Isle of plenty— Gotland


When most European craft communities are struggling, how does the Swedish island of Gotland manage not only to survive but to thrive? A little bit of magic, according to those who work here, but also its mix of reasonably priced studio space and abundance of raw materials, including its famous wool.

Barbro Lomakka, Island craft, Leva Husfabrik, Skulpturfabriken

For most people, Gotland is best known as the setting for many of the late director Ingmar Bergman’s films. But the island is also home to a thriving craft industry, a tradition firmly rooted in the local materials: wool, limestone and wood. While most craft communities in Europe have died out as manufacturers have opted to outsource for cheaper materials and labour, Gotland’s craft community isn’t just ­surviving, it’s booming.

One reason is the quality of the raw materials. When Barbro Lomakka arrived in Gotland 17 years ago, like many of the…

  • Lomakka

    Barbro Lomakka is best known for her woven felt rugs, for which she won an Excellent Swedish Design award in 2002. She’s expanded her product range to include wall-hung textiles, acoustic panels and clothes, all handmade from Gotland wool. “Wool is fantastic in interiors. It’s sound-absorbing, dirt-rejecting and fire-resistant. But I’m not interested in decorating. I want textiles to become a material like wood, glass and concrete,” she says.

  • Skulpturfabriken

    In an old farm situated on the east side of Gotland, Stina Lindholm and her staff of seven make benches, planters, tables, sinks and decorative items out of concrete. Her style is strong and pared down, and projects include private and public assignments. “Concrete is a fascinating material. Unlike glass, which is more expressive, concrete is dead in a way. You have to work with the form to make it expressive,” she says.

  • G.A.D

    G.A.D’s wooden furniture is renowned for its exquisite finish. The company has its own carpenters in southern Gotland, where each item is numbered and personally signed by the carpenter who worked on it. “When we started, everyone was trying to do things as cheaply as possible,” says Kristian Eriksson, who founded G.A.D in 1999. “We said, let’s do the opposite, let’s do the best possible.”

  • Camilla Jensen

    Ceramicist Camilla Jensen makes white cups and bowls, which she sells in her own shop just outside Visby. She’s seen demand for her designs rise in the recession. “After the financial crisis, people want to buy these kinds of things: handmade, lasting designs, instead of something cheap you buy and soon throw away.”

  • Leva Husfabrik

    Founded this summer by four women with backgrounds in architecture and retail, Leva designs and manufactures houses using Gotland wood. The homes are simple and affordable and sold completely empty without even a layout for rooms. “We want to encourage people to be creative themselves,” says co-owner and architect Helena Bloom.


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