When looking at the latest products from Stockholm homeware manufacturers Skultuna, many would be convinced that the company is a recent start-up. Its modern pieces, in brass or sterling silver, are sleek and minimal, and are perfect examples of Scandinavian design. In fact, the company was founded in 1607, by the then king of Sweden, Karl IX.
Skultuna has specialised in brass items for over 400 years and is now a world-leader in the skills required to shape and finish the material. With a firm eye on its heritage, the company is an official supplier to the Swedish royal family, but it has also developed by bringing on board cutting-edge designers from Sweden and from other countries. Its new Via Fondazza vases are by Italian designer Paolo Dell’Elce, and collaborations have also been set up with Thomas Sandell, Olof Kolte, Claesson Koivisto Rune, Monica Förster and Folkform.
A recent revival
What unites these designs, according to Skultuna’s managing director Viktor Blomqvist, is timelessness. ‘This is a quality that comes from being honest with materials,’ he says. ‘Historically, Scandivanian countries were very poor, with little time for anything lavish and not useful. Where others made in gold, we made in pine – and then painted it grey.’
Skultuna has undergone something of a revival in recent years. When Blomqvist joined the company in 2004, brass wasn’t fashionable, and he feels that Skultuna was, for a while, concentrating on ‘overly complicated’ designs. The material is now enjoying a revival, and Skultuna has embraced a rawer and more industrial aesthetic. ‘Brass has become a very hot material,’ explains Blomqvist. ‘We’re making brass products at a fast pace for an international market. It was a big no-no in design until recently – everything had to be in brushed steel. One appeal of brass is its gold-like look. It’s a very warm material with an organic quality. It’s extremely durable, but needs to be cared for.’
The company is now a world-leader in the skills required to shape brass and finish brass, from sand casting and turning to blasting, grinding and brushing. According to Blomqvist, brass looks particularly good in candle light, which is why the company continues to make candle holders. Its most recent range, the London Collection, has been devised by jewellery designer Lara Bohinc.
When it comes to jewellery items, Skultuna has been Sweden’s largest cufflink maker for some 30 years – its Crown design is a classic – and it has also launched a fashion accessories line, which includes leather bracelets by Italian designer Lino Leluzzi.
Keeping the classics
Although Skultuna is now producing smaller items for the home and for personal wear, it has a tradition of making rather larger pieces, namely chandeliers. Its first was created for a church in Enkoping in 1619, and while it has been careful to ‘keep reinventing itself and not live off the old classics’, the company, still makes around 500 chandeliers a year. ‘We keep expanding our collaborations with hot design teams, and yet I’m astounded every year that we sell so many chandeliers,’ says Blomqvist. He attributes this to the fact that many people have ‘classic’ taste in design, and states that Skultuna, with its long history, is ideally placed to meet this demand.
Skultuna is the perfect example of a very long-established company that also has its eye firmly on the present, and is catching the world’s attention as a result: last year, its Flowerpots, by Monica Förster, won Wallpaper’s award for best product design, while visitors to Stockholm can now experience Skultuna’s collections in its first concept store located in the centre of the city.
Brass, it seems, is back.