Inez Svensson was an influential designer and textile artist within the Swedish textile industry and Swedish cultural life of the second half of the 1900s.
Inez Svensson was born in Mariestad in 1932. She was the only child of Ester and Gustav Svensson. Her father worked within hydro power and was employed at power-stations along the Värmland rivers, resulting in frequent moves for his family. Inez Svensson knew from an early age that she wanted to work with drawing. After she read about the Anders Beckman school in Damernas Värld she moved to Stockholm in order to attend the school and become qualified as a fashion designer.
After completing her training Inez Svensson worked with two of Sweden’s leading textile designers. Her first internship was with Astrid Sampe at the NK Textilkammare and subsequently she served with Göta Trägårdh at STOBO (the Stockholm cotton-spinning and weaving company). Her creations from her time at STOBO include the textiles named Bebop and Kribi.
In 1956 Inez Svensson travelled to the USA in order to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. On her return to Sweden she became employed as the artistic director at the Borås Wäfveri design studio. She successfully convinced the management there to take a chance on young Swedish designers who produced new and daring designs. She herself also created a large number of designs during this period, including Camelot in 1965.
During the late 1960s the Swedish textile industry fell on hard times, so Inez Svensson along with nine fellow textile artists set up a handicrafts collective known as the 10-group. This allowed them to make their own decisions regarding their output, from pattern sketches to completed product. Their first collection was produced in 1972 and the next year they opened their first shop at Gamla Brogatan in Stockholm. The 10-group held several exhibitions both in Sweden and abroad and their patterns were used on furniture, wallpaper, and porcelain. One of Inez Svensson’s wallpaper designs as part of the 10-group is called Uppåner and was printed by Duro. Inez Svensson withdrew from the 10-group during the mid-1990s and in 2015 the group was acquired by IKEA.
For much of her professional life Inez Svensson was also active as a textile freelancer, including working for the Swedish Institute, Riksutställningar, and Föreningen Svensk Form (Swedish design association). She created patterns for KF, Åhléns, and IKEA – for whom the textiles named Strix and Strax as well as Randig banan became best-sellers. Working for these major department-store chains enabled her to create quality textiles at affordable prices. Inez Svensson believed that good designs should be accessible to everyone. She took no particular interest in fashion trends choosing instead to focus on beauty, practicality, and durability. She often created geometric patterns in strong, bright colours, often using strips as a basis. Several of her patterns have been repeatedly re-issued. She also participated in several exhibitions both in Sweden and abroad.
Inez Svensson spent several different periods living outside of Sweden. In 1974 she was employed as a textile advisor for a UNIDO project in Pakistan. Her job involved creating new products and patterns for export. Although the project was only intended to run for a year she actually remained in post for four years. The country and its people made a lasting impact on her. The latter two years of her time there she benefited from a Sida stipend and worked in rural Pakistan, documenting, preserving, and highlighting old textile handicrafts.
When Konstfack (the college of arts, crafts and design) was seeking a new principal in 1990 the student body encouraged the school to ask her to apply. She subsequently got the job, which she held for six years. Her experience and her activism made her a much-loved principal. She worked hard to foster ties between the school, society, and industry, both within and outside of Sweden.
Inez Svensson was known for holding strong opinions and she often engaged in polemics. She often appeared in the media, not least as a writer. This included frequently writing for journals such as Form and Hemslöjden. She also wrote books, including Tryckta tyger från 30-tal till 80-tal and Formgivarnas stickbok.
Through the years Inez Svensson sat on several boards, such as that of Statens konstmuseer (national art museums), Svenska Hemslöjdsföreningarnas Riksförbund (SHR; national federation of Swedish traditional handicrafts), the Anders Beckman school, and Riksutställningar. She was appointed professor by the government in 1996. She was awarded H.M. royal order of the Seraphim medal of the 8th degree in 2004 in recognition of her “many years of and significant contributions to the development of artistic handicrafts, design, and textiles in Sweden”.
In addition to her artistic efforts Inez Svensson and her friend Carl Butler opened a local pub on Rörstrandsgatan in Stockholm in 1968. Their restaurant, called Svensson & Butler, quickly became popular. Customers could watch their food being prepared from their seats and Inez Svensson’s selection of kitchen items were also for sale. She also acted in minor roles, including in Carl Johan De Geer's and Håkan Alexandersson’s classic children’s programme called Tårtan.
Inez Svensson died in Stockholm in 2005.