How does BOLON happen? How do great bales of apparently unpromising, raw material of PVC morph into beautiful rolls of tightly woven, geometric, light-reflecting, tactile and highly desirable contemporary flooring? A combination of skill, innovation, patience, technical know-how and little bit of magic.
The looms in the weavery at the Bolon factory at Ulricehamn are the thrumming heart of Bolon; this department has been busily working its woven wonders ever since the Bolon first opened for business way back 1949.
At the moment the Bolon weavery includes 12 looms, three of which are jacquards for more advanced patterns such as the complex Bolon by Missoni range. (Jacquard weaving, in case you didn’t know, makes possible the raising of each warp thread independently of others, bringing greater versatility to the weaving process, and offering the highest level of warp yarn control.) There are different looms for different types of weave and for each weave there are more than 1200 threads in the warp. (The warp being the set of lengthwise yarns held in tension on a loom.) But things weren’t always so super efficient and hi-tech.
Marie and Annica Eklund’s grandfather Nils- Erik was Bolon’s founding genius. Sixty years ago, whilst producing cans for food packaging, he noticed that the factory next door, making vinyl aprons and table cloths, was producing large amounts of textile waste. The ever-resourceful, eco-maverick Nils-Erik found a way to take the waste sheets of PVC, cut them into strips and then hand plait them with cotton into rag rugs for recycled use in the camping and caravan sector. He named his company Bolon, fusing the Swedish words for cotton (BOmull) and nyLON selling several million square metres of his genius product over four decades.
By the time Nils-Erik’s son Lars took over the business in the 1960s, the factory was employing around up to 30 people with the weaving done on old and clattering machine. “Now we have more than 80 people and some incredibly sophisticated new technology,” explains Lars Eklund. Bolon now supplies more than two million square metres of its distinctive product across 45 countries. Turnover is now estimated to be more than 27 million euros.
But even with bold investment, a modern masterwerk of a factory and the most up to date machinery to hand, the manufacturing of BOLON’s quality product takes time, patience and skill; approximately 100 sqm/hour. Weaving done, the material passes through a variably climactically controlled oven to fix the weave; through first section of the oven heated and the final zone regulated colder, chilled by adjacent groundwater. The gleaming Bolon product emerges from the oven shiny, taught, super cool, cooked to fixed perfection ... and ready for fitting.