How to live forever
The famous Lion Pewter, designed by Anna Petrus Lyttkens in 1926, requires 30 hours of work. It takes a full day to screen print 60 metres of Josef Frank’s iconic Hawaii fabric, and one drawer alone for his 1938 19-drawer cabinet takes the car- penter a full hour. At Svenskt Tenn, there are no shortcuts.
Svenskt Tenn was founded in 1924 by Estrid Ericson, since described as a stubborn woman who knew her own mind. Together with Austrian designer Josef Frank, she developed an interior design philosophy that was to become highly in uential and celebrated in Swe- den and beyond.
In 1975, as Ericson was plotting her retirement, the Beijer Foundation pur- chased the company, promising the founder that it would live forever. As such, long-term sustainability is the primary goal, and any pro t that is not immedi- ately reinvested into the business goes to research into everything from ecological economics to genetic and neuroscience.
“It’s a blessing to get to work like this, al- ways putting quality rst,” says Thommy Bindefeld, Svenskt Tenn’s marketing and creative director. “I get endless requests from people who want to use Josef Frank’s prints on everything from wellies to refrigerators, but we don’t even work with resellers – we want to be in control to ensure that our designs never become mundane and ordinary.”
A piece of silent theatre
That control is nothing new. The eccen- tric founder ran her business with an iron hand and was known to redecorate the shop at Strandvägen in Stockholm in the middle of the night in order for it to look fresh every morning. She was “directing a piece of silent theatre,” said art critic Ulf Linde about the one-of-a- kind boutique.
Up until a few years ago, Svenskt Tenn devotees made pilgrimages to the Swed- ish capital to indulge in the colourful fab- rics and experience Ericson’s creation rst hand, but now the celebrated prod- ucts can also be purchased online. “The web shop is a way for us to tell our story but also a safe, controlled way to make our products available outside Sweden,” Bindefeld explains.
Back in its infancy, Svenskt Tenn was trailblazing by mixing and matching in ways previously unthinkable. Today, Ericson’s stubborn spirit lives on through a bold statement, refusing to succumb to the ‘more-products-faster’ philosophy and heralding the craft tradition’s ideals of local and handmade at a time when they may be more pertinent than ever.
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