From industry -) small businesses

The two women at Print Design in Lidköping are keeping very busy. They do prints for porcelain and when we visit they are about to start working with gold details, something that takes patience and precision. The knowledge they have is rare and they have kept their aims high. Their small business have had a fairly steady stream of orders since the start in 2006 when Rörstrand closed down the porcelain factory. Now it’s particularly busy. Print Design got a large order to do all the prints to the porcelain for Swedish Crown Princess Viktoria’s wedding in June and also the memory porcelain sold to the public.

The story is not un-known of these days. Rörstrand started their business producing ceramics and porcelain in 1726 in Stockholm. They grew quickly, got well-known for the quality porcelain and from 1936 the main office was placed in Lidköping together with the factory, employing around 1500 people (about 25.000 inhabitants in Lidköping) in the beginning of 21 century. In 2005 the owner, Finnish Ittala, decided to close down the factory due to the heavy investment costs of new ovens and move the business from Lidköping. All employees lost their jobs. For the small porcelain-town Lidköping, situated right at the south end of the lake Vänern in Sweden, this was of course a disaster. The porcelain factory and the shop attracted around 450.000 visitors each year. Closing down meant a catastrophe. The municipality got cold feet and the landlord stood with thousands of square metres empty space.

Gunnar Hansson, who had been working at Rörstrand, got the question if he would try to do something with the empty space and started slowly building on what today is a cluster of small-scale businesses, small production space for ceramics and porcelain, education in ceramics and a porcelain Museum. To have a platform to work from, he started the development company, Rörstrand Kulturforum with the aim of developing Rörstrand’s factory area to an attractive area for ceramic production. They started from scratch where people who had been working for the same employer as long as twenty years, were suppose to become entrepreneurs and needed education in things like how to do a budget, how the selling process worked. They also wanted to start the production of ceramics again, but where was the market for producing ceramics to a reacenable price? If you produce more than 30.000 cups you make them in Bangladesh, Gunnar Hansson tells us, and 30 cups you can produce in your own home-oven. What about producing 3000 cups?

Maybe that’s a market share they could take. In these changes Print Design started, where the two women had a very specific expertise, but had never run a business before. Now they do prints for the Royal Family in Sweden. With a combination of education, creators and Artists, business, small-scale entrepreneurs and new ideas, Rörstrand factory area has managed to keep the attraction. What is the key to success? ”We have lubricated where lubricate is needed”, is Gunnar Hanssons simple reply. One such grease is, no doubt, money.

Look also at the small Art and design studio In Every Tree, Stockholmbased, but they also have a studio in the old porcelain factory in Lidköping. See a former blogpost from Biella, Italy, where the textile industry met the same destiny. The visit was part of a study visit with a think tank on creative industries in Region Västra Götaland.

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