Talking to Ten Swedish Designers

Ten Swedish Designers was founded in 1970, when a group of ten young textile artists and designers joined together. They had a previous collective experience of having their designs rejected by the Swedish textile industry, with motivations asserting that their designed patterns were “unsaleable, too advanced and non-commercial”.
The aim of Ten Swedish Designers was for the designers themselves to take active part and control the entire production process, from the initial sketch to the printed fabric on display in the shop. Since the start in 1970 Ten Swedish Designers have presented more than 30 successful collections comprising of some 600 printed fabrics and wallpapers. The group has exhibited at a large number of museums, in Sweden and throughout the world.

I went talking with Ingela Håkansson. She has been a member of 10 Swedish Designers since the group began in 1970. Educated at the University College of Art in Stockholm,  Konstfack. Besides her work with 10 Swedish Designers, she has created fabric and wallpaper designs for IKEA, Duro and Borås Cotton and others, executed public commissions and worked with appliqué and hand printed textiles.

Coxi: How did you all meet?

Ingela: The common denominator for the designers was that we all knew Inez Svensson  the former creative director of Borås Wäferi. Most of us were also friends from the two art and design unversity colleges in Stockholm Konstfack and Beckman’s School of Design.

Coxi: How did Ten Swedish Designers started?
Ingela: Ten Swedish Designers was founded in 1970. We were a group of ten young  textile artists and designers joining together. We had a previous collective experience of having our designs rejected by the Swedish textile industry, with motivations asserting that our designed patterns were unsaleable, too advanced and non-commercial. The aim of 10 Swedish Designers was for us, the designers, to take active part and control the entire production process, from the initial sketch to the printed fabric on display in the shop.Today the group consists of three original members Birgitta Hahn, Tom Hedqvist and Ingela Håkansson.

Coxi: What is the main concept?

Ingela: This is linked to the answer of the last question. The concept is for the designers to be able to control the entire production process, to decide the product range and color  schemes. Today in Sweden it is unusual that a design company is owned and run by the designers. However, part of the concept is also the aesthetics of 10 Swedish Designers. We have an artistic expression with strong patterns in bold colors. Rooted in the Swedish  folklore as well as the art world. We also wish to keep the prices at an affordable level.  Spread good Swedish design thorough industrial production. Offer products which in a simple and affordable way can create a more stimulating homeenvironment.

Coxi: Where do you get inspiration?
Ingela: We get inspiration from things we see and read, art books, magazines. All three of us like theatre and contemporary dance very much.

Coxi: Do you rule by any tendency?
Ingela: Yes, we always follow our emotions and feelings. Sometimes we have a collective  feeling that we would like to do a collection in green, or we discover that we have reached  the age that we need a shopping trolley, then we make one in our own aesthetics. This is what is really amazing about Ten Swedish Designers, that the designers never have to look for approval from financers, owners or manufacturers.

Coxi: Designers that we admire and follow?
Ingela: I would mention two names: Sonia Delaunay and Henri Matisse. We have always found more inspiration in the art world rather than the design world.

Coxi: How is your work environment?
Ingela: We have a shop in the center of Stockholm, upstairs we have an office and  storage. The shop and office have been located in the same address since 1983. Me and Birgitta Hahn and Tom Hedqvist also share a studio where we draw our patterns.

Coxi: Do you believe Swedish style has influenced you work?

Ingela: Of course we are influenced y the Swedish style. All three of us were born and raised in Sweden. The patterns and colors are all a reflection of our traditions and aesthetics.

Coxi: Do you think these days people can talk about a global design culture?

Ingela: No, I think it is a design culture which can be found in certain cities all across the world, but to talk about a global design culture is wrong.

Coxi: Your design objects are created by all of you, or the idea of one of you prevail?

Ingela: We work together as a collective, but since the three of us have worked together for more than 36 years we have become almost like one person. We discuss things but it is rare that we disagree; we know each other very well by now.

Coxi: All time favourite designer?
Ingela: Alvar Aalto. Because of his proportions and shapes, a simple playfulness. We often use his furniture when we create interiors or exhibitions.

Coxi: What is the piece of art that you have at home and love the most?
Ingela: It is a modern bright orange Buddha sculpture in rubber by a Swedish artist called Fredrik Wretman.

Coxi: Are you living your ideal life style through 10 Swedish Designers?
Ingela: Yes, I believe so. We are able to create and produce exactly the patterns and products that we dream of doing. Our concept is strong and we keep developing it all the time. It is also fun to see that the children of our first customers are now returning to buy things for their homes or children. All generations meet in 10 Swedish Designers shop. Sometimes I think that our products create a need in people, for color and artistic patterns.

Thank you so much Ingela!

4 Responses to “Talking to Ten Swedish Designers”

  1. ana Says:

    wow what a great interview…

  2. lena Says:

    another great interview! i really enjoyed this one!

  3. Karen Robinson Says:

    Loved reading this interview. Love the bold simplicity of design from ten Swedish Designers. k

  4. maqira Says:

    I agree with Ana, Lena and Karen Robinson. In fact, this is a very interesting Interview. How could you make it? I’ve put this question to myself.


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