Zest For Lifeby Niamh McCooey
Since the nineties, designer Maria Åström has been a shining light of the Swedish textile industry. Following in the footsteps of Josef Frank, the Austrian born designer who adopted Swedish citizenship in the latter half of his life, Åström is now considered to be one of the country’s most exciting creators of printed textiles. Infusing her work with vibrant colours and a trademark botanical zeal, her work defies visions of overcast Nordic landscapes and celebrates the fruitful life to be found in contemporary Swedish culture.
Working for most of the year from her studio in Stockholm, Åström migrates to the south of the country during the summer months, and finds inspiration in her garden by the Baltic Sea. Quite often she will sit amongst her growing vegetables and pink roses as she sketches out new designs on her notepad. This slow tempo is, according to the artist, absolutely integral to the creative process.
Later on, once her drawings have evolved into more than just a bare first sketch, Åström will breathe life into her botanical designs through paint. Illustrating lemons, oak leaves, peonies, tulips and roses, her patterns are renowned for their careful composition and crisp style. ‘If a so-called naturalistic pattern is too perfect it becomes boring,’ she explains. ‘I like to include nature’s own imperfection, like the worm-eaten leaf, not because it´s a realistic approach but because it adds something interesting to the pattern.’
Now with designs sold all over the world, including the juggernaut retailer Ikea, Åström is rising to the top of contemporary textile design, and it should come as little surprise in the coming years if her reputation continues to blossom as far and as beautifully as Josef Frank’s before her.
To find out more about the history of Swedish culture and textiles, pick up a copy of Selvedge issue 79 to read all about Britta Marakatt-Labba's stunning historical embroidery. Order your copy here.
Photography by Anna Kern