SEKT: Mastering the craft of future antiques.

“Daniel dropped by this week, just to visit us,” say Milan Kosovic and Lovisa Hansson, founders of contemporary Swedish design brand SEKT. The duo is based in Malmo, Sweden, just up the Scandinavian coastline from the home of Emerson Bailey’s Curator and Sourcing Director, D. Larsson
We are proud to welcome Sekt to the Emerson Bailey family, as the brand’s North American representation. Through Daniel’s visits and a series of virtual conversations, Emerson Bailey got to know Milan and Lovisa,  exploring their slow-design philosophy, and how their small country’s artisan “domino effect” helps them build relationships with the world’s most masterful hand-makers for Sekt’s collections

When you talk about your production practices, you say that “small imperfections are the heart and soul of Sekt.” What do you mean by this?

In a lot of retail today, people buy but they don’t know who’s making their product or where it is coming from. Our work is not a vending machine that you put money in and get out a lamp! It’s much more complicated – and it should be. With our lamps, tablewares, seating and more, because they are handmade, there are slight variations in colors and structures. In this way, our customers have exposure to the process. Objects offer a different type of feeling when they are handmade. You can value a product that you recognize as an artifact, a product that is done by hand.

With the Puritan Pendants, for instance, the porcelain shades are formed by water, and when you turn the lamp on, you can see movements of the water that formed it. The transparency of the porcelain allows the light to shine through, exposing the individual traits of every single lamp, based on the traces of its production.

Our glass-blown lamps are made using colored glass rods, which are handmade in Germany. To make the lamps, the craftsmen take a part of the color sticks and blow it over glass, like a paint-filled balloon that’s being breathed over clear glass. The variations in these pieces are especially impeccable, subtle, and special.

Each piece tells a story of how it’s been made, and by whom.

Tell us more about the development and design process for each Sekt piece.

If a piece takes a long time to produce, then the design process is even longer for us! From the beginning, we try to work on material variations of our ideas, to have an understanding of the technicalities of each medium before we bring our designs to the producers. With Versatile, for example, we sketched, modeled, and worked on it for ages. Although Versatile looks very simple, it was  actually very complicated to cast.

Versatile is sand-cast, so it is actually a sand structure. Though the exterior is polished, you can feel the individual grains of sand on the inside. These are handmade in a third-generation foundry that also makes art pieces, and huge public sculptures that you see all around Sweden.

So, it’s like you are receiving a piece of Swedish culture when you bring a Sekt product into your home. It’s owning a bit of contemporary legacy, in a sense. But I imagine it’s historical, too. How does Sekt balance the modern nature of its designs with the age-old techniques used to bring them to life?

Working with Emerson Bailey is exciting because we fit the idea of both the antiques and the contemporary. We want to be a sort of link between these two offerings, especially since we all share a similar ethos built around creating designs that are made to last. 

With Sekt, we are making “future antiques.” We do this through our process of working with materials that are durable and last a long time, as well as focusing on the way these pieces are produced. Today, if you look at modern Swedish designs, everything is based on engineering and flat packing. But we are not telling that story. We are telling the story before the “modern” Sweden. 

With glassblowing for instance, we want to preserve  the old traditional techniques that have been native to Sweden since the 16th century.  However, over the last two decades, glassblowing has moved outside of Sweden, despite it being a heritage technique, because companies were bought out and their production was moved abroad. But the knowledge is old, and it’s important to keep it. We want to continue to support it here; we are bringing it back, in a sense. 

So all the Sekt designs are produced by local makers, who are carrying on hundreds of years of knowledge! It’s beautiful to be able to access contemporary aesthetics through this timeless design lens. Can you tell us more about working with the expert manufacturers?

We work very closely with the artisans and craftsmen. Sweden is quite a small country. Working with design, there’s always someone who knows someone – we have a friend who’s a glassblower, and she talked to her friend, and they referred us to a small factory. It’s not like a mass production factory – these designs are made by hand. There is a guy sand casting every mold, in the sand, by hand. We see that – and so do the clients. The shapes hold traces from the process in the glass or in the ceramics. 

Here, it is like a domino effect: you contact people, you visit them, you forge relationships with them.  We always continue to visit the factories, we watch the production, we are on location at the production site. We inspect, and we learn from that. As designers we are good at making things that work well environmentally – but we are not the masters of production. So we learn from these masters, and gain an understanding of the process with each design. 

Speaking of the name ‘Sekt’, can you tell us what inspired  it?

 Sekt translates to ‘sect’ in English. A sect is an alternative to religion, it signals that you can do something another way. To some, the word ‘sect’ can have a negative connotation,  but we think this makes it a bit interesting because there is a tension there. We named ourselves this because we believe in something stronger, better, and in a different way for design. 

With Sekt, we want to contribute something for the coming generations by offering better design – which is of course subjective, and that too contains a tension. But, when we think about the name Sekt, we are abiding by what we believe: we believe in these products, and in this slow, local, development process using heritage techniques. And we believe that it makes people happy.