Lena Bergström is an award-winning textile and glass designer, with roots firmly in Northern Sweden. She had her first breakthrough in the early nineties with a collection for the Swedish textile company Ljungbergs and soon she was also hired by Swedish crystal manufacturer Orrefors, a collaboration that is still going strong two decades later.
Today, she is as busy as ever, having recently exhibited here in London at the Vessel Gallery and with many new projects, both secret and otherwise, in the pipeline. The LINK caught up with her to speak Swedish design, keeping ancient craftsmanship alive, and what she finds the most rewarding with her work.
“As a designer, being able to see something that I have visualised becoming a reality and experiencing the teamwork and trust between the designer and the craftsmen – that’s what I enjoy the most,” Bergström told The LINK.
After graduating high school, Bergström landed a job as visual merchandiser for the Swedish department store Domus. She spent a few years there, learning about how to best highlight products through display, but soon realised that she wanted more and moving to Stockholm, she applied to the prestigious art school Konstfack. After graduating in 1989, Bergström started working as a freelance designer and today has an impressive CV, and a great track record of scholarships and awards to her name. When thinking of what it is that has made her the very successful designer she is today, she stresses the importance of mentors, of teachers, of people that have believed in her.
“Being encouraged to do crafts at home, to experiment, to see what I could achieve, I think that has had a major impact on me choosing this career path. Having people believe in me throughout my training. I always believed I could do it, but that just brought it home - this is the right way for me,” she says.
Despite the recognition that Bergström has met, it is the lasting products, those that are still on sale years after the initial design, that she is most proud of.
“Successful, long-lived products that people continue buying, and those that create work opportunities through safeguarding traditional craftsmanship, those make me enormously satisfied.”
Bergström describes herself as a person in love with materials, something that is reflected in her art. Working with different materials, finding and interpreting their own inherent qualities, is key to her work.
“Every material comes with its own fascinating qualities and its own challenges. Glass may be magical in the sense that from a 1,200-degree hot and pliable mass you get, in its cold state, a stiff and transparent object – it is a bit like doing magic. Of course, a linen fibre may not go through that kind of transformation, but it would be impossible to choose which one I prefer, because to me linen has its own fascinating characteristics.”
Changing the subject slightly to the characteristics of a specific “Nordic” style, Bergström says that it is easier to reflect on what is ultimately a very broad subject if one approaches it with a historical perspective.
“In Sweden, we have always been very near to nature, a society of fishermen and farmers, creating objects from wood, moss and other natural materials, and there has been a great functionality in all we do, which is what people tend to associate us with.”
However, through immigration, through travel and other influences, the already existing culture has been enriched with new ideas, today creating a fusion between the stark and sometimes neutral Nordic style and more colourful and warm touches.
“What people perceive as our Nordic style, is most likely timelessness and functionality, the purity in the objects. But this, as everything, is changing. Younger generations, perhaps with different cultural backgrounds, are adding to our heritage. Personally, I am drawn to elegance and would like describe my style as simplicity with a twist.”
In the near future, Bergström has several ventures in the pipeline. She has created a new collection of carpets for Design House Stockholm, inspired by her roots in Northern Sweden, which will be showed at the Swedish Design Fair this spring. For Orrefors, she has created new vases in her Carat series, and as the Swedish glassworks Kosta Boda has its 275th anniversary this year, Bergström is involved in the jubilee exhibitions. In the pipeline is also several secret projects that she is not at liberty to reveal yet.
“What I can say is that among other things I get to work within a group of products I have never made before, so that is very exciting. And that’s is really what I love about this job, that at times it can be nervous but also very exciting!
What would you do if you weren’t a designer?
Architect or inventor.
What would be your dream project?
Working with public spaces, creating glass on a large scale, in an architectural setting. But also, something completely different, creating meeting spaces, combining serviced apartments for the elderly with day care facilities for young children.
Planets by Lena Bergström adorns the front page of The LINK February 2017