In this third edition of our Women in Design series, our focus in on the next couple of designers at the forefront of Scandinavian design today, who have gained international acclaim, and are at the forefront of modern designer lighting.
“I am truly inspired by light in the Nordic. I strive to balance simplicity and grandeur and create light that has a pure yet sensuous expression.” – Sofie Refer
Sofie Refer, born in 1974, graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2003. She is a lighting specialist who focuses on Scandinavian simplicity. Her aim with her unique lights is to prove that simplicity and a respect for tradition can also be innovative, new, and luxurious.
Often using nature as her muse, Sofie places an almost poetic quality in her designs and works to challenge the bounds of possibility with lighting. In 2001, Sofie Refer won the Good Design Award for Bulb. Since 2001, Sofie has won numerous awards for her work, including ‘The World’s Best Design’ (Elle Decoration Collection, 2009), ‘Best Light’ (Wallpaper Design Award, 2006) and ‘Excellent Product Design (Design Awards, 2019).
Her designs can be found all over the world, including at the Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, and the unique use of ceramic and glass continues to inspire designers. She currently runs her own lighting brand, Nuura, and designs several lines which have become widely regarded as some of her best work to date.
Find out more about Nuura and Sofie HERE.
Another lighting specialist, Johanna Forsberg, is also pushing the bounds of modern design. Forsberg, a Swedish designer, specialises in working with steel mesh, and uses her bare hands to transform this textile into sculptural works.
Johanna found an unusual route into design, first working with her steel mesh medium for an assignment in high school. Johanna was asked by a friend to make a sculpture for their home. She was planning on using the mesh as a base structure but instead found that the form didn’t need anything else. The bare mesh was simply enough.
In 2004, three years after her first design, Forsberg had her first exhibition, and a short time later she opened her own studio, Atelié Johanna Forsberg. In 2011 she won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Association of Entrepreneurs in Nordmaling.
Johanna works in partnership with Northern Lighting to create unique sculptural lights, such as the Heat Pendant Lamp, made of brass mesh (pictured below). She says her inspiration comes from people she meets, and that her sculptures reflect inner strength and power. Each one is unique, a quality that reflects her inspiration and her practice.
What both these women demonstrate is the predominance and importance of women within Scandinavian design today. They are both internationally renowned and have had their designs featured worldwide. These women are taking Scandinavian tradition and placing it on a new path, in line with their own ideals and creative values.