Berggren Tiles presented by John Elliott

29 10 2022

At the SAHSWI Fika meeting on October 21, 2022 John Elliott, SAHSWI Vice President discussed Berggren tiles, which are decorated in Swedish folk tradition style known as “Dalmålningar”. The Berggren tiles were made by Berggren Trayner company which was founded by Arthur and Audrey Berggren 1948. The company created silk screened ceramic and enamelware decals in Swedish style – decorative cookware, cutting boards, porcelain, china and ceramic tiles.

These products became very popular during the 1960’s and is an example of influence of Swedish design in America.

Floral Kurbits.

The folk painting from Dalarna, in the center of Sweden, is one of the most charming trademarks of Sweden. The floral kurbits and painted wall scenes have become known as the “Signature of Sweden. The kurbits is an invented, fantastical symbol of vegetal fertility based on a gourd or pumpkin of biblical legend, and was used for ornamentation in Swedish folk art and on painted furniture and domestic objects.

John analyzed why these products became so popular. The third generations Swedish Americans were in their prime age in the 60’s. Grandpa and/or grandma immigrated from Sweden in the early 1900’s, mom and dad married early 1930’s and had a child 9 months later. In the early 1950’s the third generation got married, got a house in the suburbs, monthly payments $59 a month, had typically three children and a dog named Lassie. Times were good, they shopped at the new malls at Field’s or Carson’s. There they found the Berggren tiles and other products.

John showed his collection of Berggren tiles. Many of the tiles includes popular Swedish phrases, like “Tala är Silver men Tiga är Guld” (Talk is Silver but Silence is Gold), “Hem, Kära Hem” (Home, Sweet Home), “Glad såsom fågeln i morgonstund” (Happy as the bird in the morning) and many more.

When he remodeled his kitchen, he added a display of Berggren tiles above the kitchen sink.

Berggren products fell out of favor in the 1980’s as society moved to more contemporary designs. Berggren sold his business to Bergquist Imports (Minnesota) in 1986, who purchased the licensing, designs and the ceramics recipe. Bergquist retired and sold out in 2021, however, the business still is operating as a wholesale company. Bergquist giftshop

The vintage original Berggren tiles are still being sold at reasonable prices…this is an ebay screenshot

The whole presentation by John Elliott is available as a pdf here.

Berggren Tiles by John Elliott



One response

30 10 2022
Suzanne Braun

I enjoyed reading about the “Tiles”, nice presentation, good information. As a child I remember going to their store near Chicago with my Grandparents and Aunt to make purchases.
Suzanne Braun

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