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Design inspiration comes from all around the world. Photo: Louise Billgert
Design inspiration comes from all around the world. Photo: Louise Billgert

People

A day with designer Ingegerd Råman

Curiosity, an obsession with quality and a sense of fun have made Ingegerd Råman one of Sweden’s leading designers. Starting from a humble pottery workshop, she expanded to glassware, furniture, sculpture, then architecture. And her artistic journey is far from over.

This is Ingegerd Råman

Born: 1943
Family: Married to artist and filmmaker Claes Söderquist, one son
Trained in: Ceramics at Capellagården, Konstfack College of Arts, Craft and Design, and Instituto Statale d’Arte per la Ceramica in Faenza, Italy
Work: Designed glassware for Johansfors, Skruf and Orrefors. Prestigious commissions for the Swedish parliament and artistic decorations for the Swedish embassy in Washington, DC, as well as several foreign collaborations and commissions
Where to see: Råman’s work is on display at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg

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Twenty years ago, Ingegerd Råman and her husband, film director and artist Claes Söderquist, moved into an old school building on a country road in Österlen in Skåne, southern Sweden. Architects Claesson Koivisto Rune helped with the renovation, finding the right minimalist expression without stripping away the soul of the building.
The design emphasizes the building’s spaces, with detailing kept subtle. The light and the view are the prominent aspects, rather than luxurious materials or grand features. The interior is dominated by old wooden floors and white walls.
The couple come here throughout the year, together and separately, to experience the silence rather than to get away from work.
“Sometimes people think there should be more color in the interior,” Råman says. “I reply that it is there – just look at the light on the walls during the day. The color changes all the time.” 

Respect for the user

The ground floor is almost entirely taken up by two large rooms – a generous kitchen and an airy study. There is no living room as such, but a collection of upholstered furniture around the kitchen stove serves as a place to relax. The large desk in the study is littered with diverse objects: Japanese brushes, a Stig Lindberg dish, a hammer, a leaf skeleton. There are design sketches too – on waxed paper from the grocery store.
“It turns yellow and becomes brittle over time,” she explains, “ready to be thrown away. I like the idea of just leaving useful things behind, not a load of paper.”
A narrow concrete staircase leads up from the long hallway to the upper floor and its restful bedroom. It’s not hard to see the house as an extension of the objects that Råman has created since graduating from art college in the late 1960s. Modern and minimalist, but with respect for tradition and the user.
Few of Råman’s classmates actually went on to become craftspeople or designers; many became teachers or chose other professions that were considered more socially engaged.
“I probably felt more in touch with the 50s than the 60s,” Råman says. “I acquired a studio and started with my ceramics, simply decorated commercial items. I was always aware that I had not chosen a lucrative industry, but I’ve never had to work with anything else. At one point, when things were going better, Claes and I set off on a long trip. When we came home, I had to start from scratch again. It’s about choosing your own way of life – I chose one with a great deal of freedom.”

Forgetting yourself through travel

Travel has always appealed to Råman.
“I like the feeling of being awake in a new environment, without a safety net, completely in the present,” she says. “Meeting other people is so special and rewarding when you forget yourself, as you do in a way when you are traveling.”
The couple have traveled across the US by car several times, seeing in the spring in the southwestern desert and making several extended stays in New York, which Råman says is their favorite city.
“Everything is seen as an opportunity there, which is so life-affirming and positive. The energy is palpable.”
While working as a designer at Skruf in the early eighties, Råman designed the Bellman glassware, which became a classic. She describes glass design as a team effort, unlike the individual work she does in her ceramics workshop.
“With glass, I am dependent on skilled craftspeople. It’s about being sensitive and weaving together different skills. Each project is an incredibly fun journey.”

Ingegerd Råman loves the peace of the Skåne countryside. Photo: Louise Billgert

The continuity of Orrefors

For 14 years, until its closure in 2013, Råman worked at Orrefors, Sweden’s leading glassworks. The brand lives on, but great changes have been made and Ingegerd feels that a lot of knowledge has been dispelled.

“There was continuity, tradition, and progress,” she says. “The company should have focused on its core business – glass and craftsmanship.”  But Råman is still optimistic about the industry.
“Things are happening among the young – craftsmanship is the new gold. A market for small-scale industrial art is emerging, both through the popularity of locally produced work and on today’s global market.”
Råman’s success at home has garnered wider attention, and commissions now come from all over the world.
In addition to Swedish and Scandinavian museums, she has worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Stedelijk in Amsterdam, as well as in America and Japan. She recalls a meeting for a Japanese design project.
“We sat for hours and discussed different levels of whiteness. There is such a strong respect for aesthetics there.”
Now she has been given the prestigious commission to design a tea set for a producer in Arita, known for its gaudily decorated Imari porcelain.
“But my set will be completely monochrome,” she laughs.
Currently, Råman is working on an Ikea collection in natural fiber, made in Vietnam. Her personal favorite item is a pretty chair inspired by the child seats on motorcycles in Vietnam. She emphasizes the importance of being on site and getting to know the conditions and talking with the person who is doing the work.
“You have to know the processes and understand the peculiarities before you can see the possibilities,” she says. “Language is seldom a major problem. With experience, you can communicate non-verbally and through tools and materials.”

Collaborating on Liljevalchs extension

Although Råman loves the peace and quiet of Skåne, she sees herself as more of a city person. “It is the people, the crowds, the encounters that I cannot do without – to see and be surprised,” she says.
When in Stockholm, she works from a studio on the island of Skeppsholmen. Just across the water is Liljevalchs art gallery. Råman collaborated with architect Gert Wingårdh on the winning design for the planned extension.
“I work well with Gert,” she says with a smile, “because he adds things and I take things away.”
Although peace and stillness are important factors in Råman’s life and work, she is constantly on the go. Current projects include working with a sculpture group in Växjö and a solo exhibition at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm next summer. Before that, she’s also looking forward to spending some time at the potter’s wheel in her studio, continuing her search for the perfect blend of materials, shape and function. 

 

Text: Jacob Hertzell

Last edited: May 20, 2017

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