6 March 2019
In 1942, the world was in the middle of its biggest war ever. A war that caused the planned World Cup to be cancelled; today, a historic gap on the Fifa scoreboard. Stephen Hawkins was born the same year, the Swedish runner Gunder Hägg set ten world records, and Ingrid Gärde Widemar ordered a chair she would never forget.
Ingrid Gärde was born on 24 March 1912 in Jönköping, Småland. However, she got a taste of city life already as a young girl, when her father became a Justice of the Supreme Court and Minister for Justice in Sweden in the 1920s and 30s. She herself went on to study Law in Stockholm and was active both politically and academically.
In 1936, Ingrid got her Law degree from Stockholm University and immediately started serving as a law clerk at the Stockholm Town Hall Court. After that, she held several positions before starting as a junior judge at the Svea Court of Appeal in 1940. It was for this job that she felt the need for a suitable chair and contacted Carl Malmsten to realise her plans.
Ingrid continued her brilliant career both within politics and law, and in 1968 she became the first woman to be appointed Justice of the Supreme Court of Sweden. She pursued powerful issues, for example the abolishment of joint taxation and the right of women to keep their own surname after marriage and, not least, she carried out an investigation as to why it was so difficult for women to gain employment within the government. The inquiry was applauded by the media and resulted in the book Hatt och huva (Hat and Hood) and changes to legislation. When Ingrid died in January 2009, she left a legacy of laws that were praised when they were adopted, and that now many Swedes take for granted. She also left behind the memory of a person who dared to go her own way in life, and a large cultural capital, including an armchair.
In 2016, the new board of Carl Malmsten AB saw a need to broaden the range and reaffirm the brand. The designers Anna Kraitz and Lars Bülow were appointed to lead the project, and the Archive Collection, in which the armchair Widemar is included, emerged. The chair has been developed at Stolab in a process whereby the original drawing and physical chair were analysed and weighed up to form a whole, all based on Carl Malmsten’s original sketches.
Julia Greek has been responsible for the interpretation of Malmsten’s drawings and chair. She is a cabinet maker who received the top grade of 5.0 and a Grand Silver award for her exam piece at Malmstens a few years ago. A grade and honour only give to a very few.
“It is a complex and advanced piece of furniture with many crafted details. I interpreted the hand drawn drawing from 1942 and created a computer generated 3D model. We then compared this with an old Widemar chair that we borrowed from the Siv and Carl Malmsten Memorial Foundation”, Julia explains.
The first prototype was ready in October and was scrutinised by an expert appointed by the foundation – Martin Altwegg, a cabinet maker and senior lecturer at Malmstens. After some adjustments, Julia has been involved in the making of a number of chairs for a first series. Both Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines and hand planes came into use.
“Getting the top piece and armrest to run in a continuous form, a beautiful line which frames the chair, has been a challenge”, Julia adds. “It is about subtle details that are so important for the whole! It is incredibly fun to be part of a project like this, where we have used such an old drawing as a starting point, interpreted and adjusted for production of a prototype and finished product. I am satisfied and proud when I look at the end product. And it’s lovely that Widemar and Stolab have received so much attention.
Of course, it is great that Stolab are now making and delivering yet another beautiful chair for their customers, but this story brings even more benefit. During her lifetime, Ingrid Gärde Widemar had a fundamental impact on Swedish society and for many people she is a hero. The fact that the chair she once ordered has been brought out again, means that her achievements within Swedish humanism now become known to a completely new target group. A group that would probably not otherwise have read about her in history books or learnt how the paragraphs in the statute book came about. This chair will have a new lease of life and perhaps help create new stories for the benefit of humankind.
Text: Amanda Ostwald. From inredningsarkitektur.se.