Crystal clear thinking
BY DAN STEVENS MAY 2017
The Swedish designer Lena Bergström is very good at thinking in different materials and then applying them to different contexts. Her textiles have covered stools and become rugs. Steel has become candle holders and silver has become jewellery.
But it’s glass that forms the backbone of her work, from handbags made of glass to the ninemetre long, one-tonne crystal reception desk at the Clarion Post hotel in Volvo Cars’ home city of Gothenburg. And it’s glass she’s returned to for this collection of crystal, a collaboration between Volvo’s design team and Swedish glass maker Orrefors.
“Volvo models are now a mix of very modern and classic. I’ve tried to reflect this in the way I’ve designed these pieces“
Bergström inhabits that elusive territory between maker and artist. She designs beautiful, useful things and wild, curvaceous objects that blur the lines between decorative and experimental. Stellar, her latest exhibition and part of her long-running Planets series, consists of large sculpted glass forms that could almost be bowls or vases, were it not for the fact that their curves, twists and cut edges move them far from utility. But they are, without doubt, beautiful.
The collection’s seven pieces are both beautiful and useful. They combine functionality with the elegant precision of modern Swedish design. Bergström sees a reflection of Volvo Cars’ design themes and cars in this combination. “Volvo models are now a mix of very modern and classic, she says. “They are functional and elegant, and I’ve tried to reflect this in the way I’ve designed these pieces.“
The relationship between Orrefors and Volvo Cars started in 2009 with the S60 Concept Car, which featured a centre console made from glass. Since then they have created the unique glass gearshifter in the T8 Twin Engine versions of the XC90, S90 and V90 and Orrefors’ glassware has long been available as part of the Volvo Car Lifestyle collection. But this is the first time the two companies have collaborated to create a bespoke collection. As one of Orrefors’ in-house designers, Bergström was the natural choice to design it.
The commissioning process was very much a collaboration between Bergström and Volvo Cars’ design department, says Eva Hanner-Larson, Volvo Cars’ design manager. We met last year and we took her around Volvo Cars, talked about the company and what we are doing,” she says. “We’d seen Lena’s work and thought that it fitted very well with us – she has this clean looking form language.”
“We talked a lot about Scandinavia and how important it is to us, and how it should be represented in the product“
Together Bergström and Volvo Cars looked at the cars to get an idea of their design language and how it could influence the glassware, as well as discussing the relevance of Sweden and its culture. “We talked a lot about Scandinavia and how important it is to us and how it should be represented in the product,“ says Eva.
As part of this, Lena drew inspiration for the collection’s patterns from her childhood growing up in the northern Swedish town of Umeå. There, she would go walking in the woods with her family, carrying with them the food and drink for fika (the Swedish institution of a coffee break with pastries) in traditional wooden boxes. The boxes - made by people from the north of Sweden - used diamond patterns as decoration and swallowtail joints in their construction, which creates a triangular pattern. The triangular facets of the glassware are an abstraction of those traditional patterns.
It’s also very Scandinavian. “It has the core values of Scandinavia. The cleanliness of the glass and the combination of materials,” she says. “The pale wood and this sharp, clean glass are very Swedish.“ Using birch for the lid of the bowl reflects the tradition of turning small objects from this most Scandinavian of woods. ￼
The clarity and sharpness of each piece owes much to the skill of the craftspeople who make them by hand. The tradition of blowing, cutting and engraving by hand makes each piece unique. Indeed, these production methods play a crucial part in the design. “Creating the sharpness, the angles and the clarity are a challenge,“ says Bergström. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years but you are learning all the time.”