Since Finnish designer Sari Syväluoma moved to Norway in 1994, the Norwegian textile scene has changed forever. Despite its long history of colourful embroideries and elaborate folk costumes, Norway had never had a tradition of printed textiles that reflected contemporary sensibilities. When she accepted the role of textile designer at Sellgrens Veveri (known as Gundbrandsdalens Textiles today), Syväluoma introduced a range of expressive, eye-catching designs that had never been produced in Norway before. Since then, her work has put Norwegian textiles on the map. Syväluoma’s woven jacquards and printed fabrics have been exported internationally and even exhibited by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign affairs as examples of outstanding textile design.


‘Not bad for a young Finnish designer, eh?’ chides Syväluoma from her studio in Oslo, as she reflects on what she’s achieved. ‘I was so happy to come to Norway and contribute with something that was really needed here then. When I came here, the government was just starting to promote good design and make it possible for young designers to show their work abroad. It’s exciting to be part of a new movement and see how the design scene here is starting to catch up with its Nordic neighbours.’

Syväluoma says she designs ‘just for fun’, because she regards textile design as a playful medium. Her work is characterised by a palate of soft colours, which she builds up in layers with the careful composition of a still life. She consciously creates whimsical motifs or casually sketches patterns so vibrant that the repeat seems to disappear altogether. ‘I would describe my style as quirky,’ she said. ‘I love organic shapes and free-flowing patterns. I like contrast in colours, shapes and material.’


Contemporary Nordic interiors are often minimal, and Syväluoma likes to counteract cool decor with powerful patterns that hold their own in the interior, eclipsing the need for paint finishes, elaborate carpets and decorative detailing. ‘My fabrics are designed to be draped across chairs, sofas, beds and windows,’ Syväluoma said. ‘They are intended to be a functional art form for the home, something that can say something about the personality of the person living there. I tell people: “think of your home as your universe, filled with the things you love, things that tell the story of you”.’

Today, Syväluoma works primarily as a freelance designer who also embarks on partnerships with other practitioners. She produces small-edition print runs for interior design boutiques and launched a range of children’s textiles in 2006. In recent years, she has expanded her client base to create interior fabrics for manufacturers in Britain, Germany, Finland and Hong Kong, but Syväluoma says she is not done with Norway yet. ‘A lot of my work is exported as “Norwegian Design”, and that’s fine,’ she says. ‘But my real work now is to bring more international influences into Norway, so that the people here can experience something more than just Nordic design.’


This is a post by David Report contributor Bradley Quinn.


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