Circular cloth lamps illuminate the tunnel-like entrance that leads to the Färg & Blanche design studio in Södermalm, a district in central Stockholm that is home to prominent Swedish artists and the characters of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. The basement-turned-studio is where Fredrik and Emma Blanche created their talked-about furniture line by sewing pieces of plywood. Some of them are on display, while others feature in the film Longing to Fly/Longing to Fall, by architect and musician Erika Janunger and choreographer Oskar Frisk, that plays on a screen. In the film, the dancers’ gravity-defying movements strikes a contrast with the static furniture. The exhibition of furniture and the film on loop, made for a striking installation during the Stockholm Design Week. Such blending of dance, music and design, may sound unusual, but it’s not far from the Swedish way of life. Design has always been seamlessly integrated into every facet of it.
One cannot escape the term ‘design’ in Stockholm. And during the annual design week in February, it becomes almost impossible when Stockholmsmässan — an international fairs and congress centre in the city’s southern suburb — plays host to the Stockholm Furniture Fair and the Northern Light Fair. Apart from the fairs, the number of design events happening across this island city crossed 60 this year.
According to author Susanne Helgeson, one of the four speakers at the introductory event hosted by Svensk Form, an organisation committed to promote Swedish form and design, Swedish design has a long legacy and tradition of honesty and quality, beginning from the materials to the production, and focussing on the needs of the user. “That combined with the ‘look’ — refined simplicity — makes it worthwhile and appealing,” says Helgeson, who points out that the Swedes were peasants for ages. “When industrialisation arrived, there was a strong political lobby for making things better for many people, by bringing artists into the industries to get more beautiful everyday products,” she adds.
Over the years, the sort of collaboration that Färg & Blanche’s installation demonstrated has become de rigueur in Scandinavia. Bolon, a company that produces woven vinyl products, too, follows this trend. Its latest collection, Silence, is inspired by the tranquillity of nature, and was launched with a short film called The Contradiction of Silence, directed by choreographer Alexander Ekman. Known internationally for his modern interpretation of classical dance forms, Ekman combined playful choreography and energy with Bolon’s method of weaving.
The most impressive collaborative work in Sweden has an ephemeral quality. Icehotel in north Sweden is built every year with the ice harvested from the Torne river, and artists are invited to design its luxury suites. The ice, harvested in March and April, is stored till November, when the construction begins. By December, guests check in and nearly four months later, the hotel melts away into the river. At the Icehotel chain’s Icebar continued…