Olle Ohlsson (1928-

Olle Ohlsson is a Swedish silversmith with a unique artistic expression that pushes limits. Trained as an artisan before studying to become an artist, he developed his own style at an early stage and was less influenced by the aesthetic ideals of the time. His work includes jewelry, corpus, sculpture and imaginative utilitarian items, such as bejeweled gold handles for canes. 

Olle Ohlsson was born in Stockholm and grew up with his parents and sister in a creative home. His father was a musician and an innovative stay-at-home father. His mother, who was the family bread winner, was a cutter. She had been an artist’s model as a young woman and had been model to Carl Milles during the creation of the ”Orfeus” sculpture in Stockholm. The unconventional way of life had a big part in shaping Ohlsson into an artist who formed his own path.  

He worked as an apprentice at C. G. Hallberg jewelers firm from 1944 to 1949, getting a sterling craftsman’s eduction. He proceeded to work for other firms including Atelier Borgila, Erik Fleming, W. A. Bohlin and Claës Giertta. Working for Giertta was particularly influential, since freedom in creativity was boosted there. He also began taking evening classes at Konstfack, which marked the start of his transition from artisan to artist. As a way of liberating his creativity, Olle Ohlsson started drawing in an abstract, seeking way that is reminiscent of cave paintings. This suggestive way of drawing can be seen rendered in the decor of many of his creations. 

Olle Ohlsson started work as a designer at Ge-Kå jewelry firm in 1960. In his free time he experimented with silver, heating it up and making it shrink. He balanced on the edge of being a designer and an artist, which was met with some confusion from critics who expected to be able to place creators in one of the categories. However, at his debut in NK in 1965 he was applauded as being a brilliant renewer of his trade. He went on to work with silver and gold in unconventional ways, including precious stones as well as natural ones into his designs. Among his works are a set of gold cases, made from gold donated by the camera maker Victor Hasselblad, a golden anthill, silver teapots and hat sculptures. He has also created several public works, such as doors, wall reliefs, gates and prizes, including a gold potato for the Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer. He is represented at, among others, Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Goldsmiths’ Hall in London and Oslo Museum.

Literature: Silver & Guld. Olle Ohlsson. Gunnar Brusewitz & Anne-Marie Ericsson. Förlags AB Wiken, 1991

Berndt Friberg (1899-1981)

Berndt Friberg was a Swedish ceramicist, renowned for his stoneware vases and vessels for Gustavsberg. His pure, composed designs with satiny, compelling glazes continue to fascinate and have given him a dedicated following of collectors all over the world. He was the designer, master thrower as well as glaze maker, a rare combination.

Friberg came from a long family line of potters. He started as a handyman at Höganäs at the age of 13, leaving the factory five years later as a certified thrower. At Höganäs, he had worked with the serial production of the company’s trademark jugs, throwing a hundred or more of them every day during the years that he worked there. The craftsmanship, standard of quality and work ethic that he learned at Höganäs was the base for his development into one of the world’s foremost throwers. In his youth, he also went to technical school and studied drawing and modeling, however he did not partake in any art studies. Neither did he move in artistic circles, but seeing an exhibition of Gunnar Nylund’s stoneware in Helsingborg in the early 1930s made a deep impact. 

Before his employment at Gustavsberg in 1934, Friberg worked for other ceramics’ companies in Sweden and Denmark that broadened his experience. However getting the job as Wilhelm Kåge’s thrower at Gustavsberg was a major turning point in his career. Working with Kåge and subsequently Stig Lindberg brought new dimensions to Friberg’s work and life, moving away from the creation of utilitarian items to the aesthetic. He was revered by Kåge for his craftsmanship. During his first years at Gustavsberg he also developed his work with glazes. In 1941 he had is first exhibition in Stockholm, an event that marked his transition into an artist. 

Through Wilhelm Kåge, Berndt Friberg got in touch with a circle of ceramicists, connoisseurs, collectors and museum workers that influenced his artistic development. Chinese ceramics from the Sung period and the contemporary Nordic stoneware were held in particularly high regard. Friberg’s work came to be seen as the embodiment of the pure, balanced core of Nordic design. 

During his life long career, Friberg became deeply appreciated both by the broad public as well as connoisseurs and critics. The Swedish king Gustav VI Adolf was a major collector of his work and many of Friberg’s best pieces are part of the royal collection. He was awarded a gold medal at the Milano Triennale in 1947, 1951 and 1954 and won first prize at the Faenza International Ceramic Exhibition in 1965. He had 19 separate exhibitions and is represented at, among others,  Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Det Danske Kunstindustrimuseum in Copenhagen, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, MoMa in New York and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney. 

Literature: Berndt Friberg, Stengods Gustavsberg. Arthur Hald & Marianne Landqvist. Keramiskt Centrum, AB Gustavsberg, 1979

Erik Höglund (1932-1998)

Erik Höglund was one of Sweden’s foremost glass artists, whose innovative designs and glass making techniques revolutionized the scene of both art glass and serve ware in the 1950s. His bold and personal designs gave him and the glassworks Boda worldwide acclaim. Erik Höglund is considered the most influential Swedish glass artist of the 1950s and 1960s, alongside Ingeborg Lundin.

Höglund was admitted to the prestigious school Konstfack at the age of 16, first studying to become an art teacher, but later changing to the sculptor’s line. He rebelled against many of what he considered to be conventional ideas at the school, and was almost expelled. His nonconformism would follow him through his career, aiding him in following his own path and repeatedly breaking new ground.

Erik Höglund started working at Boda glassworks in 1953. At the time, Boda focused on producing high-quality serve ware in ethereal, cut-glass designs under the direction of Fritz Kallenberg. Höglund brought new perspectives and ideas, experimenting with the glass mass to give it a bubbly look and introducing colored glass and irregular finishes. These ideas were in direct opposition to the traditional ideas of what quality glass is, and Höglund was initially met with skepticism. He created rustic designs that allowed for everyday, multiple uses of glass, allowing it to be both functional and aesthetic. This down-to-earth idea appealed to both critics and collectors, although it took some years into the 1950s to win over the general public. In 1955, Erik Höglund’s glass was presented at the H55 Exhibition and one of his vases, whilst considered scandalous due to its suggestive decor, was purchased by the Swedish king. In 1957 he was awarded the Lunning Prize, its until then youngest awardee. Following that, his glass was exhibited in the Georg Jensen store on 5th Avenue in New York, making Erik Höglund and Boda world renowned.

Erik Höglund was a master of all artistic trades. His glass murals were an important part of his artistic deed, leading to many assignments of public decorations, around Sweden in churches, schools, banks and other public places, as well as in the United States and Australia. In the early 1960s he also started working with wrought iron, making chandeliers and candelabras, combined with glass or unadorned, that became hugely popular. Boda opened its own smithy, Boda Smide, to satisfy the demand. Höglund also worked with wood, creating rustic and playful children’s furniture, candle holders and beds.

Höglund left Boda in 1973 and worked with public assignments, often in collaboration with architects and his wife Ingrid Höglund. He continued to work with glass throughout the years for Pukeberg, Lindshammar and Strömbergshyttan glass works. He was was an incredibly productive artist, creating 150 public works from 1956 into the 1990s. Life cycles, sports and acrobatics, everyday life and family relationships were recurring sources of inspiration. Among his most notable work is the decoration of Johannelund Church in Linköping, which consisted of murals, glass sections, furnishing and the church silver. His work is represented by a permanent exhibition at Blekinge Länsmuseum and, among others, at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Röhsska museet in Gothenburg, Bellerive Kunstgewerbemuseum in Zürich and Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum in New York.

Literature: Från Boda till New York, konstnären Erik Höglund. Gunnel Holmér. Carlssons Bokförlag, 1986

Anna Petrus was a Swedish sculptor, industrial designer and dancer with a unique, powerful artistic expression, renowned for her designs for Svenskt Tenn. She came from a wealthy family in Uppsala and got her education at Chelsea School of Art in London, Althins målarskola and Kungliga Konsthögskolan (Royal Institute of Art) in Stockholm. Following her studies she worked with materials such as granite, marble and iron, inspired by by Greek mythology in her creations. She developed a distinct style, where women from the myths were rendered strong and assertive rather than passive and weak. She was part of a group of female artists, among them Siri Derkert, who fought for space in the conservative and male dominated art world. 

She debuted with a set of linoleum prints at the Baltic Exhibition in Malmö in 1914 and again in Stockholm in 1916 with sculptures with her characteristic expression. In 1920 a fire in her studio destroyed most of her works, and became a turning point in her artistic career. Recuperating from the blow, she travelled to Italy and North Africa, looking for new inspiration. When she returned to Stockholm, she started working with pewter, a material that at the time was looked upon as an old-fashioned and base material. She made trays and table tops inspired by North African smoking tables, and soon started collaborating with the influential architect Uno Åhrén around the designs. 

Anna Petrus was one of the earliest and most prominent revivers of using pewter in industrial design and her contribution made a big mark. She worked with the firms Herman Bergman’s Konsgjuteri and Svenskt Tenn during the 1920s, creating her iconic sculptural lion designs, many of which are produced by Svenskt Tenn to this day. During this period she was also commissioned several prestigious decorating assignments in collaboration with the architect Carl Bergsten, among others. She withdrew from the design scene in 1930, perhaps due to the emergence of functionalism, that had less room for her dynamic style. However, her artistry has prevailed and is now as highly acclaimed as ever. 

Litterature: Anna Petrus. Skulptör och industrikonstnär. Marie Rehnberg. Signum, 2009

Gunnar Nylund was one of the most influential ceramicists and designers of the Swedish mid-century period. He was Rörstrand’s creative leader from 1931 until 1949 and as such propelled the artistic work at the factory and served as mentor to younger artists, among them Carl-Harry Stålhane and Hertha Bengtsson. 

Nylund was a dedicated functionalist, who brought ideas of democratizing stoneware and creating beautiful, qualitative and affordable everyday items for the people to Rörstand in the mid-1920s. The factory had at the time lost its former leading market position, but Nylund’s efforts gave it a great reboot. He designed ceramic kitchenware inspired by the ideas of Le Corbusier and Bauhaus, for use in homes, restaurants and inside refrigerators (a progressive idea in the early 1940s when it was launched). He is best known for his exquisite decorative stoneware items which include an abundance of vases, wall reliefs, sculptures and animal figurines. The materials range from velvety smooth stoneware to rough and chunky chamotte. 

Danish born, Gunnar Nylund started his career in Denmark following art studies, a year of architecture studies and years of private lesson from his sculptor father, the artist Felix Nylund. He worked for Bing & Grøndahl early in his professional life and started the ceramic studio Nylund & Krebs, later Saxbo, with his colleague Nathalie Krebs in 1929. He returned to Bing & Grøndahl throughout the years as a freelance designer. He also worked for the ceramic studio Nymølle from 1957 to 1961.

Gunnar Nylund had a long and active career that except for stoneware included bathroom furnishing designs for Ifö, glass vases for Strömbergshyttan, a dinosaur sculpture for Bromölla kommun and several public works. He was an inventor who explored ideas for energy production and many other areas. He was active as a ceramicist into the late years of his long life. 

Nylund is held in high esteem today for his beautiful stoneware and exquisite glazes that continue to awe and satisfy the senses. 

Literature: Gunnar Nylund: konstnär och industriformgivare. Petter Eklund. Historiska Media, 2017

 

Carl-Harry Stålhane was one of the stars among Swedish ceramic artists during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, whose designs are just as highly regarded and sought-after by collectors today. He was born in Mariestad, close to Lidköping where the Rörstrand stoneware factory was located. He early expressed artistic aptitude as an amateur actor and illustrator, and in spite of lack of support from his father, he looked for work at Rörstrand which was the area’s creative hub. Stålhane began work at Rörstrand as an eighteen year old, decorating stoneware vases. His remarkable talent was noticed by Isaac Grünewald who was at Rörstrand as a guest artist, and who made Stålhane his assistant. Stålhane subsequently went on to study painting at Grünewald’s school in Stockholm and sculpture at Academie Colarossi in Paris.

At Rörstrand, where he was employed from 1939 to 1973, Stålhane designed unique stoneware, serially produced decorative items and tableware, large public decorations and sculptures. He was an innovator who drove forward the evolvement of ceramic artistry and design, from the slender, graphic vases of the 1950s to the brutal, expressive style of the 1960s, deeply influencing his contemporaries. He was instrumental to Rörstrand as a creative leader and brand representative, and his work and magnetic personality were fundamental in maintaining the company’s status. From 1963 to 1971 he was head teacher in ceramics and glass at Konstindustriskolan in Gothenburg, making his mark in a new generation of ceramicists and artists. In 1973 he ended his employment at Rörstrand due to the changing landscape in the industry where artistic freedom had to give increasing way to market forces. He then founded the ceramic studio Designhuset, where he and a team of other artists and throwers designed and produced stoneware in a smaller scale compared to Rörstrand but with greater freedom. Stålhane worked at Designhuset until his death in 1990.

Carl-Harry Stålhane had 37 separate exhibitions of his work during his career between the years 1948 and 1990 and he received many prestigious awards, among them a Gold Medal at the Milano Triennial in 1955. His work is represented in many museums, among them Nationalmuseum, Röhsska muséet, MoMA and Victoria & Albert Museum. Aside from his work with ceramics, he also worked as an interior designer and creative lead for VARA-bolagen, a company that owned and administered a chain of hotels and restaurants in the southwestern part of Sweden.

Literature: Stålhane. Petter Eklund. Carlsson, 2006

Sylvia Stave was a fascinating representative of Swedish mid-century design with her immaculate, sober designs that lead her to become lead designer of the firm C. G. Hallberg as a 23 year old in 1931. She worked for C. G. Hallberg for ten years before suddenly quitting her trade completely and settling down as a house wife in Paris.

Literature: Kvinnliga pionjärer – Svensk form under mellankrigstiden. Magnus Olausson & Micael Ernstell. Nationalmuseum, 2015

Ingeborg Lundin was a Swedish glass artist, whose 1950s and 1960s designs are among the most influential of that era. Lundin got her education at Konstfack in Stockholm and started working at Orrefors directly after her graduation in 1947. She stayed at Orrefors until 1971, redefining the art of glass design with her pure, gracious, sometimes ethereal creations.  Ingeborg Lundin received the Lunning prize in 1954 and a gold medal at the Milano Triennale in 1957.

Literature: Svenskt glas. Åke Huldt. Wahlström & Widstrand, 1991

Inga-Britt “Ibe” Dahlquist is one of Sweden’s most interesting modernist goldsmiths, originally from the island of Gotland.  She had her breakthrough in the 1950s with her characteristic organic silver jewelry combined with local natural elements such as fossils and stones. Dahlquist also worked for Georg Jensen from 1965 and onwards, creating pieces that were more strictly modernist, however with organic expressions that resonated with her work in her own studio.

Ibe Dahlquist shared a studio in Visby with fellow silversmith Olof Barve for several decades. Barve executed the jewelry while Dahlquist more often focused on the designs.

Carl-Axel Beijbom (1909-1971)

The story of the striking elmwood tables from C. A. Beijbom began when Carl-Axel Beijbom, who ran the family farm Simlingegården in the south of Sweden, found an elmwood plank in the attic in the early 1960s. It was unusually beautiful and inspired Carl-Axel Beijbom, an artist at heart with an eye for beautiful and interesting objects, to make it into a table top. Beijbom discovered that elm trees that grow around where people live or in an avenue and consequently are regularly trimmed, develop a certain kind of lively veins.

Carl-Axel Beijbom was an inspiring person with the ability to gather people around him. Guests and neighbors who saw the table asked to have one made for them and word about it spread from mouth to mouth. Beijbom was quick to realize the potential and sold the farm animals, turning the barn into a wood workshop. Beijbom’s tables, mostly in the form of coffee or sofa tables became high in demand, however the production was limited and every single table was made to order. The C. A. Beijbom workshop was active from the mid-1960s until the turn of the century, with production peaking during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Carl-Axel’s sons Christer and Peter continued the manufacturing after Carl-Axels passing, well trained in the trade by their father. To this day they get requests for new tables, but they gracefully decline. 

Source: Interview with the designer’s family