Swedish designer and entrepreneur Estrid Ericson (née Erikson) was born in 1894 in Öregrund. She grew up in Hjo, where she began her career as an art teacher and a pewter artist. In 1924, using an inheritance from her father, she founded Svenskt Tenn (meaning “Swedish Pewter”) in Stockholm. Along with pewter artist Nils Fougstedt, Ericson wanted to offer beautiful yet affordable pewter (a newly popular material at the time), including modernist sculptures, boxes, candlesticks, and mirror frames. The pair produced these pieces in a small workshop behind the store. Svenskt Tenn earned a reputation for quality and received a gold medal at the 1925 Exposition internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Within a few years, the company had expanded to become one of Stockholm’s most fashionable furniture and interior design shops. In 1927, it moved to a larger location on Strandvägen (where it is still located today).
In the early 1930s, Ericson commissioned works by functionalist Swedish architects Uno Åhrén and Björn Trägårdh and several artists, including Anna Petrus. In 1934, Ericson began her most famous collaboration with Austrian designer and architect Josef Frank [link: /designers/josef-frank], offering him safe haven and hiring him as the company’s chief designer. Working together for decades, Ericson and Frank departed from relatively rigid Scandinavian functionalism for what became the company’s signature style—a vivid (often patterned), simple yet sophisticated aesthetic, which was applied to a variety of product designs, including furniture, lighting, wallpaper, and textiles, as well as pieces specially commissioned for private interiors all over the world. Some of these are still in production today.
In 1944, she married Sigfrid Ericson (1888–1973), a captain on the Swedish American Line’s MS Gripsholm ocean liner. They met during one of her many transatlantic buying trips.
Ericson continued to run her company’s daily operations until 1975, when she sold Svenskt Tenn to the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation. She stayed on as managing director for several years. She passed away in 1981 in Stockholm.