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Design For Manufacture

Erin Karlsson

Erin Karlsson is a multi-national designer born in Hong Kong. She is currently based in Stockholm and is soon to graduate with an MA in Design Products at the Royal College of Art. 

She is most drawn to the space where product design and architecture meet. She strives to base her work on circular principles and to consider larger systems behind objects. 

She has a BA in Industrial Design from Lund, University in Sweden and has since worked as a designer in Denmark, the UK and Sweden.  

Awards & Exhibitions 

RedDot Design Award (winner) 2019 

iF Design Talent Award (winner) 2017

Green Product Award (finalist) 2016

WIP Show, Royal College of Art, 2020

Milan Design Week, RCA at Ventura Future, 2019

Stockholm Furniture Fair, Greenhouse, 2018 

Form Design Center Malmö, 2017



LinkedIn Profile

Degree Details

School of Design

Design For Manufacture



Erin is most drawn to the space where product design and architecture meet. While working as a product designer in Copenhagen, under the direction of former apprentices of Arne Jacobsen, she developed a love and experience for desigining in this intersection. In addition, she strives to base her work on circular principles and to consider larger systems behind objects. An object never exists on its own, but within a room, within a structure, within a city, and within a society.

Wood ash cycle

Visualisation of Forest Tiles in Stockholm Metro

Visualisation of Forest Tiles in Stockholm Metro

Creating the ash to glaze recipe - process

Forming the tiles - process

Visualisation — Forest Tiles in public context

Project brief:
Utilise wood ash waste from a bio-fuel plant in Stockholm to create a building material that promotes local vernacular.

Stockholm Exergi is a biofuel plant that burns wood scraps from forestries and converts it into energy. Though this practice of generating energy is not ideal and may not last in future years, it will leave behind a large amount of wood ash. 17-20,000 tonnes per year, to be exact. While more than half of this amount is sent back to the forest for fertilising purposes, the remaining ash is considered to be waste and it simply stored at the plant. I’ve explored different applications for wood ash, and there is a number of historical, practical uses for the material.

One of the most dynamic uses is in ceramics, a practice that goes back thousands of years. Though what makes it unique is wood ash in glazes will differ upon many environmental factors, but primarily due to the type of tree the ashes came from. Softer trees will be more greenish while harder trees are more amber in colour. The ash is a mixture of the most common Swedish trees: birch, ash, elm, beech (which are mid-to hard types of wood) and fir, alder, and pine (which are all softer types). The resulting colour leans toward amber, but is counter-balanced by the soft woods, making it a brilliant golden-yellowish colour.

This appearance is best optimised by the glaze recipe, however. A glaze should consist of three elements: Silica, Alumina, and Flux. Wood ash is used for flux due to its high level of calcium and potassium. It's what causes the glaze to melt at a low enough temperature to be used in ceramics. In my tests, when using a high percentage of ash flux, it becomes rather 'ashy' and dusty when it pools. To counter that, I added a bit more alumina and silica to create a more glassy texture.

After observing how the glaze pools in curves and crevices, I've noticed it creates a strong colour but makes it more gray in the area with less glaze. Though I've attempted to control it, it has ultimately made a more 'splotchy' look. I wanted to create a slightly more smooth and even appearance, though still organic, which is why I ultimately chose to make the tile either flat or convex-shaped.

The locality of the material, combined with its unique appearance from local tree species, would be able to promote a new kind of vernacular for Stockholm. The city is due to build 11 new metro stations, and in order to fight against generic materials and the growing sameness of cities, these tiles could instead bring the essence of local Swedish forests into the city.

When calculating how much ash is needed for the glaze, it comes to about 45 tonnes used (for all 11 stations). The hope is that it can be applied to future architectural projects in the region for further impact.


Ceramic Tiles with wood ash


100 x 200mm

In Collaboration with:

Building ceramics council, Sweden's largest authority in architectural tiles and ceramics. Provided advice and support in further development.
ArchitectureCeramicsForestrylocal manufactureLocal ProductionPublic SpaceVernacularwaste


28 July 2020
14:00 (GMT + 0)

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