Thursday, 5 November 2015

Nordic Makers

Nordic Makers, a Scandinavian design store located in Dún Laoghaire in Dublin

The timing has been pretty funny: as I move to Copenhagen, a Danish duo open a design store in Ireland. Based between here and Dublin, Klaus Kristian Sørensen and Louis Weyhe Funder opened the doors of their shop, Nordic Makers, in Dún Laoghaire three months ago, bringing limited edition work from small studios and emerging designers all over the Nordic region to an Irish audience. And as Klaus and Louis tell me here in Copenhagen, that Irish audience is lapping it up.

The Nordic Makers store opening this summer

'We are delighted with the response so far. Many people have never seen design like this before, or seen a shop that’s all white! So it’s a lot of fun to see how people react to our stuff,' Louis tells me. Nordic Makers certainly is a bit of a departure from the offering we've had in Dublin so far. We've had a small number of retailers and collectors providing mid-century vintage furniture or the established icons of Scandinavian design, and in recent years a crop of design shops specialising in emerging designers or craft-led work from Ireland has developed, but Nordic Makers combines the two, providing Scandinavian design beyond the big names, proving that the Nordic region has much more to offer than just egg chairs and artichoke lamps.

M.E. Engel's plank bench on display at Nordic Makers

But is the heritage of Scandinavian design a challenge for younger designers to either live up to, or break away from? Louis thinks not. 'I don’t think that the current generation of designers from the Nordic countries experience this pressure. They are obviously very much aware of the success of "Danish Modern" - and Scandinavian design more generally - of the 1940s and 1950s. They certainly study the work of these designers, and I would likewise think that the majority of today’s designers find inspiration in the work of the designs of the mid-century. The ones that suffered from this pressure were probably the people working in the 1970s and 1980s (and to some degree the 1960s as well). At the same time hugely successful designers from Denmark of the 1960s and the 1970s, for example, already broke away from what the Danish designers of the 1940s and 1950s were doing. The most obvious of these designers is Verner Panton, who is now considered an equal to people like Jacobsen, Wegner, Mogensen and Juhl. But I don’t think that it was something they deliberately set out to do. And I don’t think that the current crop of designers feel a need either to “break away” or “stick to traditions”. Design and architectural patterns tend to come about more organically or are focused to smaller groups of people. I think there is always pressure for any new generation of designers to equal or better the previous generation, but it is not something that you can set out to do.'

Blue Hills Service by Lars Rank, available from Nordic Makers

Whether or not these contemporary designers are intentionally sticking to traditions or pushing against them, the work available through Nordic Makers is a rich range of contemporary pieces with a clear sense of Scandinavian simplicity. Smooth surfaces, clean, uncomplicated forms and balanced use of colour make these high end, limited edition objects really appealing and attractive. And they are shown in a stripped back, white space. As Klaus says, 'This way, it is the products that really light up the space!' The work of 45 designers and makers from all over Scandinavia is currently available, with a new range of products being shipped to Ireland as I type. 'Every three months the range of products in the store will change: this month we will add the work of another 15 or so designers, as well as including new work from many of the designers already in the store', Klaus explains. In fact, he takes me with him to make a collection, from Copenhagen-based ceramicist Lars Rank. Lars' Dots range of functional slip cast ceramics, white on the outside but hiding a host of bright colours on the inside, have been available online and in store since Nordic Makers launched this summer. Now his Blue Hills service is making its way to Dublin, a variety of plates, bowls, cups and more that exploit the chemistry of different clays and glazes to create soft, speckled blues and greys against a glossy white background. Pictured above and below, they're beautiful, useful and affordable - just as you imagine Nordic design to be.

Blue Hills jug by Lars Rank, available from Nordic Makers

So if you haven't made it to Dún Laoghaire to see Nordic Makers yet, now is an ideal time, with a host of new products just about to hit the store. Though Klaus and Louis also have plans in the pipeline for an exhibition and events next spring, so there is no end in sight for new Nordic design in Dublin...

Images 1-3 courtesy of Nordic Makers, images 4 and 5 via Lars Rank