Let’s take a look at three Swedish brands, operating in the field of craft, design and sustainability. During the Stockholm Design Week in February 2019 the owners of Iris Hantverk, Larsson korgmakare and Växbo Lin met at Svensk Hemslöjd and discussed their visions for a sustainable future and obstacles they might have to handle.
Sara Edhäll from Iris Hantverk spoke of their longtime work with visually impaired craftsmen and the importance of introducing contemporary design to the traditional concept of brush binding. Some of the models has been in the loop since 1870 when the company started. But a traditional model may come out of fashion due to lifestyle changes. By collaborating with industrial designers it’s been possible to develop attractive contemporary products within the limits of traditional brush binding. As the brushes and objects are handmade and of high quality natural materials, the production is expensive. ”Our brushes are popular”, Sara Edhäll says, ”but it is difficult to communicate to the customer why the price is higher. The well known traditional dishbrush is an example, it costs ten times more than a massproduced plastic dishbrush but it’ll last several years and you can recycle it, or put it in the compost”. Iris Hantverk also face difficulties finding craftsmen; today 6 craftsmen from different countries work together in the Stockholm factory. When a large order is placed Iris Hantverk collaborate with a similar craft industry in Estonia. Iris Hantverk has got two shops in Stockholm where they sell their own collection of brushes and everyday items as well as selected things for sustainable living.
Stylish product for the contemporary man: Beard comb by Lovisa Wattman. Linseed oiled walnut and stainless Swedish steel (with sandblasted surface). Also suitable for combing mustache. Size 7 x 7 x 1 cm. Photo copyright Iris Hantverk.
Hanna Bruce from Växbo Lin told about the importance of design skills in the making of linen products for contemporary living. ”The young generation is interested in a beautiful table cloth or towel but not one you have to mangle. So we asked textile designer Ingela Berntsson to develop a series of table cloths and towels you can machine wash and just let dry and they’ll still look fab”. A linen towel is for life, it is almost impossible to wear out, absorbs water much better than cotton and is possible to recycle or compost. Växbo Lin recently decided to ditch bleech for all their warps. As a result the whole collection had to be updated. Jacob Bruce added that while Växbo Lin work with a contemporary design they continue to produce the traditional linen products to keep the heritage of patterns alive. ”But today our main concern is to develop sustainable products for the young generation of customers looking for a contemporary function and feel.” During several years there’s been a lack of qualitative, organic flax for sale on the market and Jacob and Hanna Bruce put in a lot of time searching for it. ”We have the mill, we have the knowledge of sustainable linen production and we’ve got functional designs. But we’re dependent on buying our material from abroad. We’d love to see a production of flax in Sweden!”.
Bubbel towel by Ingela Berntsson for Växbo Lin. 100 % linen made in Sweden. Photo copyright Växbo Lin.
Erica Larsson from Larsson korgmakare is the only maker of rattan furniture in Sweden. Well known as the maker of Josef Frank’s models for Svensk Tenn and the designs by Matti Klenell and Carina Seth Andersson for the restored National Museum. Larsson korgmakare also make their own collection of chairs, stools and tables in designs from 1930s to 1960s. An important part of todays business is the restoring of old furniture, from antique cane and rattan pieces to classic Scandi furniture. ”There’s a lot of beautiful handmade furniture put away in attics and secondhand shops because they’re slightly broken or a bit old fashioned. But with a growing awareness of climate change and how secondhand might be a sustainable option, people, especially the younger generation, bring them to us to be renovated”, says Erica Larsson.”It is often easy to make a chair useful again, with a new weaved seating or change of week parts. An old piece of furniture often have a patina and charm you don’t get with the new”. For this small craft industry the lack of material is an never ending challenge: ”We always look for certified rattan, grown with the rubber plant in controlled farming. This to help prevent deforesting in the countries where it grows”.
Badhusstolen 230 by John Larsson for Larsson korgmakare (1940). Blanket by Pia Wallén. From an editorial piece by Cia Wedin. Photo copyright Johan Sellén.