DESIGNING THE SILVER SPOON
Sigvard Bernadotte's distinguished design career spanned close to 70 years. He is known for being a multifaceted artist that was never limited by materials or disciplines but rather inspired by them. After being the the first in his family to graduate high school at 16, his desire to explore all areas of the arts propelled him to go on and receive not one but three collegiate degrees.
These accomplishments are impressive for anyone but Sigvard wasn't just a creative, overachieving young man, he was born into Swedish royalty as Prince Sigvard, Duke of Upland and the second son (just 14 months behind older brother Gustav Adolf) to the future king, Gustaf VI. The birth order made him third in line for the throne but succession was rather unlikely and pursued a life in the arts.
Sigvard's design career started early with an apprenticeship under the famous Swedish artist, Olle Hjorzberg, this experience had an influence on his future industrial work which was described as being tight and stylish.
His real interest was theater and in the early 1930's and relocated to Berlin for the theatrical set design work and graphic design. It was there that he met his first wife, Erika Patzek, an aspiring actress and more importantly, a commoner who Sigvard had fallen for. His family greatly disapproved of the relationship and tried to prevent it but love won in the end and Sigvard and Erika were quietly married in London. Unfortunately the marriage didn't last and subsequently stripped Sigvard of all his royal titles and appanage.
Finding himself impressed by the work of U.S. designers, like Henry Dreyfuss, Raymond Loewy, and Walter Dorwin Teague he re-directed his talents and interests in industrial design. Shortly after, Bernadotte quickly began a lifelong design contract with George Jensen designing mostly silverware – and his craft was soon recognized. The quality of that work was acknowledged by the New York Metropolitan Museum, which holds a number of his pieces in its permanent collection.
Before starting his own design office in Stockholm, Bernadotte was associated with Acton Bjorn in Copenhagen. This association that started in 1949 marked the creation of the first real, professional, Industrial design office in Denmark.
With his partner Bjorn, he designed for a number of Scandinavian companies and creating a range of every day items, like the iconic Margrethe, melamine nesting bowls which come in a range of colors are still a top seller for the production company, Rosti.
Sigvard designed the pattern Virrvarr — meaning clutter or disorder in 1958 for the company Perstorp, which is now Formica. It became very popular in Swedish homes during the 60s and due to a political housing program, the pattern was used in the laminated kitchen counter tops. It is often seen on table tops, cutting boards and windowsills.
It was produced until 1991 and then stopped but has returned back as a popular pattern for furniture and textiles.
He was co-founder of the Swedish Industrial Designers Society (SID), and president of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) from 1961-1963. During this time, Bernadotte designed the popular Nya Clara can opener for Nils Johan in 1963, a colorful staple in many homes.
In 2010, Scandinavian eyewear company, Skaga, launched three new frames designed by Bernadotte during the 1960s but never put into production. He has worked with the company for many years and the company holds an impressive archive of his trend charts and sketches.
Years later, Sigvard attempted in vain to get his royal title back but his nephew Carl XVI Gustav never consented to this, which caused a long standing rift between the two. Sigvard took legal action against the Kingdom of Sweden but there was never a resolution at the time of his passing in 2002, he was 94 years old. While the reinstatement of his princely title never came to fruition, becoming the official Design Price of Sweden had a much more profound impact on the world.