Estrid Ericson was a Swedish designer, company owner and founder of the company Svenskt Tenn AB.
Estrid Ericson was born in 1894 in Öregrund. She grew up in Hjo with six siblings. Her parents, Helga Kristina and Gustaf Adolf Eriksson, ran Hotel Royal, which was located in a building facing Hamngatan. After her parents’ death Estrid Ericson and three of her sisters became the new owners of the hotel. One of her sisters, Christina Ericson, became the hotel restaurateur and worked there until the hotel closed in the early 1960s.
Estrid Ericson gained her school-leaving certificate in Hjo and then moved to Stockholm, where she was enrolled at Tekniska skolan from 1913 to 1918. She chose to specialise in pattern design. Sofia Gisberg, the “grand old lady” of industrial art, taught at the college. She mainly taught commercial art drawing as well as commercial needlework, but she also ran her own business as a pattern designer in various materials, for which she received commissions from numerous companies. Estrid Ericson spent a semester as a drawing instructor in Hjo after which – on Sofia Gisberg’s recommendation – she was offered positions by both Husfliten in Gothenburg and Svenska Slöjdföreningen (Swedish Society of Industrial Design) in Stockholm in 1919. Estrid Ericson opted for the Stockholm job, where she was subsequently employed in the home and furniture department.
Elsa Gullberg was helping the Wikman & Wiklund company to set up their new store, focused on modern household utensils, at Strandvägen in Stockholm. She hired Estrid Ericson as a consultant in 1920. Estrid Ericson then became acquainted with the brothers Nils and Tage Fougstedt, who ran their own pewter workshop, and, in the spring of 1924, she and the two brothers opened Konsthantverkets Verkstad on Kungsholmen. In the autumn of that same year Estrid Ericson found premises on Smålandsgatan with enough space for a workshop and a shop. Svenskt Tenn AB opened on 24 October 1924. With the help of Nils Fougstedt and two other artisans Estrid Ericson built up a sizable pewter collection. Her modern pewter goods garnered a lot of attention gaining her company not only customers but also great acclaim in the press. The company soon began to display its products at a range of artistic exhibitions. Pewter ware was generally considered to be experiencing a renaissance due to Nils Fougstedt and Estrid Ericson. In the summer of 1925 the company exhibited their goods at the World Fair in Paris. Their success in Paris led to further displays of Swedish handicrafts in both the USA and Europe with Svenskt Tenn regularly contributing to the exhibitions. Estrid Ericson employed a great variety of artists. In 1927 the company moved to larger premises at Strandvägen 5. Svenskt Tenn also began to produce wood-framed pewter furniture, designed by Uno Åhrén and Björn Trägårdh. Pewter had become a “more beautiful everyday item” and following the Stockholm exhibition of 1930 Svenskt Tenn became equally acclaimed outside of Sweden as it was domestically.
As a consequence of the 1929 stock market crash in the USA, and the ensuing economic recession, interest in exclusive products declined. Estrid Ericson had, however, already started to shift the company’s focus at its five-year anniversary, which is apparent in the Blomarrangemang och bordsdekorationer exhibition. Estrid Ericson reduced the pewter production and instead began to order furniture reflecting signature expressions of well-known furniture makers. Svenskt Tenn debuted as an interior design company in 1931 with goods designed by Uno Åhrén. He also decorated Estrid Ericson’s own apartment. Just as she had been celebrated as a prominent designer of pewter ware she now gained acclaim from the press for her particular feeling for interior design. She was considered to be a lyrical prophet for the combination of furniture, colours and materials in the modern functionalist style. She was later described as the interior designer who led functionalism into the future by softening its image in the sphere of interior design. The furniture that was developed at the time expressed contemporary forms of expression.
When the company turned ten years old in 1934, a new era began, which came to define the remainder of Estrid Ericson’s time in the company. Josef Frank, the internationally renowned architect and furniture maker, moved to Sweden and began to work with Svenskt Tenn. He was also running his own company, Haus und Garten, in Vienna until 1939. He brought with him certain models, which Estrid Ericson paid for him to rework. The company gained much acclaim for Josef Frank’s exclusive furniture. Svenskt Tenn also participated in most furniture and interior design exhibitions. They enjoyed further triumphs at the World Fair in Paris in 1937 and New York in 1939. For a time Svenskt Tenn was viewed as the figurehead of Swedish Modern, a group of interior designers, artisans, and industrial companies.
Estrid Ericson also organised her own exhibitions each spring and autumn in her shop, which she used to introduce leading designers and artisans from abroad. At the same time Estrid Ericson became the leading advisor on interior design. She often referenced Professor Frank’s approaches to interior design. There was plenty of competition, however. A large number of smaller interior design companies – several of which were run by women – had emerged during the interwar period, particularly after the Stockholm exhibition of 1930. Nevertheless, Svenskt Tenn retained its position as a leader in the field from the outset. During the Second World War many other companies were forced to close due to a lack of supplies. Estrid Ericson then chose to focus on Swedish artisan work and handicrafts for her regular spring and autumn displays. In 1939 she met the man who became her husband, Captain Sigfrid Ericson. They married in 1944 and spent 30 years together until Sigfrid Ericson’s death in 1973.
The second major era of interior design began in the mid-1940s. Josef Frank had returned from the USA and, along with Estrid Ericson, initiated new hugely successful campaigns, both abroad and in Sweden. Frank had produced new patterned favrics and launched his lighting fittings. The company celebrated its 25-year anniversary in 1949 and it was claimed that the Svenskt Tenn style had succeeded functionalism in the area of interior design. Josef Frank’s output was celebrated at an exhibition at the Nationalmuseum in 1952. A posthumous memorial exhibition was also held there in his honour in 1968, a year after his death. Estrid Ericson put great effort into both of these exhibitions. Her arrangements, along with Frank’s exclusive handmade furniture, became legendary. The interior design magazines lined up to obtain Estrid Ericson’s advice on how to increase comfort and beauty in the home.
Estrid Ericson also became known for her talent for table settings and flower arrangements. She put on several displays in her shop based on these themes. She also gave advice on table settings and flower arrangements according to the seasons, both in women’s magazines and in the daily press.
During her later years Estrid Ericson returned to the production of pewter wares, which she designed herself. She continued to design pewter jewellery, sometimes gold-plated, which she had begun in the early 1940s. It was only in the mid-1990s that the pewter workshop was finally closed. Estrid Ericson continued working right up to the end. During her final year at Svenskt Tenn management was handed over to Ann Wall. In 1975 the Kjell and Märta Beijer foundation took over the running of the company.
Estrid Ericson’s interior design company is still active today (2017), which is especially unique in an international industry strongly influenced by trends and new styles.
Estrid Ericson died in 1981. She is buried at Hjo cemetery in Västra Götaland.