Andi Ekström produced "Fridlyst" (Swedish for "Sacred") for his Journeyman’s Test, a national competition in Sweden. His work took the country’s top prize and will be shown at the Designtrade Furniture Fair in Copenhagen, Denmark from August 28-30.


The Journeyman’s Test is the culmination of years of training and craft, rooted in centuries of tradition. In medieval Germany, in order for an apprentice of a given craft to become a master, he undertook a literal journey around the country to ply and further hone his trade. During this time, the former apprentice — now a journeyman — was prohibited from coming within 20km of his hometown. The Swedish word for "journeyman" is Gesälle, which has its roots in the German word Geselle, meaning "roommate," as this journey was not usually undertaken alone. Once a journeyman had successfully completed his period of wandering, a guild could approve him for membership, whereupon he would be known as a master of his trade. Only then was he permitted to open his own workshop.


This system migrated across the Baltic Sea from Germany to Sweden in the 1500s and was widespread by the mid 1600s. The Swedish guild system was legally repealed in 1846 and, today, the Swedish government itself awards journeyman’s certificates for a total of 305 skilled trades, ranging from bookbinding to butchery. The judges who vet applicants are appointed by boards within each respective trade.


For Ekström to produce "Fridlyst" as his Journeyman’s Test, he had to first complete 4,500 hours’ — approximately three years’ — worth of apprenticeship and education. The piece was awarded first place in cabinetry.


"Fridlyst" is Ekström’s masterpiece, properly marking his transition from apprentice to master.


"I wanted to create something more than just a cabinet, something that was timeless, intricate, fascinating, and beautiful, yet modern. I played with the old herringbone pattern and tweaked it until the feel of it became almost three-dimensional. I also worked with magnets in the shelf supports, so that they could be placed in five positions on every shelf without becoming at all visible. The materials I have worked with are American walnut and Swedish birch and ebony for drawer handles and the knob lock on the righthand door. All the brass details such as hinges, the keyhole, sliding bolts, lock are filed to level with the wood to be seen as ornament, rather than as purely functional mechanical parts. Every detail is carefully thought through." — A. E.