The Swedish towns nurturing ceramicists
At ÅBEN we have several ceramicists in our stable. As you get to know them and their work, so we hope to write pieces here inspired by them and their lives as makers. Alexandra Nilasdotter is a ceramicist and product designer based in Stockholm, Sweden. She works from her studio there, which is based in the old Gustavsberg porcelain factory.
Gustavsberg was a big name in Scandinavian ceramics, its manufacturing roots going back to the 1820s. The twentieth century saw Gustavsberg hit its design stride. Because of Wilhelm Kåge, artistic director of the factory from 1917 and Stig Lindberg in who succeeded him in 1948, the factory’s output led - rather than followed - commercial ceramic design in Scandinavia in the twentieth century. Lindberg stayed with the factory until 1980 and he was responsible for employing the factory’s most famous women ceramic designers: Lisa Larson, who worked for them from 1954 until 1980 and Karin Björquist who worked there from 1950 and became artistic director from 1981-1986.
G-Studio, was the name of Wilhelm Kåge‘s experimental design workshop at Gustavsberg. Begun in 1942 with Stig Lindberg, it was a hot house for their domestic designs. It’s logo was a ‘G’ and a hand symbol, and was also inscribed on the base of their pieces. The distinctive applied patterns and simple forms of Gusavsberg’s tableware, some of which are still produced today, are often sold alongside your Wegner and Jacobsen furniture classics. And like mid-century Scandinavian furniture, original Gustavsberg ceramics, particularly those by the named designers, are becoming highly collectable.
Prior to her studies at the Royal Danish Academy, Alexandra studied in the Formakademin, based in the old Rörstrand porcelain factory building in Lidköping, Sweden. Rörstrand was another formidable ceramic presence in Scandinavia; one that sadly ended its life being bought out by several different companies. It is now part of the Iittala brand and the Rörstrand ceramics are made in Hungary and Sri Lanka.
There is something great about using old factories for creative studio homes for new designer and maker minds. The premises have ceramics in their blood, brickwork and dust, and it is nice to think of new pieces adding to these legacies.
It is bittersweet to think of how influential and celebrated Scandinavian ceramic production used to be. But looking forwards at the makers who will become the new Lindbergs and Larsons is much more rewarding, we think.