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Studio Visit: Martin Björnson

Playful furniture from a Swedish designer at the heart of Malmö's emerging scene

by Leonora Oppenheim
on 29 October 2013

Recently in Malmö for The Conference, we took the time to visit local designer Martin Björnson in his studio workshop. Björnson's Bobbin stool has received a lot of design recognition this year, and we were intrigued to meet the man behind these colorful, oversized cotton reels.

Björnson has made a name for himself with his playful approach to furniture design. It is no surprise that he named his production company Morphos—Greek for "form"—as he often combines a minimal modern aesthetic with an element of zoomorphic or anthropomorphic form. This can best be seen in products such as the eight-legged stool "Octopus," a dining table with star shaped legs called "Stella" and the flirty "Elsa" table, whose legs are carved into the elegantly arched shape of a woman's foot. "Elsa" appears to stand on tip-toes and comes with a tablecloth which—in Björnson's words—"covers her modesty."


A practical, hands-on approach to design is important to Björnson. This is clear from his studio layout; two-thirds of which is a workshop packed full of batch production, prototypes, and experiments in progress. The remaining space is a tidy office that Björnson uses for his graphic design work.


While giving a tour of his space, Björnson describes his frustration with the overly theoretical approach to craft that he encountered in design school. Instead, he left before completing his degree and trained as a cabinet-maker. In 2003 he started his Malmö workshop in collaboration with fellow maker Calle Kylberg, though since 2009 Björnson has run the studio solo.


This year, Björnson has made quite a hit with "Bobbin"—a storage stool which doubles as a side table that looks like an oversized cotton reel. The removable beechwood lid is laser etched in four different designs to resemble the graphic patterns on the tops of thread spools. Colorful cotton corduroy covers a strong cardboard tube structure to imitate the thread wound around the middle.


Björnson was particularly pleased by the positive response "Bobbin" got at the Milan furniture fair this year, where he exhibited his work in a group show called "Malmö by Proxy." He says that the design community there grows stronger all the time, with collectives of designers and makers like Öresund Furniture Association, which put the Milan show together, as well as the Form/Design Centre and the local department of Svensk Form (The Swedish Society of Crafts and Design).


Björnson is impressed that, "even Malmö stad [the local government] is lifting design as a focus subject, which hopefully will make the conditions for us designers even better in the coming years." Further, he adds, "We also now have the first design gallery that just opened in town—Petra Liljav. My experience is that the design scene in Malmö right now is quite vivid, with a good looking forecast."

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Whether his furniture evokes sea creatures, seductive women or cotton reels, it's clear that Björnson brings a combination of humor, lightness of touch and skilled craftsmanship to his expressive creations. In his own words, Björnson's work is designed to "benefit your body, your soul and your conscience."

"Bobbin" stools are currently only available for order in Sweden for 3,495 SEK (about $550) with hopes to expand internationally soon.

Images courtesy of Leonora Oppenheim

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