The life and work of Anna Åkerdahl has been obscured to such an extent that she probably will not get the praise and recognition she deserves. Why any important artist falls into oblivion, or even never in his or her lifetime stepped into the limelight, is a field of study that has been researched extensively by art historians. The pattern is clear: unless the artist's oeuvre was not to according contemporary taste (i.e. usually either too groundbreaking, too traditional, or deemed too foreign) and was ignored/misunderstood for this reason, explanations are normally to be found in variables related to the identity of the artist such as gender, ethnicity and social background.
Considering that art and design history was written from 1) a national point of view until the late 20th century and 2) mostly by men (often about their male friends) it does not take much to explain why Åkerdahl never was relevant enough for Swedish design critics and historians. The consequences of this silent dismissal, which was harsh reality for many women artists, especially those living abroad, hampered their careers as the market wanted famous designer names to their products. It is also partly why so little until recently had been written about a prominent designer/artist such as Tyra Lundgren. This is certainly the case with Anna Åkerdahl too, but there are other explanations that I think are more important.
First of all she was a Swedish woman working in Italy. It is probably no coincidence that several Swedish women designers worked in Venice in the first half of the 20th century: besides Åkerdahl there were Tyra Lundgren for Venini and famous textile designer Maja Sjöström. (Sjöström visited Venice for the first time in 1918 to oversee the production of her textile commission for Stadshuset in Stockholm. Being a true glass aficionado, Sjöström wrote about Murano glass in Swedish magazines and imported Italian faience, glass and textiles for her luxury shop specialised in Italian crafts, Blå boden, which was run by her sisters in Southern Sweden.).
Gender equality in Swedish art education had simply come a lot farther in Sweden than in Italy and all over Europe the art industry needed women in the workforce after the first world war which, with its millions of killed and wounded young men, had left behind an unprecedented shortage of able men . A rather exceptional portion of the successful Swedish women designers, such as already mentioned Lundgren and Sjöström, never married – and a dozen of other women designers can be added to that list. It was clearly a career strategy to avoid becoming someone's housewife. Åkerdahl however did marry and while she never became a typical housewife she was quickly overshadowed by her younger man: Guido Balsamo Stella.
Anna and Guido married in 1908. They seem to have lived together in Munich for some time until, at the outbreak of war, they decide to move to Stockholm. Besides some minor graphic works for Guido the years in Sweden were decisive for his budding career as a glass designer. It was at Orrefors that he studied their masterful glass engraving techniques which eventually were to put Simon Gate and Edward Hald at the world stage in Paris 1925. Guido and Edward Hald became good friends and Guido was later, with the help of Bohemian artist Franz Pelzel, to transplant his understanding of glass engraving to Italy with his engraved designs at Ferro Toso and later S.A.L.I.R.
When Guido and Anna moved back to Italy in 1919 they both worked briefly for Artisti Barovier/Vetreraria Artistica Barovier. In late 1920 (often erroneously noted as opening 1921) Guido Balsamo Stella and Anna Åkerdhal were put in charge of the commercial Italienska utställningen at Liljevalchs in Stockholm. The rare catalogue, which unfortunately lacks illustrations, reveals that Andre Rioda (who died the year after) showcased a number of works for Arte Decorativa Vetraria. Fratelli Toso was also represented as was Vetreria Artistica Barovier and SAIAR Ferro Toso. Besides art glass by Wolf-Ferrari the only designers representing Vetraria Artistica Barovier were Anna and Guido Balsamo Stella. In addition the couple also showed recent pieces made at Ferro Toso which altogether must have been a rather impressive body of work. It is important to note that their works are not mentioned as collaborations.