Wednesday, July 25, 2007
: : For a long time I have been wanting to tell you more about Rörstrand, Sweden's oldest China company, located in the town of Lidköping where I grew up. It wasn't until a few years ago that I truly understood the importance of Rörstrands influence on Swedish design history. I feel so fortunate to have been part of the company's history and heritage and to have witnessed the changes the company went through.
And the changes have been many, with several sad parts. The story is long, but I’ll try to summarize it in a few paragraphs.
Rörstrand was founded in 1726 by King Fredrik I. Sweden at this time was very dependent on imports so the King was determined to start manufacturing certain goods in Sweden to improve the Swedish economy.
Rörstrand was started in Stockholm, moved to Gothenburg in 1926, to just a few years later begin the move to Lidköping where it has remained up until one year ago.
I was 10 years old when my Dad [Pappa] was recruited by Hackman, to develop a new division within their brand called.tabletop. Hackman was a large Finnish corporation who in 1990 acquired Rörstrand as well as many other Swedish and Finnish glass & china companies. Brand names most of you probably know of. Arabia had originally been started by Rörstrand to facilitate trade in Russia, they were bought by Hackman in 1990. Iittala was a Finnish company, partly owned by Arabia, which Hackman bought up 100 % of. Iittala in turn owned parts of Nuutajärvi another Finnish glass company, so Hackman bought up all of Nuutajärvi.
With all these newly acquired brands they broke out new sections, and among these was .tabletop., the section my Dad was put in charge of, which encompassed all of Rörstrand’s production.
There had been talk of us moving to Finland, but since most of his work was tied to Rörstrand, our family settled in Lidköping. A very picturesque town, which a very rich history and culture. And a large part of it’s more recent history evolved around Rörstrand, since it was one of the largest employers in the town.
For several years my Dad worked for Hackman, until suddenly the management changed and disagreements concerning the future of Hackman arose. During this unstable period, unable to foresee the immediate future of the company, my Dad chose to leave Hackman.
Shortly after, all of Hackman, including all of it’s sub brands was sold to a Dutch risk capital investment company, and Iittala became the new company name. The sad part here was that all of these brands, Rörstrand, Arabia, Iittala and Nuutajärvi, were Finland’s and Sweden’s oldest and only china and glass companies. Most Swedes will at some point during their life own a Rörstrand dish. So, it was very sad to see them leave Scandinavia, uncertain of their future.
There is a good part and a sad part to the ending of this story. Iittala, now being the company name, encompassing all the sub brands, was actually recently introduced on the Finnish stock market. So, now the Finnish people can again become the owners of their world famous glass and china brands.
Rörstrand, will still remain a brand, and will always be Sweden’s oldest china company. However, production was shut down a little over a year ago, and moved to China. The factories in Lidköping stand empty. I walked the mile long building, where the kilns had been, with my Dad when I was home over Christmas.
New things will grow in the factory spaces, my Dad is involved in trying to create a design center there, building on the rich history of Rörstrand.