Den Gamle By, Aarhus
Reading New Nordic Design, to write a review, one interview in the book in particular got me thinking.
Erik Lith, Martin Lith and Hannes Lundin design and manufacture furniture from their workshop in Torsåker in Sweden under their label Lith Lith Lundin. Asked to talk about something they are proud of achieving they say they never give up ... and they go on to describe making the egg and oil tempera to stain their furniture.
They “ began by sowing our own field of flax to make linseed oil, and tearing up old pine roots to make pigments. After harvesting, cleaning and pressing the linseeds and cutting, drying and burning the pine roots, we could start experimenting to find the best stain.” *
Their web site sets out much more about the concept for their work and about the materials they use - materials that are sourced within a radius of 50 kilometres - and sustainability is a fundamental principle for their company.
To quote from their web site, their aim is:
“To create trust and honesty towards customers and retailers, we work with complete transparency in all aspects of our operations. In this way we want to create an understanding of our enterprise and justify the price of our products. Our customers should feel certain that they are buying a sustainable piece of furniture at the right price, and to ensure that the planet’s eco system is kept in balance, the lifespan of the piece should reflect the time it takes for a replanted seedling to generate the same amount of material.”
Go to the web site and you can see how each piece of furniture is numbered and it is possible to trace the source of all materials.
What seems particularly important here is that they are looking back to an earlier model for local or regional production using local materials. Although they are reassessing traditional techniques, they are applying them to designs that are without any doubt contemporary. This is not about returning to forms and styles from the past with a sense of nostalgia but is a clear and rational attempt to bring forward into the 21st century techniques and principles that, for many different reasons, were forgotten or ignored or deliberately abandoned in the last decades of the last century.
Linseed oil paint is still used in Sweden and has particular qualities. It usually has a soft matt finish on woodwork and for external use for barns and for timber houses and for doors it lets the wood breathe and with sun and rain and frost the colour slowly changes and mellows. The comparable finish in English vernacular architecture is to use lime wash over oak framing on cottages and farm buildings.
Open-air museums in Aarhus at Den Gamle By, at the museum north of Copenhagen at Frilandsmuseet, and the museum in Lund and the Stockholm open air museum all have information and displays about the use of traditional paints and wood finishes.
It is fantastic to see that young designers are reassessing their use for contemporary production.
* Quote taken from New Nordic Design by Dorothea Gundtoft, published by Thames & Hudson