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With a career spanning more than 28 years Swedish designer Monica Förster has designed for companies ranging from Volvo and Whirlpool to Orrefors and Gense. With a list of accolades to her name as impressive as her varied body of work it is hard to believe that Monica hasn’t always dreamed of becoming a designer.
Growing up in a small town in Lapland, Monica was surrounded by a creative family who lived close to nature, her upbringing dependant on the rhythms of life within the Arctic circle.
“My father was a high-end chef,” she explains “and together with my mother they ran a very innovative (for those days) restaurant.”
“It was in the 70s and everything was grown locally, they collected herbs and leaves from the forest as well as berries and mushrooms. They got all the fish from the Lappish people, that they know quite well.” Monica continues.
There are lots of ingredients that need to work together to have a successful marriage [in the kitchen]. And I think that's very similar to designing. – Monica Förster
Photo by Per Ranung
In 1999 Monica founded her own design studio which has since become one of the most renowned design studios in Sweden, picking up numerous awards, most recent of which being the prestigious AW Designer of the year award 2023.
Primarily an industrial designer, with an impressively diverse catalogue of work, Monica tells us that she approaches each project with the same philosophy.
“We do a great deal of research before we start any project” she says, and continues, “we work with ideas and concepts first and after follows shape, colour and texture. I believe that the project becomes clearer both for me, the client and the press with this way of working.”
“It is the same with an artistic project. I work with concepts and ideas. I hope that shines through in every project.” Monica explains.
Polished stainless-steel for an elegant touch.
Among Monica’s many collaborations you will find one with renowned Scandinavian cutlery producer Gense. Founded in 1856 Gense is one of Sweden’s oldest companies. It is rare to find a company that focuses almost exclusively on cutlery, but Gense has remained steadfast in their vision for almost 170 years. It is this focus that Monica searches for when she is considering her next collaboration.
“For me every project and every client equally important but I also want to work with companies that have a strong identity and vision.” She tells us.
Monica’s story with Gense began 10 years ago when she was commissioned to design a range of cutlery that was both functional and beautiful. The series, named after Monica’s hometown of Dorotea, was inspired by the undulating landscape of Sweden’s north. The cutlery is well balanced and designed to achieve the perfect marriage of form and function by balancing around a midpoint, making it feel comfortable in the hand.
Designed with the shapes of the Swedish mountains in mind – the Dorotea cutlery balances around a mid-point and fits perfectly in to your hand.
Monica collaborated with Gense again recently on an expansion of the Dorotea cutlery series. The collection now includes ceramic vases for a beautifully bright pop of colour as well as items more familiar to lovers of Gense’s metal work including a water jug, a serving plate, candlesticks and vases made in the highly polished stainless steel that Gense has become known for.
Monica explains that the intention behind the collection was to create an extension draws inspiration directly from the Dorotea cutlery series creating a strong connection between the two. This was achieved by taking the outer lines of the cutlery and repeating this throughout the new collection.
“If you take the water jug for example, when you look at the handle and compare it to the cutlery it is quite clear where the inspiration comes from. You see the lines everywhere – in the small vase, the edges of the larger vases, the plate is actually an enlarged version of the scoop for the spoon.” Monica tells us.
It was only natural that we should create this collection in metal because that is what Gense is known for, but we also wanted to bring in a warmer contrast with the use of ceramics, giving the pieces a completely different expression.
“For certain pieces functionality is more important than for others” explains Monica. For the Dorotea collection this means cutlery that is perfectly balanced and moulds to the palm and a water jug that pours easily while also being equally balanced.
One of the most striking features of the Dorotea collection is the combination of the delicately coloured ceramics combined with the highly polished stainless-steel finish. The stainless-steel is effortlessly stylish while the coloured ceramics add a more playful edge.
When you see this collection on the set table,” Monica tells us “You will catch the reflection of the colours in the metal pieces, giving [the collection] something extra, I think."
Keep the setting simple and let the colours speak for themselves.
Despite her success Monica remains dedicated to her craft. She continues to work on new projects and collaborations, always pushing the boundaries of what is possible in design but when asked what it is that makes her designs stand out her response is typically humbling.
“I think that is something that other people can answer better than me, but I think we have a very strong feeling for shape and design. Our approach is very humanistic and soft, no matter how stringent our line of work can be.” She tells us.
Best known for being conceptual ideas to life naturally we want to know how Monica makes her house a home.
“Don’t be afraid to make it personal” she explains simply “Do what you feel is right and go with what you like.”
A highly respected designer, whose work has had a significant impact on the world of design, Monica’s emphasis on functionality and minimalism has resulted in a body of work that is both innovative and timeless. With a dedication to her craft and unwavering commitment to quality, she will undoubtedly continue to shape the world of design for a long time to come.
Photography: Angeliqa Daldorph, Elof Martinsson, Ebba Persson, Per Ranung