Per B Sundberg, or Pelle as everyone calls him, has a real talent for following his own curiosity. Steered by feeling rather than trends, his work has a peculiar yet familiar expression. “My works are lush, a bit rough and burlesque, they are based on folklore and are easy to understand,” says Per B Sundberg.
However, behind the folkish expression is a master-ceramicist who is passionate about exploring materials and craft. “I work with a simple expression and then I put in a lot of handicraft, because I am so obsessed with handicraft. In ceramics, the techniques are the same today as they were thousands of years ago, and the material can last several thousand years. It’s like archeology,” he says.
During his education in ceramics at the University of Arts and Crafts (Konstfack) in Stockholm he was already pushing boundaries. His punkish approach both provoked and reinvigorated an industry where respect for the craft reigned supreme.
One of the finest glassworks in Sweden, Orrefors, picked up Pelle after graduation. Why was a ceramicist brought in to such an established operation? “To spice things up a bit,” he says, “I am a little unpredictable. People don’t really know what I will come up with. That is what they are after.”
Whilst at Orrefors, Pelle experimented and tested his way forwards. Over time, whilst working out the best way to collaborate with the super-skilled craftspeople he pushed the medium of glass into new territory. For example, his works placing images in the form of decals in glass were a “folkish” or popular expression never seen before in the world of glass-art.
But it wasn’t Pelle’s work at Orrefors that kicked-off his collaboration with IKEA. In 2015, he was invited to create an exhibition at the Stockholm gallery Andréhn-Schiptjenko. All his figurines were sold in the first few hours.
The exhibition announced to the world that Per B Sundberg was not only a master craftsman but also a player in the art business. His works are now part of permanent collections at M+ in Hong Kong and the National Museum in Stockholm. “Ceramics and glass are popular materials, they do not have anything to do with high-end art. That’s why it has taken time for me to break-through in an art-context, I’ve ended up between the two different worlds. It takes time to be accepted.”
For the Creative Leader of the project, Nike Karlsson, working with Per B Sundberg is a great counterpoint to other collaborations that have that Scandinavian aesthetic we’re more familiar with. He names the VIKTIGT collection, another collaboration with an icon of Swedish design, Ingegerd Råman as an example. “Working with Pelle is a great way to show another side of our Swedish design heritage. Per B Sundberg’s expression and use of imagery is really fun.”
Pelle is the perfect proponent of work situated in the borderland between art and design. His work, FÖREMÅL included, often features the humble figurine, which has always been a reflection of contemporary society in some way. The figurine has tumbled from the lofty heights of adorning the dining rooms of European Royalty in the 1700’s to being the ultimate symbol of kitsch. Now, its on its way up again, if auction-houses and hipster Instagram accounts are anything to go by.
“I hope at IKEA we can make art for the many people, I think Pelle’s art is for the many people,” says Creative Leader Nike Karlsson. “No matter whether you’re young or old or you’ve studied art or literature, you can always find something to love.” It makes sense, that an artist like Per B Sundberg and IKEA come together. We need artistic objects in our homes that stir up emotions. Life at home is not only function and solutions, it is also fun.
Previous IKEA and Swedish icon collaborations
ÖNSKEDRÖM with renowned graphc designer Olle Eksell.
VIKTIGT with glass and ceramics designer Ingegerd Råman.
AVSIKTLIG with rebellious team of 10 textile designers, 10-Gruppen. The work of IKEA Designers Hanna Dalrot, Iina Vuorivirta and Ida Pettersson were also included in the collection.