Mighty Buildings 3D-Prints Homes to Address Housing Crisis (Design Milk)

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“Because we’re building homes for people to live in, we have been very deliberate in carrying out our vision to make housing better. This isn’t software that can be debugged on the fly,” says Slava Solonitsyn, Mighty Building’s CEO and co-founder. “We’re ready to scale production with full confidence in our certifications and code compliance of both our material and technology.” Mighty Buildings is certified under California’s Factory Built Housing program to create units utilizing 3D printing and was the first company to achieve certification under the UL 3401 standard for evaluating building structures and assemblies.​

To read the article at its source click here.

StoneCycling Turns Industrial and Demolition Waste Into Bricks (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

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The circular economy is a proposed alternative to our traditional ‘take–make–waste’ model of production and consumption – one that offers hope in the face of environmental catastrophes from climate change to ocean plastic. Designing out waste and pollution, keeping materials and products in use and regenerating our natural environment are so important to contemporary design that we have created a dedicated space for the projects bringing these ideas to life. Circular by Design, a fortnightly column by longtime contributor Katie Treggiden, starts by exploring the reuse of waste as a way to keep materials in use and bring the legacy of the linear system full circle.

When Tom van Soest was a student at Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands, he developed a way of upcycling waste he found in nearby vacant buildings awaiting demolition. He ground, crushed and mixed this rubble in a homemade industrial blender and, after much trial and error, found a way to create new materials that were both resilient and appealing. On graduation, he established StoneCycling with long-time friend Ward Massa to build upon what he called his ‘WasteBasedBrick,’ officially launched in 2015. The bricks now appear in buildings, in private homes and offices, Starbucks and Cos stores from Amsterdam to New York. We spoke to Massa to find out more.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

Tom and I have been friends since kindergarten and we started our first company when we were just 18 years old – a small design studio. We worked together for a few years and then parted ways professionally for almost a decade. In the meantime, Tom studied graphic design and then attended Design Academy Eindhoven, while I completed a Bachelor’s degree in digital communication, a Master’s in political communication – and then studied political science in India for another two years. These years were formative for both of us. Tom developed his skills and design thinking, while I focused on the global systems that shape the world. Tom became concerned about the waste from building demolition during the economic crisis of 2008, while I became fascinated by the Indian concept of ‘Jugaad’, which means something like ‘an improvised or makeshift solution using scarce resources’ – it’s a way of life in India, where washing machines are used to whip up yoghurt drinks, but it’s also an innovation theory that’s becoming increasingly influential in the West. So when Tom approached me after with the idea of creating new materials out of waste, I was intrigued. Having worked together before and knowing our skill sets were completely different (Tom: creative thinker, dreamer, do-er; me: analytic, systematic, entrepreneurial), I knew we would make a great team.

How would you describe your WasteBasedBricks® project?

WasteBasedBricks® are interior and exterior bricks made to the requirements of each project from at least 60% waste. Our mission is to move towards beautiful building materials made from 100% upcycled waste with a positive carbon impact on the planet. The WasteBasedBrick® is the first step but no more than that – there’s still so much more work to do to bring about genuine and lasting change. We invite people to join us on our mission, but we are realistic about the destination: it will take many steps. Maybe too many for this lifetime. But each step is one step closer.

What inspired this project?

Tom was studying at Design Academy Eindhoven when the economic crisis hit its peak. Companies went bankrupt, buildings became empty and were demolished on a large scale. Tom started to wonder what happened to all the waste and didn’t like the answers he found: It is often ‘down-cycled’ into backfill under roads or the foundations for buildings. Since most of the infrastructure in The Netherlands is in place, we can’t use it all, so it is transported to other countries or dumped up in landfill sites. There is not a single definition for construction and demolition waste and it can contain many different materials – concrete, ceramics (toilet pots, sinks, tiles, bricks), steel, wood, gypsum and glass are all common. Construction and demolition waste comprises about 30-40% of all the waste we generate in most European countries – in the Netherlands this is 25 million tons each year. Virgin materials such as like construction sand and high-quality clay are running out – the construction industry requires grain sizes and rough shapes that are only found in river beds, lakes and the oceans – desert sand is too smooth. Construction sand has become such a scarce resource that even sand-rich countries like Saudi Arabia import sand. Tom wanted to address all of these issues.

What waste materials are the products made from, how did you select that particular material and how do you source it?

The WasteBasedBrick® is made from 60% upcycled waste materials. Each brick contains mineral waste, most of which would otherwise end up in landfill. We use various waste streams, some of which are mentioned above.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

During Tom’s graduation at the Design Academy. The biggest driver, for both Tom and me, is the idea that, on the one hand, we are producing so many new products from virgin materials – depleting the earth – while, on the other hand, we’re creating so much waste that can have potential value.

What processes does the waste material have to undergo to become the finished product?

We carefully select waste streams from demolition and the industry that are of the ‘right’ quality for our products. We set up new protocols with our partners in the value chain to make sure we get the material in the right quantity, quality, color and grain size. (In some cases, we have developed an extra ‘cleaning’ process to make sure the material we use is safe, and adds to the aesthetic and technical quality of the WasteBasedBrick®.) We work with established production companies for the production of the WasteBasedBricks® – factories which often have more than 100 years experience in brick making. By teaming up, we can use their vast experience to ensure a perfect product and they can use our innovation power and creativity to innovate their processes. This part is a lot of fun! After mixing the recipe, the WasteBasedBricks® are molded and fired in a kiln. Our recipe allows for firing at a lower temperature and we use 100% forest compensated gas to further reduce our footprint.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

Honestly, Tom tried for over a year in his own homemade lab. He encountered so many challenges that when the first prototypes appeared to be stable, he couldn’t quite believe it! Now, looking back at that moment, it’s hard to believe that this ‘little moment of success’ evolved into a company that collaborates with architects from around the world and is upcycling waste into buildings in cities like Amsterdam, Antwerp, London and New York!

What happens to the products at the end of their lives? Can they go back into the circular economy again?

Yes, absolutely – the product can be 100% recycled and used as an ingredient for new WasteBasedBricks®.

How have people reacted to this project?

Almost everybody likes it. It is a sympathetic project and I think our focus on both design and sustainability is a combination that really speaks to the minds and hearts of people (i.e. the idea that waste is beautiful).

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

We started out at the peak of the (previous) economic crisis. In general, the public was not really interested. This has completely changed over the last 10 years. Roughly speaking, we see three phases. First is the sympathy phase, in which the public and potential clients like the idea of sustainability and upcycling, but very few, early adopters, will actually buy your products. We cherish those customers that feel the intrinsic need to transform the way we build and live on this planet. I would say we were in this phase until as recently as last year. Then comes the benefits phase, when governments are implementing subsidies and fiscal stimulation packages to motivate real estate developers to develop sustainable real estate. The extra investments needed for products like ours are compensated by these benefits. We are now in this phase. These are much-needed government programs to really boost the transition. The early majority is waking up and using these benefits more and more. Next will come the penalty phase: governments will implement penalties if you are not creating sustainable real estate. This phase will probably take another 10 years and will motivate the big majority as well. In our opinion there’s only one way forward: governments need to heavily invest in phase two and already hint at phase three. We don’t see another way for this transition to happen.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

Our production processes are usually based on efficiency and predictability with high volumes and low margins. This only works if you are using resources (mostly virgin) that are always of the same quality. This allows for mass production of the same products everywhere, but this system will not last. It’s not resilient and it’s boring. We expect that using waste as resource will really put pressure on this system. If you have to work with the materials you are confronted with (i.e. waste), your production process has to become more flexible – the result will be more diverse, more colorful and local. This should mean that the role of the architect will become even more important. It will boost creativity because the choice will be vast but also connected to a certain time frame relating to the materials that are available when the building is being built. I think it will become more fun. Exceptions will become the rule instead of standardization. I think the concept of Jugaad will become an important factor in our lives. Let’s learn from India – let’s create a Jugaad mindset.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about StoneCycling here.

The Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council Empowers Women in the Middle East + Beyond (Design Milk)

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The Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council is on a mission to empower women practicing craft skills across the Middle East, North Africa and South and Central Asia by building a female-driven artisan economy while preserving the area’s cultural heritage for future generations.

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“Heritage crafts are usually performed by women in communal groups,” explains Irthi’s curator, Farah Nasri. “Championing the role of women in the crafts sector is vital in creating a new narrative and social standing for women within marginalized communities. Investment in specific areas, identified as centers of knowledge for crafts, in the form of the BIDWA Centers has a noticeable effect on those communities.”

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Craftswomen benefit economically as well as receiving support to develop new opportunities and undertake vocational training. Irthi’s most recent efforts have led to Sharjah being recognized as a city of Crafts & Folk Art for the craft of Talli in 2019 by UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.

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Oud Oil Container – Adi Toch

The Bidwa Social Development Programme, employs 40 artisans, provides them with vocational training and helps them to find new markets for their skills through commercial collaborations and regional artisan exchange programs.

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Camel Bag by Jennifer Zurick

Irthi runs Design Labs – along the same lines as art residencies – to enable an exchange of crafts, design and knowledge between international or regional designers and Bidwa artisans and trainees. “The designers bring in new production techniques and crafts into the Bidwa Centre, while the Bidwa Centre offers the space and productive capacity of Emirati artisans and trainees for collaboration, and product manifestation,” says Nasri.

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Hajar Chair by Architecture + Other Things

“The most valuable insight the artisans practicing crafts at the Bidwa Center gain is the confidence and trust in the design thinking that they have acquired through the many design exercises they have taken up,” says Nasri. “Sometimes the designers might be asked to engage with a craft or exercise a craft in a non-traditional manner – at that time I’m sure they didn’t always entirely grasp why they were doing what they were doing or weren’t fully convinced that the design process they were taking up would eventually lead to the magnificent products that they have created.”

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Safeefah x Clay Stools and Tables by Abdallah Al Mulla & Pepa Reverter

The resulting Design Labs collection is now available to purchase at digital craft and design gallery Adorno: “Irthi has launched two significant collections on Adorno, bringing craft traditions that have defined Emirati making for centuries to the attention of the wider world, and making Irthi crafted products commercially available to its biggest audience yet,” says Nasri. Featured artists and designers include Meher and Farhana of The Lél Collection, Kazuhito Takadoi, Patricia Swannell, Dima Srouji of Hollow Forms Studio; Nada Taryam, Faisal Tabarrah and Khawla Al Hashimi of Architecture + Other Things Studio, Alia Bin Omair of Alia Bin Omair Jewellery; Jennifer Zurick, Khuloud Al Thani of Bint Thani Studio; and Adi Toch.

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Sheikha Bin Dhaher & Adrian Salvador Candella

The second collection is Crafts Dialogue – which is, in fact, a series of four limited-edition collections – the result of collaborations between Emirati and European designers. “Crafts Dialogue seeks to merge the arts and crafts of the UAE with global crafts,” says Nasri, who co-curated the collection with Samer Yamani. This collaboration sparks endless possibilities and opportunities.” Again, Crafts Dialogue is available to purchase on Adorno and this time, featured designers include Fatima Al Zaabiof Studio D04, Matteo Silverio, Sheikha Bin Dhaher of Abjaad Studio, Adrian Salvador Candella of Estudio Savage, Ghaya Bin Mesmar, Mermelada Estudio, Abdallah Al Mulla, and Pepa Reverter.

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Abdallah Al Mulla & Pepa Reverter

Both collections can be explored at Irthi’s Virtual Gallery – a chance to escape the reality of lockdown for a while and take a stroll around the sun-drenched Hamriya Studios in Sharjah, see the pieces in situ in the courtyard garden and the gallery itself, as well as enjoying a full multi-sensory experience as you listen to audio recordings of Bidwa artisans singing as they weave.

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Ghaya Bin Mesmar & Mermelada Estudio

But what effect has all of this had on the craftswomen of the Middle East, North Africa and South and Central Asia? “It wasn’t difficult to visualize the positive impact these initiatives would have on the craft and culture of the region and specifically the craftswomen themselves, as they went through a laborious learning curve in less than a year’s time and can now just about respond to any design request or bespoke order,” says Nasri.

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“But what I did find surprising was the international brand positioning that these collections, designers and artisans managed to attain through the UAE Pavilion launch at the London Design Fair, gaining Guest Country Pavilion of the year,” she continues. “The artisans of the Bidwa Social Development Programme are capable of catering to the international market – their skills have been honed to compete at international standards.”

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Despite the contemporary international success each collection has earned, Irthi is still committed to the region’s traditional craft practices and finding ways to balance the two. “Linking traditional crafts to today’s luxury and design markets means retaining the heritage process of making whilst decontextualizing, deconstructing, or infusing the craft with new functionality to fit today’s modern aesthetics and needs,” Nasri explains.

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Hopefully, this balanced approach will mean future generations of craftswomen will have the same opportunities to honor and explore the traditions of their ancestors while taking their place in a growing female-driven artisan economy that crosses national boundaries.

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Safeefah x Clay Stools and Tables by Abdallah Al Mulla & Pepa Reverter

To read the article at its source click here.

Daniel Svahn Turns Waste Furniture Into New Furniture (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

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The circular economy is a proposed alternative to our traditional ‘take–make–waste’ model of production and consumption – one that offers hope in the face of environmental catastrophes from climate change to ocean plastic. Designing out waste and pollution, keeping materials and products in use and regenerating our natural environment are so important to contemporary design that we have created a dedicated space for the projects bringing these ideas to life. Circular by Design, a fortnightly column by longtime contributor Katie Treggiden, starts by exploring the reuse of waste as a way to keep materials in use and bring the legacy of the linear system full circle.

Stockholm-based product and interior designer Daniel Svahn established his eponymous studio after graduating from Beckmans Collage of Design in 2009 with a BFA in product design. Crediting his inspiration to the everyday things we see all around us – whether ‘small or big, relevant or irrelevant, nice or ugly,’ he feels anything can be made into something new if you’re observant enough and keep your imagination awake. True to his word, A New Paradigm – an evolution of the New Goodies but Oldies project he presented at the 2020 Stockholm Furniture Fair – is a collection of six pieces of contract furniture made from furniture discarded by the same sector.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

I come from a typical Swedish working-class home. My parents had non-creative jobs but were creative anyway. Dad liked to paint and create sculptures for our backyard and mom would constantly reimagine our home, making countless hand-drawn floorplans. That was my first encounter with interior design, spatial contexts, and art. I, too, created a lot as a child and young adolescent, but it wasn’t until my early 20s that I started to think about pursuing a creative career. Funnily enough, my interest in design, furniture, and interiors started after I got a job at IKEA – I was exposed to such a range of furniture and interior products and my interest grew, but it was also a reality check as I learned more about industrial-scale production and the impacts of our contemporary lifestyles – something that has stayed with me ever since. But it was actually a supervisor at IKEA – Pernilla – who urged me to apply to art school. I studied painting, photography, sculpting, design, and installation art at various preparatory schools, before taking my BFA in product design. And now, after almost ten years of working freelance and teaching, I have just completed a Master’s in spatial design at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. I used this time to experiment with concepts around sustainability – an opportunity I am incredibly grateful for.

How would you describe your projects: A New Paradigm and New Goodies but Oldies?

They are both all about material reuse and upcycling – and are also a commentary on the production industry, ‘wear and tear’ consumption, and a common, widespread disrespect for material. They argue for material reuse and upcycling as part of any new production. They are projects that enable me to experiment, educate, and show the potential material can have if it is allowed to live out its full lifecycle. Even if a product is old, broken, or obsolete, the material in it still has so much more to give.

What inspired these projects?

During my Master’s, we had a course around ‘degrowth’ [the notion of living meaningfully, enjoying simple pleasures, and intentionally slowing things down in order to minimize harm to people and planet] and how we, as the interior architects and designers of the future, could adopt it in our creative practices. My work came to be about material waste from furniture and how we can and need to tend to ‘old’ material. It is absurd how much fine, already extracted and produced, material is being wasted after its first lifecycle, instead of being put to new use – because it’s cheaper and easier to buy or make new. But things are changing. In Sweden, this work is being led by a handful of companies and initiatives, but they often lack the creative and aesthetic sense in problem-solving and that’s where designers come in. We all need to work together – designers, architects, the industry, clients, consumers, and people in general – if we are going to shift to a more sustainable and circular way of thinking in most of our dealings in life.

What waste materials are your products made from, how did you select those particular materials, and how do you source them?

I focused on the furniture and material waste from the public sector and contract markets since those are the fields I work most in. Waste is a particular problem within the governmental sector, where laws and regulations are strict around public procurement, but not when it comes to getting rid of furniture deemed as old, broken, or obsolete. Most often, these items are just thrown away. However, in Sweden, we now have a handful of fantastic professional companies working on a large scale with reuse, upcycling, and reconditioning of furniture from that area and it is a growing field. Today such companies can recondition old furniture into near new. Interior architects can, therefore, provide more circular, sustainable, and better alternatives for new projects, instead of always selecting newly produced ones. But not all products or materials are easy to process that’s where my ideas come in. I have been working with Recycling Partner (RP) and Rekomo, to learn about the problem articles, such as laminated pieces and obsolete furniture typologies, that they have a hard time with and risk throwing away themselves. These products and materials are hard to recondition for new interior projects. When I suggested that I would try to create new things with this material, these companies bought into the idea straight away and gave me the material I wanted since it was waste for them anyway. It became a win-win situation towards a common goal of material reuse and upcycling.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

I have always used old or found materials in prototypes and even in final designs. The concerns around material waste have also been with me for a long time and I have been playing with different ideas of how I can create new things from old for years. It has been craft-, art-, and product-orientated and all of these ideas and trials have led me to where I am now. Learning from, and being inspired by ‘degrowth’, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and all amazing people and companies who push the sustainability agenda really drives me to push myself to find ways that I, within my field of expertise, can contribute to our common goals and a more sustainable and better future.

What processes does the waste material have to undergo to become the finished product?

They have not undergone too much processing at all – and actually that has been a guiding principle for me in the process, to not make too many or overcomplicated incisions into the material, but rather to see how far I can stretch it by doing as little as possible. Guided by the material, as a sort of collaborative partner in the design process, its pre-set appearance and with few cuts and simple joinery, I have tried to generate interesting and unique pieces of furniture. Both to push myself in my design creativity, but also to further justify working with reuse and upcycling by keeping hours and costs down, so it will not be more expensive in the end than buying new. When my pieces are finally done and put together, it just takes some sanding, a little tender loving care, and a coat of paint to make them look like all-new pieces that are not obviously upcycled. I think it is increasingly important in the justification of reuse as ‘the new production’ for the finished products to look new.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

Joy – and excitement of course! When you can really see what you can create from waste and how simple the process can be, it’s a pretty good feeling.

What happens to the products at the end of their lives? Can they go back into the circular economy again?

Sure. Since I have done minimal work cutting the pieces and connecting them with wooden pegs and glue, you can knock them apart and treat the material the same way again for new purposes and designs. If you would like to, that is. A bit of touching up, sanding, and adding new colors to it and you have a whole new product or object that allows the material to live as long as possible, regardless of the original intent.

How have people reacted to these projects?

Reactions have been very positive. You can tell that people and the industry are taking sustainability much more seriously now. In the specific field of material reuse and upcycling, I can also see a greater interest, especially for new ideas dealing with some of the more problematic waste streams – we cannot have too few of them. A nice and funny anecdote from this past February when I showcased my project The New Goodies but Oldies at the Stockholm Furniture Fair is that some architects told me that it probably was the best show at the fair and that they were ‘upset’ they hadn’t come up with the idea themselves! They said it was a breath of fresh air, apart from the rest of the ‘fluff’ at the fair, and that it gave them hope for the future. How could I argue with that? It just fueled my ambition and set me on my path for the work with the A New Paradigm project, and all that may follow.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

Eyes and minds are slowly being opened. Climate change, the depleting of our natural resources, and overproduction have made people more aware of the effects we have on nature and their consequences, but it needs to spread even further. On a municipal and professional reconditioning level, the interest in developing these types of ideas is spreading, even into the world of politics. That is when we really can start to generate change and create new laws and legislations to simplify the usage of material reuse and upcycling to a greater extent throughout society. If we can create new products, out of the supposed ‘waste’, that look and behave like new, I cannot see a reason why not. By working with and addressing the industry and political sphere first to generate change, I believe it will be easier to spread the ideas to the rest of society later – or better yet, in parallel.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

I think it holds great potential, but we need to develop more, new and smart ways of tending to all the kinds of waste we already have and, ultimately, stop generating more. There are already a lot of examples of this from new plastic products created of salvaged plastic waste from the oceans to the use of food waste for both coloring and new materials and the development of various kinds of composite materials. The problem with some of these though is that they may be hard to recycle when they are created, so it is not only about how we make things but also what happens to them at the end of their lives. Even if waste and the reuse and upcycling of it becomes the new method of production, we still need to rethink our consumerist ‘wear and tear’ ways and create things we really need and that will last for a really long time. Longevity is key.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Daniel Svahn here.

HOLDING PATTERN (SELVEDGE MAGAZINE)

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The classic Scandi aesthetic is muted and minimalist, so why is Nordic pattern design so exuberant? Katie Treggiden explores.

Think of Scandinavian furniture design and you will almost certainly picture pale wood, restrained colours and understated, curvilinear forms. Yet call to mind Nordic pattern design and suddenly Marimekko’s bold, colourful poppies burst into view – or perhaps the confident botanical motifs Josef Frank designed for iconic Swedish interior design store Svenskt Tenn. So how did Finland, a nation of introverts, give rise to one of the loudest fashion brands in the world? And how did Austrian-born Frank convince generations of minimalist Swedes to embrace colour and pattern?

Already a renowned architect and interior designer, Frank left his home country of Austria for Sweden in 1933, fleeing antisemitism, and rejecting the cold, rational ‘machine for living in’ approach to modernism proposed by the likes of French architect Le Corbusier. When Estrid Ericson, founder of Svenskt Tenn, offered him a safe haven in which to live and work in 1934, he was finally able to flourish. ‘Frank had a more middle-European approach to colours and design – and Ericson accepted everything he did in his bold and colourful way,’ says Svenskt Tenn’s creative director, Thommy Bindefeld. ‘His style was questioned at the time, but he gave Sweden a new way of looking at design.’

It was new, but not unprecedented – the 19th-century Swedish artist Carl Larsson painted domestic scenes depicting the Arts and Crafts style popularised by William Morris in the UK and co-opted by the Nordic nations. ‘Larsson’s paintings, with their motifs of everyday life, played a huge part in capturing and “selling” the essence of Nordic style – the pale wood, simple shapes and abundance of natural light,’ explains Swedish textile designer and co-founder of Butler/Lindgård, Karin Olu Lindgård. ‘But they also featured the bold textiles designed by his wife Carin. Ever since, those bold textiles have been a natural part of the Nordic style.’ And in fact, confident Nordic pattern can trace its roots even further back to rosemåling (‘rose-painting’), popular in Norway and rural Sweden in the 18th century. This decorative folk art featuring floral motifs in primary and secondary colours had fallen out of favour by the 20th century. ‘The minimalism and functionalism that came from Europe with the Bauhaus movement said that everything should have a reason, or function, and that gave no argument for colourful patterns,’ says Kiki Plesner-Löfroth, founder of Norwegian surface pattern design studio Plesner Patterns, explaining its decline.

Fast forward to the 1930s, and Frank and Ericson transformed sober European functionalism into something warmer, more colourful and more embracing – finding a way for colour and pattern to sit alongside understated interiors. ‘The simplicity of the room – the richness of details,’ was Ericson’s mantra. By the time Marimekko was founded in 1951 and Maija Isola conceived the iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern in 1964 – to this day Marimekko’s most iconic design – the stage had been set for colourful, self-assured, nature-inspired pattern, even among a conservative Nordic population.

Both Marimekko and Svenskt Tenn continue to excite a new generation of contemporary Nordic pattern designers. ‘The works of Maija Isola and Joseph Frank have been a huge inspiration for us, artistically as well as technically,’ says Lindgård. ‘You could argue that we’re working in the tradition of those bold Nordic surface pattern designers – and we wouldn’t disagree.’ Plesner-Löfroth echoes this sentiment, saying, ‘Theirs is the classic boldness I aspire to.’

Yet contemporary Nordic pattern designers are doing more than simply replicating the work of their heroes – even within Marimekko itself. Giving its designers the flexibility to work from their personal studios and within the natural environment surrounding Helsinki, together with a unique in-house colour system, ensures its latest patterns are as fresh and vibrant today as those poppies were in the 1960s. Aino-Maija Metsola’s Sääpäiväkirja (‘weather diary’) collection was inspired by the changes to Finnish weather patterns after the heat of the summer. ‘Kuuskajaskari sighs with autumn winds and takes its colour palette from the same season,’ says Metsola. A collaboration with Spinnova, whose innovative fabrics are made from post-consumer, biodegradable wood-pulp and use 99% less water than cotton, is paving the way for a textile industry that sits more comfortably within its environment too.

Plesner-Löfroth works very directly with the natural environment in her native Norway. ‘I design my patterns with analogue methods initially, using ink, moss, wax, eggshell etc,’ she says. ‘I like “art by accident” – the small distortions that emerge outside of my control make more lively and genuine patterns.’ Working with everything from wet paper and ink to potato prints for a recent collaboration with running brand Löplabbet, her work is uniquely Norwegian and yet has global resonance. Supporting local weavers, using recycled and GOTS-certified fabrics, and digitally printing to minimise waste, Plesner-Löfroth also respects the natural environment that gives her so many ideas.

Photo: Ulrika Kestere

Lindgård and her Butler/Lindgård co-founder Hanna Butler cite both the Northern hemisphere’s light and the effect it has on colour perception in Sweden, as well as the very Nordic practice of spending time together in a sauna, and what they describe as the ‘fearless’ creative community within which they work as key influences on their design practice. But their current inspiration comes directly from the human form. ‘Lately we’ve been experimenting with direct body representation in surface design,’ says Lindgård. ‘Since we’re women in textile design, feminist issues are really important to us. We are interested in the connection between choreography and the repeated movements that lead to repeated imprints on a surface.’ They sketch on a shared sheet of paper, often finishing each other’s ideas, cover their own bodies in paint to create imprinted patterns, and screen print together passing the squeegee in one seamless motion from one pair of hands to the other – a choreographed creative process in itself.

Photo: Joen Bergenrud

Although it’s difficult to imagine Josef Frank or Maija Isola covered in paint, what the likes of Frank and Isola bestowed upon those who follow in their footsteps is a sense of freedom. The freedom to stand on the shoulders of giants and yet create something new; to be inspired by, and yet not restricted to, their local surroundings and national heritage; to explore the full spectrum of colour from natural dyes to pops of neon; and, most importantly, to find a path that is entirely their own. Scandi style might be quiet and understated, Nordic pattern is anything but.