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New York på Dalsländska Exhibition

Swedish designer John-Michael Ekeblad presents furniture made of wood salvaged from a local 19th century cottage

by Graham Hiemstra
on 01 July 2014

As a designer, John-Michael Ekeblad has long been interested in repurposing and recycling materials from the deteriorating urban landscape. Whether in his native Sweden or adopted home of NYC, Ekeblad finds nostalgia in such rubble, yearning to connect the past and present while preserving the materials' original personality—most often in furniture form. For his most recent project, Ekeblad was invited to host a solo show at Dalslands Konstmuseum, an art museum located roughly two hours north of Gothenburg in the Dalsland region. The show, "New York på Dalsländska," centers around furniture works inspired by New York and made of material salvaged from a 19th century cottage and produced during a four day workshop done in collaboration with Steneby, a local design and craft school where Ekeblad himself studied in the 1970s.

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By bringing together young designers and students of varied focus and experience, the workshop forged a uniquely creative environment. "The mix of multi-skilled people is very powerful and generates tons of energy and knowledge on many levels, that everyone involved benefits greatly from," says Ekeblad. As for the actual material used, it came from a small, traditionally constructed cottage—originally erected in 1850—once owned by an old lady lovingly known within the local community as Greta på Berget (meaning, Greta-on-the-hill).

While Ekeblad enjoys romanticizing the materials for what they once were, it's the way the wood drives what its next use will be that's really central to his work. "You can sketch ideas all day long, but once you have that piece of wood in your hands it kickstarts your creative process and constructive improvisation," explains Ekeblad. "Add a time constraint and interesting things happen—you act on instinct and make very functional decisions, without taking shortcuts."

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The resulting furniture is raw and rustic, yet well considered. The wood is polished to a clean surface that's smooth wherever it would meet skin, while left unfinished elsewhere—leaving the rough wood to its own story. And of course a pop of color here and there lends a touch of the designer's personality, bringing the whole project full circle. "New York på Dalsländska" will run through 27 July 2014.

Images courtesy of John-Michael Ekeblad

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