Light Fantastic

Though lesser known than many celebrated Mid-century lighting designers, Hans Agne Jakobsson created a range of lights that showcase a penchant for diverse materials as well as a deep understanding of diffusing light

We’re in the throws of pulling our February/March 2019 issue together, and thought it would be fun to remind you of some of the great articles we brought you this time last year. This article about Hans Agne Jakobsson appeared in our Feb/Mar 2018 issue (now sold out).

Unknowingly, I first came across the work of Hans Agne Jakobsson whilst on a buying trip in Sweden, when a tasselled light hanging from the ceiling of an antiques centre (perfect for a boudoir I thought), caught my eye. Again, I saw something similar with a table lamp at a local auction house on the same trip – this time in a different colour. I then picked up a copy of a Swedish design magazine, and there was that fringe effect, this time featured on the cover. I opened it up to reveal a spread of fringed delights in various colours and styles. Sadly, I had no idea what the article said, as it was in Swedish, but it was obvious that these pieces had become highly sought after in Sweden. This sparked my interest, so I set to work on finding out more. It turned out that these fringed de- signs were just the beginning...

Influenced by the nature of his native country, the southern part of Sweden, with its glittering lakes and vast dark woods, Jakobsson occupied himself in imaginative ways with light and illumination. As a talented designer who experimented with brass, iron, glass, fabric and wood shavings, he learned how to master direction and colour of light like only few people did. In choosing his materials, construction and design, he arranged it so that glaring bulbs and irritating decorations disappeared.

Jakobsson first apprenticed as a carpenter and then continued his education in Gothenburg, where he graduated with a degree in architecture. He was hired by General Motors as an industrial designer and worked as an assistant to Carl Malmsten – one of the most prominent figures in Swedish design. In 1951, he founded his own furniture manufacturing company, Hans Agne Jakobsson AB in Markaryd, Sweden – sometimes referred to as AB Markaryd. Jakobsson designed and produced various types of furniture, however it was his lighting that received the most attention internationally.

His company produced over 2,000 separate lamps in 50 years; his own body of work includes laminated pine pendant lamps, large bulbous glass chandeliers, all manner of muted lighting, and even Pop Art-inspired sconces.

One of Jakobsson’s best-known designs – often referred to as the Laminated Pine Pendant – is believed to be the happy result of a temporary solution to a glaring light in Jakobsson’s Christmas shop window display in the mid-1950s. Wishing to defuse the bright light, he fashioned a pendant out of pine wood chips, which admirers were soon seeking to buy! Jakobsson began producing this design from his own factory in the late 1950s and achieved inter- national success. Around 1970, his design for a very similar laminated pine lamp was picked up by IKEA. This model was not produced in his own factory but by his partner, Ellysett AB, who manufactured several of Jakobsson’s designs. Ellysett was subcontracted by IKEA (also based in the town of Markaryd), and the pendant was soon sold around the world.

In the 1970s, Jakobsson launched a collection by Swedish designer Torsten Orrling, which referenced Pop Art using sheets of brass, copper, aluminium, and plastic, which showed the influence of Verner Panton. This was one of only a few lines produced by Hans Agne Jakobsson AB that was not designed by the founder himself.

Jakobsson is well known in his home country, his lights do not only illuminate private homes but can be found in many public buildings.

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Woo Gilchrist