An initial report by Jenny Nordberg, begun in 2013 and completed through 2014, looked at how small-scale production of furniture, ‘gadgets’ and other design objects could be part of a sustainable community within Skåne, a clearly defined and relatively small region. The report considered ethical values in consumption and looked generally at production and at manufacturing skills surviving in southern Sweden. In part it seems to have followed a growing desire that more food should be produced locally.
One aim of the consequent project is to reduce transport costs for both materials and for finished goods but also it was hoped that focusing design and production locally would also mean that there would be fewer intermediaries in the commercial chain.
Early in 2015 twenty-four designers were selected along with twenty-four manufacturers to collaborate in the project. They were chosen in part for their curiosity about the project but also for their openness to trying new business partnerships.
Many of the designers had worked both locally and internationally and the manufacturers ranged in scale from craftsmen, who are generally geared up to small production runs, to companies organised for larger-scale production. Each partnership was given freedom to determine what they would produce and how and much came down to developing personal as well as working relationships.
This project has also been about testing the form of collaboration, between designer and manufacturer, and aimed to establish a more equitable financial arrangement that moved away from the normal pattern of royalties for rights to reproduce a design to agreements where the designers and manufacturers share the expenses incurred in development and initial production but then also share the revenue.
Items or objects produced through the project cover a wide range of materials and manufacturing techniques including blown glass, ceramics, metal work, leather work and textiles and a wide range of items from stacking boxes to storage jars to lighting to jewellery and a champagne table.
That last item emphasises one curious aspect of the works presented. It would appear from the introduction to the exhibition that the designers and manufacturers were given freedom to choose what they would produce. Jenny Nordberg, who also curated the exhibition, commented on this:
“As a curator, I imagined that most people would design and produce saleable inexpensive items to show that it actually does not need to be particularly expensive by local production. There, I thought wrong. It has instead been mostly projects where both designers and manufacturers wanted to challenge themselves and show the breadth of their skills. Many of the projects … are unique, conceptual, luxurious, on the verge of unfeasible and overall, just amazing.”
It is not clear if this shows that designers or manufacturers were concerned primarily to showcase their skills but that seems unlikely given the well-established careers and reputations of most. Possibly they wanted to use the opportunity to produce things they would not normally be able to work on. It could be more of a problem, in terms of ongoing viability and the possibility of extending the project, if they all felt that reasonable financial returns would only be possible through producing more expensive items or if they thought that their potential market would not be interested in buying just basic items. Perhaps it is simply that, at this initial stage in this project, more basic designs - so everyday household items such as tableware - actually need a much larger production run to return a profit.
All the designs are available through the web site.
The exhibition continues at Form Design Center in Malmö until the 15th November and then transfers first to the National Museum in Stockholm and then in 2016 to Vandalorum in Värnamo.
Den Nya Kartan - The New Map