It is quite interesting how it is possible to travel between extremes in a relatively short space of time. At one point you can be in a rather difficult place, everything may seem hopeless and impossible and in the next moment be in the center of a prized Gasell company, my experience of running a company in fashion and design is like beeing on a rollecoaster, it goes up and it goes down, over and over again . I have gathered pictures and the story behind the company Fafner form which later became Edblad & Co AB. I take it from the beginning and worth reminding is that this is only a small fraction of the contradictions and successes that the projects enriched us with. I have chosen in this story not to mention any of the amazing people who have been in Edblad especially, but also at Singö island, Roslagen, Sri Lanka, China, Spain, then i guess it would be too long for now.
As a 10 year old, I had the picture ready for me, I would escape the country, preferably by sailboat, models and drawings where drawn in a never ending stream. I read about the great explorers Thor Heyerdahl, Bengt Danielsson and others. My plan was to get going as soon as i was an adult, i.e 16 years. However, it took me until 19 years before it got off. Together with a Canadian and an American, we crossed the Pacific Ocean with the 12 meter long yawl La Embra. Now, afterwards, I see that it's the same type of processes that drives an entrepreneur, exploring unknown spaces, developing and discovering new structures. During the same trip I met an artist who told me there was something called Art School. I just could not believe the world was so wonderfully set up and that there were schools for such. Seasickness did not give up, and the Artschool idea did not let go of my grip. In Tahiti, I visited Paul Gaugin's home and was completely amazed of, for his time disrespectful color management. The revised plan was to educate myself in art, return to the South Sea, and sell graphic art to tourists. I attended the Graphic art school in Stockholm. My first intentions with the art were purely commercial, but I was completely overwhelmed, taken, seduced by this to me new world, a long line of aha experiences followed. It was almost painful to understand the power of this incredible world that challenged my slightly commercial agenda. I bought a trawler called Märta with a berth on Strandvagen where I lived, renovated and studied. In late evenings of all these amazing artists' partys with long discussions about Kafka and Sandemose, AND money of course, I ordered the taxi driver, Strandvagen thank you!
I partially occupied the school with tons of experiments. One of the tracks was paper made of linen fabric. I went to Barcelona and hired me in a studio with an American artist named Laurence Barker. I developed a method of producing floating objects in parchment-like paper of flax. After school I worked on a large studio in Nacka, KKV. I conducted five separate exhibitions in Sweden, Denmark and Austria. Taxi job at night and sculpting in the days. A colleague of mine welded solid steel chairs, for fun, I welded a small chair in copper and gave him, much easier I explained! Colleagues in the studio discovered the small metal chair, I received orders, the list was longer and longer. The thought struck me, I might be able to skip the taxi job at night ... I made a special coat where I had the entire assortment inside. I made a first sales tour around Malaren district, went into shop after shop and asked if I could show something, I opened my coat and there were all my products! I took a short timeout after an incident on Swedish Hemslojd store, Drottninggatan, I never opened my coat, W E D O N T B U Y! in english language i had thrown at me, I did not even open my mouth !! I was a bit out of phase after that incident with subsequent existential thinking about spending my life on something of greater importance instead ... but the sales went well, I had a business! Everything was from Scratch, I'm probably the only company in Sweden that had a bookkeeping in alphabetical order, my first bookkeeper scratched her head when she saw my system that was unique. A fax was purchased, it was a big investment 595: - but It was worth it, it all felt so incredibly professional, I had a fax number, a hot order channel right into my kitchenette. I assumed a 100% perspective from the view of the customer and put the price from this perspective. That the products were then virtually impossible to manufacture was another chapter, the design together with the price was = good sell.
The project grew, sister involved, brother-in-law, mother, father, girlfriend. Temporary production
was in a garage in Uppsala, sister casted, mother painted, father grinded, I was constantly searching for metal, It could be scrap aquired from Yellow magazine, ads, misc contacts, I bought a flattened church organ, old print types, trofees, cups etc, anything that was reasonably easy to melt with simple equipment. I was in Leningrad just after the Perestrojka in order to start up a production, not quite easy project in a magic dark city, which in principle lacked normal stores. We had a special primer that was made of t-alcohol, shellack flakes and copper powder. Me and my assistant drove around in Leningrad and searched T-spirit, we were close to giving up, I told the assistant that it would be shame if we couldn´t get alcohol in Russia. at Nevsky Prospect, we found ourselves next to a small kiosk. In the window of the kiosk was piled small half-liter bottles, Vodka 80% was on the label, I called to the assistant, T-spirit !! We filled the trunk of the VAZ with small vodka bottles, back to the factory and we got a fantastic vodka paint. 2000 beautiful chairs were made. I asked the factory management if they could help me with the exports, no problem Mr. Edblad, we have all the contacts .... I was later told that these 2000 bronze chairs were smuggled out of Russia hidden in the wall of a truck, the assistant succeeded in the effort to onward carry 50 boxes on a passenger train through Balticum and then hitch hiked with a timber barge with final destination Sweden. I was called by the assistant, i am in Sweden now. - o.k. where in Sweden I asked - Monsteras paper mill in south Sweden ... Up and down with a rent trailer, finally chairs !!! The customers screamed for chairs, chairs were a shortage, the chairs were extra sought after because of the shallow supply, customers tended to place larger orders to secure the supply. The best of the Russian period are all these beautiful pictures I have in my head of a city of melancholy, bearded opera singers in worn-out grand apartments that taught me in the art of drinking vodka. Fogged buses with 60 sleeping furhats, apocalyptic industrial environments, etc. etc. I also have a very beautiful picture in my mind when I sit at the Stadsgardskajen customs office together with 5 kind police officers who help me count thousands of chairs with missing documents and coming in trashed boxes.
I was in India, made very beautiful chairs, 2000 chairs disappeared on a bicycle rickshaw, hard loss for a company in urgent need of a chairs. One problem was that I did not have much money, I had a tough calculation that had to be matched, made profitable, a kind of reverse engineering but economical.
After all this hassle and adventures, I made the decision to start a real foundry, I went up to the island of Singö, I thought if I should build a fantastic future so logically I should look for a fantastic place .... It's a good start. For some reason, I have a very strong draw for pines, a magic tree, the further out to the coast and the sea belt you get the more pines. Singö was chosen, there is an unbroken horizon, endlessly with pines and beautiful cliffs. In my opinion the best part of Sweden.
A plot of a recessed bay, 20 m2 without water, covered with pines. Perfect! Called the neighbor and asked if they knew somewhere I could start up with a "production", come over and we will find something out I received. I hired myself in a forest and a garage. The first winters were tough, especially the winter 94 when the water well was solid frozen and I had to cancel and get back to Stockholm.
A period of extensive experiments started in the summer of 1995. I gradually understood that I have to make molds in steel, I borrowed a pillar drill machine at a workshop in Stockholm. I lived in the car for three weeks while I was milling steel from morning to evening, we had lots of orders, plus a big order for a customer in New York. The machine I worked on was more and more looking like a moon lander, a giant wrecked furnace was taken home from a foundry in Gothenburg, sister and I brought it home to Singö at one night. I was completely obsessed with melting metal. In November 1995 the chair machine was up and running, and it worked great, it actually spitted out chairs. In the snow was a mountain of sparkling metal chairs. The future suddenly looked bright. My girlfriend joined the company with candlesticks in concrete and stearin. The sales went excellent, prestigious stores such as Neiman Marcus, Moma, Moss, Eltanine, etc. became our customers. An increasing number of islanders became involved in production, which expanded, even the island priest was involved in mediation between different interest groups. the range was expanded, wooden clothdryers were made on a farm in Tranvik, chairs were painted on the way to the pilot station, Candlesticks in Soderbyn, the central point was Singosundet where our "forest factory" had its heart. For about five years, a large part of the activities were carried out outdoors. In the summer of 2000, we had stabilized our economy and could buy land and build our first "factory" a 400 m2 red building overlooking the strait. The company grew slowly but surely In 2006, the first company Fafner was transformed into a limited company, my future wife Cathrine became a partner in the new company, which came to be named Edblad & Co AB. Cathrine was the schoolteatcher on the island when we met and we fell in love. I was a stubborn artist and Cathrine was told and done. I have never known anyone with such a short way from thought to action. We became an explosive combination.
The level of ambition was high, we started a project in the Philippines, which was later moved to Sri Lanka, a concrete production was established, land was cleared in Kalutara, south of Colombo and blessed by a fair number of bishops, a dramatic and colorful time. In the factory, Tamils, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists worked side by side without any problems. A small garden was created for the employees and modern machines were bought, from mixing concrete in a hole in the ground, we installed motor driven mixers, we trained in concrete chemistry, water reduction, different molding methods. Quality increased and the company was awarded a prize by the Sinhalese state. We launched jewelry, the first collection that was presented at Formex tradefair was a success, we had 80 relatively large orders, painful to realize that the quality of our products was not met, we canceled all the orders and we asked our customers to come back later, a wise choice. In the following Formex tradefair, the orders where doubled. We had a rather weak producer in Beijing. We made the decision to test a number of supppliers. I especially remember one night when I scanned the net on possible manufacturers, look here Cathrine, is not this bracelet in rosewood and stainless steel amazing? I contacted the producer directly, and we received samples. Luke and Ellinor where about seven in their staff, the same with us at Singö, we were also seven. This supplier came to be an important companion on the journey. This was the start of a stainless steel wave in Sweden, (2014 we delivered 1,2 million bracelets, necklaces, rings, etc.)
In 2013, I visited "our" factory in China, 6 floors 130 employees and 40 CNC machines, just our products! I got a bit chocked to realize what responsibility we have, from the small forest factory to this relatively large company.
An important event to mention in this story is the meeting with our first seller. I and Cathrine were buying clothes for our stores when the young seller asks what the jewelry that Cathrine is wearing comes from? We do it we answered, but how do you sell ask the woman, we have an order telephone we explain. This very brave young woman resigns from a very well-paid job, the first year with Rebecca, we doubled the turnover, the second year we doubled again. In front of us, we had a period of incredible growth.
I could never dream of this development when I walked from door to door with my specially sewn coat.
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L U K E F A C T O R Y, S H E N Z H E N
P R O J E C T S R I L A N K A
In the summer of 2000 we opened a small factory shop in our red factory at Singö. It moved in 2002 to a harbour magazine in Grisslehamn. We where often told us that this was an impossible project, especially among vendors looking at the demographic map. However, they were wrong, the summer shop became a success, and was followed by Öregrund, Norrtälje.
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Our little red factory at Singö became too small, it was no longer possible to run our operations from the site, the plot was big, but a ridge was just behind the house body and the trucks had hard to unload. We knew about an industrial building in Gåsvik as we looked at a few years earlier, the situation became more urgent and we agreed with the owner about a purchase. Entrepreneurs as we are, we only saw opportunities. Topic of the year was Gåsvik = Designmecca. We bought in the fall, renovated in the winter, we did not advertise, we did not know exactly when we could open, we had a small handwritten patch on the door saying opening May 18th. On 18th May, Radio channel Stockholm and warned of a traffic jam in Gåsvik
with kilometers long queues! it was remarkable because of the very remote location.
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P R O J E C T A L T A V A R I O
My latest project, the name stands for high change. The basic idea is modular, i.e constructable. The start has been tough at a time of change, but I've been involved in tough starts before. Fashion is an area that attracted me more and more, why? Because there is room for change all the time, I've done 30 Formex fairs where we repeated the same designs over and over again, fashion changes all the time, it's a real challenge, but rewarding.
Initially, the company was run by a very small but efficient staff. We did the most ourselves, photo, website, economy system, store building, displays. A great fun time, a lot of work and problems of course but a positive state. Please visit the photography archive where I collected my photos, which I am proud of, and who lay behind the strong growth phase, we were a countryside company with a lot of heart.
Entrepreneur vs Administrator. A not quite easy boundary drawing. My schooling is art school, one of the artist's main features is to redo, change, dare to redo, kill your darlings. These are properties that are gold at an initial stage, when different loose threads should be tied to something new. The entrepreneur is the one who sees opportunities in everything, you do not see any problems, or problems are solved along the way, problems can also be opportunities.
All these hardships and adventures, what would I achieve? My vision was to establish a creative and beautiful place, a platform to work from, for my photo, my design, my ideas. It's "what" I want to do, money has not been primary, but an important ingredient for implementing ideas, and creating some basic security.
The story is not over, it feels like I have not started yet, I have not really got started.