Veljekset / Bröderna Backman – a company carved in wood

One thing I’m passionate about is what you would call hardwood (or ädelträ in Swedish). Teak and rosewood are some of the most known ones and they are on the endangered list. Back in the 50’s and 60’s it was easy to come because of deforestation in Asia which in turn was due to the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Essentially the Americans were selling off the wood that they cut down to make room for landing strips and other infrastructure needed for the war. Yay for capitalism! Anyhow, some producers in the Nordic countries and the US bought much of the raw wood and turned it into beautiful pieces of furniture and household items. I’ve written more about teak earlier on my site.

Veljekset Backman reklam ad mainos small

There aren’t many known teak item manufacturers in Finland but one of the largest one at its time was Veljekset Backman Bröderna Ky (Full name: Kommandiittiyhtiö Veljekset Backman Bröderna Kommanditbolag). The company was founded on 23 April 1954 and by the 1960’s it had a fairly large production manufacturing bowls, trays and other small items using solid teak wood. Some of the pieces were apparently designed by known designers such as Greta Lisa Jäderholm-Snellman, who also worked for Arabia. I have a two level serving tray in teak marked G-L-J which seems to confirm it. I also have a large side table made by Backman and I believe it to be quite rare.

 

Later on in the late 60’s Backman started making veneered trays for restaurants and hospitals and you can find lots of them in different sizes and types of wood. Trays were also custom made for different clients, among the Marimekko.  From the 1990’s onwards Backman seems to have been a supplier of pressed wood products for furniture manufacturers. Later designers at Suomen Viilutuote include Sami Huuskonen, Nadja Travina, Kristiina Suominen, Katri Pitkänen and Kati Lehtoranta. I have also seen a prototype side table by Petri Vainio manufactured by Backman.

Veljekset Backman bröderna Ky declared bankruptcy on 30 June 2012. Their former web site is now defunct.

Backman_variations small

I’ve found that Backman worked with both the Swedish company Silva and also Suomen Viilutuotteet in Lahti. Suomen Viilutuotteet was founded in 1982 and they seem to have been working closely with Backman, perhaps even as the same company, up until their bankruptcy in 2011. The Silva/Backman trays are marked SILVA Patented in several countries Made in Finland Veljet Backman Helsinki Helsingfors. 

Silva logo 2

 

Below are screenshots from Backman’s office in Lahti, the factory in Pieksämäki and the original factory in Kirkkonummi.

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One blogger visited the old factory in Kirkkonummi back in 2010 and took photos. The building has since been torn down and replaced with other buildings.

One interesting story I found involves famous furniture designer Yrjö Kukkapuro. He says that when he first wanted to start working with bent wood he found that there was a company in Kirkkonummi that made wooden trays and he wondered whether it would be possible to press a entire chair with the same method. CEO Leo Backman was intrigued by Kukkapuro’s idea and suggested they use an old machine from the 1930’s but it wasn’t suitable for serial production. The idea to cooperate with Backman ended there.

Leo Backman, the former CEO of Veljekset Backman Bröderna Ky.

(This entire piece was created by researching sources online. I have yet to call any person involved with the company and some of the information in this post might be incorrect. The only number I have is (03) 4108 0500).

 

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