo and on the trip through the Swedish countryside.
Wednesday, May 22, our group traveled to the IKEA world corporate headquarters to meet Anna Rosenquist, IKEA training manager, and Sarah Fager, IKEA designer. The information we learned from them was invaluable. They showed us a perceptual map (diagram with four quadrants to fulfill several different needs of consumers) which consisted of Traditional-Popular, Scandinavian-Traditional, Scandinavian-Modern, and Modern-Popular. Every product designed at IKEA fits one of these four approaches, to maintain IKEA’s identity while also satisfying consumers wants and needs. IKEA’s main motto is “democratic design,” meaning they design each of their products needs to fulfill five traits: good form, functionality, low price point, quality, and sustainability.
I also spoke with Sarah personally about being a designer for IKEA, and was thrilled with how much she shared with me about her profession. Sweden’s culture is much more collaborative then America. One thing that Sarah had said to me is “no one is a super star, everyone contributes equally and is just as important as the next.” I have grown up in a society where we focus on who can make the most money, be the most successful. It was refreshing to meet people who have a different view on what a fulfilling life entails.
John Bauer is a famous illustrator from Jönköping, Sweden. He is most known for the illustrations he made for a book that came out each year, the annual Bland tamtar och troll (Among elves and trolls). In the editions he worked on from 1907-1915, he put classic folklore into pictures that depicted the essence of the stories. He illustrated elves, trolls, animals, and princesses. The stories describe the trolls as villains, and with this Bauer was able to allow the reader to be warned, while never being frightened by the trolls. These stories are located in the deepest parts of the Swedish forest, where darkness lives, but Bauer added light to his illustrations through the moon, and around the princesses. His illustrations help tell these classic Swedish folklore, and help the stories live on. I especially liked the nature aspect of his work and the beauty behind it. Because I grew up in Minnesota, it felt like home. (Image: John Bauer from Alfred Smedberg’s The Seven Wishes in Among Pixies and Trolls.)