Image: Ryan Brook, TC Media
Editor-in-chief Erin McLaughlin sits down with IKEA's design director, Marcus Engman.
Editor-in-chief Erin McLaughlin jetted off to IKEA headquarters in Älmhult, Sweden, to sit down with Marcus Engman, the company’s creative wizard, and get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at several exciting new collaborations.
In an effort to make avant-garde artwork accessible to all (and to bring street art out of its black-sheep status), IKEA reached out to 12 artists across the globe, from China to Serbia to France, to adapt their one-of-a-kind pieces into inexpensive limited-edition prints. “We wanted to democratize art,” says Marcus Engman, IKEA’s design director, of the Art Event collection. “We also wanted to provide an arena for good artists who might otherwise not be noticed in the art world.” Erin is in love with the black and white abstract Erosie print: “I can see it in an elegant family room, a funky bedroom or an ultra-modern dining room,” she says.
Marcus met Ruthel Eksell, the widow of Swedish illustrator Olle Eksell (1918– 2007), entirely by chance. Forming an instant connection, Marcus found himself poring over more than 10,000 of Olle’s illustrations, working closely with Ruthel to develop her husband’s body of work – which has graced children’s books, decor accessories and much more – into the Önskedröm collection for IKEA. “He was a true visionary, driven by joy, imagination and curiosity,” explains Marcus.
“Olle couldn’t stop himself from sketching,” Marcus told Erin, while taking her through some of his favourite illustrations. “This intricate arrow is amazing because it’s all one continuous line, done without lifting his hand from the page.” Önskedröm framed print, IKEA.
“Olle Eksell could not draw people. He found that he could not make them lifelike,” says David Castenfors in his book about Olle, titled Of Course! “But when he drew birds, he suddenly managed to capture the characters of people.” These playful bird caricatures feature prominently in this equally playful collection.
THEN: From the late 1950s, Olle was obsessed with drawing birds. The book Of Course! Reveals a tray prototype from 1960. Of Course! book by David Castenfors, IKEA.
NOW: IKEA's 2015 adaptation, Önskedröm tray, IKEA.
Cultivating relationships with outside designers is at the heart of Marcus’s vision for IKEA. He’s creating new entry points through fresh collaborations, providing different ways of looking at the brand. For the Sinnerlig collection (available in August), IKEA partnered with celebrated designer Ilse Crawford of Studioilse; it also marks the company’s move to sustainable design – this collection features the chic use of cork.
Ilse Crawford of the British design company Studioilse is committed to creating relaxed, comfortable spaces that enhance everyday life. It’s a mantra she maintained when collaborating on this collection for IKEA.