The Power of the Story Cont…

The next ceramic artist whom I want to invite into my “hus” (as you know, that’s “house” in Danish) because their story made an impression on me, is the young talented artist Katie Spragg.

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Katie graduated from BA (Hons) Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics at Brighton University in 2010. I met Katie when attending a course in print making techniques at Camden Arts Centre where she was sharing her knowledge – and her stories of the curiouskatie 2 and the bizarre.

Inspired by stories in the Metro newspaper, Katie produced a series of plates, which depicted the tales of the bizarre behaviour of urban wildlife.

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For example, and one of my favourites, there was the story of the fox, which was found on the 72nd floor of the UK’s highest skyscraper and apparently was surviving off scraps of food left by construction workers.

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Or the drunk Swedish (how typical…) moose stuck up a tree that had to be cut free after snaffling too many apples…

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Katie has transferred her drawings onto digital transfers which she then adds to the plates. I personally enjoy the expressive and humorous nature of her drawing style which really goes well with these bizarre urban animal stories.

Katie, SkandiHus salutes you!

The Power of the Story

Over the years, I have met many talented artists. Sometimes it’s not just their work that makes an impression on me. At times, their stories stay with me too.Luke 2

I am going to share with you, the tales of some talented ceramicists whose stories made such an impression on me that I felt compelled to do a blog post about them. Besides their work is so beautiful that I had to invite them into my SkandiHus.

First up is Luke Bishop.

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The lovely Luke Bishop completed the Ceramics HE Diploma in Ceramics at the City-Lit in July of 2013. His practice is founded in the language of function and the functional: wheel-thrown porcelain vessels and forms. Luke himself describes it as ranging from utilitarian to sculptural, inhabiting the region where Craft and Art collide and bump into each other. Functional forms are combined in abstracted groupings that might intentionally strip away function entirely, or perhaps augment it.

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When I met Luke at the New Designers show, he handed me one of his small beautifully crafted vessels that, at first sight, did not seem to have a function. Then he told me his story.

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The vessel was inspired by an old Roman tradition of catching tears in vessels. Luke explained how they used to catch tears of sadness and place them by the graves of the deceased. To him though, the tears that we may want to catch today could be happy ones too: “It could be a place to store the tears your shed at your daughter’s wedding” he said but then immediately he looked across the table, his facial expression changing to a sad one.Luke large vessel

He pointed to a large ceramic vessel, saying that “perhaps that one should be dedicated to the people of Syria and the tears the world is shedding for them”. Neither of us said anything for a little while after this. I quietly put Luke’s beautiful ceramic object back on the table, thinking that if I ever got married, I would buy one for my mum to eternalise her tears of happiness in.

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I left feeling. And that ability to make someone “feel” is to me the ultimately sign of an artist having succeeded.

Luke, SkandiHus salutes you and your story.

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FOR THE LOVE OF BIRCH

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In Scandinavia, Birch is a highly treasured tree. To the ancient Scandinavians, birch was primarily a symbol of transition from spring to summer and, more broadly, the symbol of death and resurrection. It was also the symbol of the goddess Nerthus, who was considered the great Mother Earth.

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Scandinavia’s ongoing love for birch is still prevalent in the designs originating from these northern shores of Europe in more recent times. In this blog post, I have gathered a few of my favourite Scandinavian birch inspired pottery pieces. Enjoy!

Handmade Koivu vase made by Finnish ceramicist Maarit Mattanen. The Koivu vase was originally designed for an art exhibition in the National Parks of Lapland in Finland. “Koivu” means birch in Finnish.

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The talented, Swedish potter, Maria Holmberg, found her way of incorporating a birch pattern on her pottery with a special ceramic printing technique.

Simple and beautiful.

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I love these handmade birch bark tumblers by FarmhouseMud.

 

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And finally, I adore this lush vase, also from FarmhouseMud, made from super thin layers of white stoneware mixed with paper pulp and then peeled back just like a real birch tree.

 

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Birch for now from SkandiHus. Hej hej!

Delicious Danish Design Duo

Get ready for a Danish Double treat!

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I absolutely adore the work of the Danish design duo, Tools, consisting of the perfect double act, Claus Jensen and Henrik Holbæk. It seems that no matter what the pair put theirs hands on, they transform it into a beautiful success. One only has to look to their Eva Solo series for proof of this.

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With the launch of their latest design brand, Normade, the two designers are successfully making the most of the Scandinavian design wave that is slowly and steadily spreading across the world at the moment.

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According to Claus and Henrik, the philosophy behind Normade was to create designs that are appealing in their own right whilst being functional – but without any unnecessary detail. The objects are made in sizes that allow them to be easily moved around. This waWedge benchy the user always has them where they are needed and they can be used and enjoyed easily. Moreover it is important that the objects are functional. Sheep chairIn other words, these guys are yet another example of designers who are managing to design unpretentious affordable designs without compromising on the quality. Love it!

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In addition, the two say that it is important to them that every design feature has a purpose. For example, they do not put a handle on a chair primarily because it looks good; rather it is there because it is functional.

Pilgrim ChairThis way of creating furniture, is a return to a time when objects were designed to last and with a purpose in mind. Sadly so many functional objects today are designed to only last for a limit period. Thus, the Normade products are not only beautiful but also sustainable designs which do not try to be anything other than what they are. Beautiful functional objects!

Well done, boys! SkandiHus salutes you.

Coffee Lovers Unite

True to my love of the use of natural materials in art and design, I recently fell in love with Kählers new coffee brewer, Barista.

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The design is so fresh and Scandinavian. Allegedly it makes unparalleled great tasting coffee as well but as I haven’t tasted it yet, I can’t vouch for this. I hope it is true though as I can all too easily imagine myself sitting in the morning sunshine drinking great coffee out of something this aesthetically pleasing.

ImageThe cups are made of porcelain and you can buy a set of 4 together with a lush natural wooden stand. However, to be honest, I might just buy one cup so that I can selfishly enjoy it on my own. The only problem with that would, of course, be the fact that the Barista comes in three (wonderfully nordic) shades and I am not sure that I’d be able to choose just one…

The designer behind the little coffee beauty is Michael Geertsen who graduated from the Danish Design School in 1993. His inspirational designs and high artistic quality has made his art known throughout the world.

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He states that he finds inspiration in the meeting between function and sculpture – and his work draws a clear line back to classic ceramics, but shapes and colours are used in such a way that tries to challenge the observer. I would say that he succeeds in this. Just look at this great red sculpture as an example:

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Michael recently exhibited some of his works at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London with his installation: A DIALOGUE WITH HISTORY.

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ImageMichael described it as “an explosion of mixed works, which take on some of the highlights of our civilisation”.  He further explained that he took inspiration from Greek vases which is really apt as the Victoria and Albert Museum has one of the largest collections of ceramics in the world. The ceramic collection spans almost the entire development of our civilisation.

Michael Geertsen says that he hopes that when people see his designs they will go: “Wow, I really like the idea behind that – and it is beautiful as well – I must have it”. Well, Michael, you certainly succeeded in making me feel like that. I am pretty sure that I MUST add your lovely little coffee brewer to my growing collection of kitchen ceramics.

Thank you!

The Beautiful World of Anne Black

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A few years back, I celebrated my birthday in a Danish summer-house by the sea with my closest friends and family. It was one of the best weekends of my life. Some of my friends gave me a beautiful sushi set and a pair of earrings from the Danish ceramic and jewellery designer, Anne Black. I instantly fell in love with her designs and her style has inspired me ever since.

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Anne Black is an interesting person and the more I have learnt about her, the more I am drawn to her designs.

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If nothing else, go on to her website to be mesmerised by the absolutely beautiful video and music that greets you as you enter.

Visiting her website is akin to visiting any shop selling her products. Looking at her designs gives you a sense of the ambience and sensibility of her universe.

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The sushi set that I was given, is from her collection “Black is Blue” which has been hand painted on the inside. This, Anne says, is to show that beauty comes from the inside. Adorable.

Whilst I am generally not a fan of outsourcing the arts/crafts, I think that if you are going to do it, you should do it the way Anne has done. She is co-owner of a small ceramics factory located outside of Hanoi, Vietnam in a joint venture with a Vietnamese partner, Mrs Hang. This was established with the ongoing support, supervision and guidance of the official agency DANIDA, the Danish Institute of Development.

ImageThe working environment has been developed with assistance from international experts and is comparable to Danish standards. Therefore, the production is monitored and continuously developed in relation to the working environment, health, social rights, external environmental load and technical competencies. What’s more, the company’s approach is decidedly personal, fair trade and earth-friendly. Nice work, Anne!

You can find Anne Black products in selected shops throughout the world but unfortunately it does not seem like she has a UK retailer.

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But fret not, you can buy her products online right here.

Alternatively, treat yourself to a weekend in Copenhagen and visit her recently opened concept store, Black, on Gl. Kongevej 103 DK-1850 Frederiksberg, Copenhagen.

Love love and kys kys from SkandiHus

Not only the English love the weather…

weather460The Weather Project by Olafur Eliasson

As there is a Tube strike in London at the moment, I walked along the canal to the studio yesterday. I love London when there is a transport strike on. People move overground, make eye contact, smile at each other and even make random conversations. It’s one thing that we Londoners are good at: sharing the misery with a smile.

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I was stopped twice on my 2 hour walk by randoms. Both times, the stranger initiated the conversation by talking about the weather. This made me think about the role the weather plays in the British versus the Scandinavian societies. As a kid, I was taught by my English teacher that “the Brits like to talk about the weather more than anything else”. I never really believed him. I mean, he also tried to convince us that people in London say “Oh dear, it is raining cats and dogs”…. However, when I moved here about 15 years ago, I quickly realised that my teacher was right. The eighteenth-century writer Samuel Johnson put it perfectly when he remarked “It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know, that it is hot or cold, bright or cloudy, windy or calm”. The subject of the weather really does shape the beginning of a lot of conversations over here and I have grown very fond of this fact.

Olafur_Eliasson_ol_1780058i Whilst the weather does not generally play a big part of everyday conversations in Scandinavia, it does, however, have a central role in the arts. This is probably best illustrated by artists like the Impressionists and the Skagen painters who used the special light on the west coast of Denmark to paint beautiful beach based paintings. In more recent times, the Icelandic/Danish artists Olafur Eliasson took the ubiquitous subject of the weather as the basis for exploring ideas about experience, meditation and representation when he created his “Weather Project” at the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in 2003. This installation is still in my top ten list of favourite exhibitions.

weather project 1 Eliasson’s installation was, in principle, very basic. He placed a giant yellow sun at the end of the turbine hall and covered the ceiling in mirrors. Yet, I remember at the time how everyone in London spoke about the installation and how it made them feel sooooo good to be under his big yellow sun. And that is exactly what it did. It made you feel good. You felt warm, fuzzy, relaxed (meditative?) and part of a bigger picture when you were there. People were lying on the ground looking up into the mirrored ceiling; all feeling part of something but without having to actively participate or perform if they didn’t want to – hence being able to completely relax and not feel watched. weather projectI think that to a large extend, the feeling of warmth and relaxation was created by the lighting. It was really Scandinavian and cosy, or “hyggelig’ as we say back home. You find this kind of soft lighting in a lot of Scandinavian homes, not least created by our obsessive use of candle lights. Anyway, back to the Turbine Hall. One thing I loved more than anything about Eliasson’s installation was the interactive element. I went there in my lunch break whenever I could during the show’s duration. As I laid there looking up into the ceiling, I could see friends doing synchronised movements, couples kissing, children waiving and occasionally you would get strangers interacting with each other across the room. It always made me feel all warm inside when I witnessed this and I can’t think of a better measure of a successful in an art installation, than its ability to make the audience “feel”. I felt truly alive when lying there and it somehow restored my faith in human kindness and ability to get on, across the usual boundaries like race, nationality, class etc. I always returned to the office with renewed energy levels.

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In discussing this, it is also worth mentioning that a group of 80 people used the installation to make a political statement when they, with their bodies, shaped the letters: “BUSH GO HOME!” (don’t forget that this was in 2003!). Their message was of course reflected on the mirrored ceiling above. Allegedly it was a naked protest, but I cannot find any close-up photos to confirm this and maybe just as well… Weather project bush go home

Lollys Laundry

My wonderful fiancé recently gave me this beautiful scarf from one of my favourite shops: Lollys Laundry, which inspired me to do a blog post about this amazing Danish brand.tørklæde

I love the simple, yet strong look that the designer, Kamilla Byriel, created back in 2007 when she launched Lollys Laundry. You will probably quickly note from my various blogs that I am a big fan of affordable goods which are nevertheless well designed and of good quality. This brand is no exception.About-Lollys_picture_1 (1)

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Kamilla’s philosophy was to create a brand where quality and price are woven together, resulting in strong collections that let you style your look up or down, depending on whether you are into classic romanticism or the tough rock chick look. Since I own quite a few of her pieces, I can vouch for this and the quality too.

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From the Spring/Summer 2014 collection, I am particularly fond of this fun bird print t-shirt. It’s both stylish and cool. I would wear it with black skinny jeans, black Nike trainers and a black leather jacket. A very Danish look, yes, indeed.

Raw Materials – Wood and Leather

I have always loved the use by Scandinavian artists and designers of natural materials such as leather, wood, stone, metal and clay. I can’t think of anything more aesthetically pleasing than the mix of raw materials and sharp light airy designs.

The Spanish Chair 

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One of my favourite pieces is the Spanish Chair designed by the Danish furniture architect Børge Mogensen as seen in the photo to the left (borrowed from Manks).

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This chair is especially close to my heart as we had one in our summer house in the North of Denmark when I grew up. I have spent many hours of my childhood sliding around on the leather seat whilst watching one of the three TV channels available or perched on the arm rest next to an older sibling who had claimed the chair for the evening (and this was probably more often the case as I am the youngest of four).

Legend has it that upon returning home from a holiday in Spain in 1958,  the furniture designer Børge Mogensen created the Spanish Chair. He had fallen in love with an old chair in Andalusia with a leather seat and wide arm rests.

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The use of leather and solid oak gives the chair a strong masculine character and the natural materials cause the chair to become increasingly beautiful as time passes. The buckles can be tightened as the leather naturally stretches over time. This way you can sit comfortable in the chair today, tomorrow and for generations to come. Clever.

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I admire Børge Mogensen for more than just his beautiful designs. His philosophy was that beautiful objects for the home should be affordable to the people of Denmark. During the 40s, 50s and 60s, he created some of the most well known furniture classics in Scandinavia.  He would probably be quite sad to know that 40 years after his death, his pieces are not exactly “affordable” to the ordinary person. Still, they are so beautiful that I would almost dare to say that they are priceless. Almost.

Tortus Copenhagen

Since I am also a potter, it only feels right that my first SkandiHus blog should be about a ceramics workshop in Denmark which I adore:

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Tortus say that their work is about the love of making and a passion for materials – and it shows.  The beautiful simplicity has always captivated me.

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When you look at their work, there is also no doubt that Tortus pay respect to the century-old tradition of Danish ceramics. On their website, they state that because they are aware of their responsibility to preserve their craft, each product is handmade in Copenhagen, without exception. Simply beautiful and admirable in every way.

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Even the workshop, which is open to visitors, is so elegantly designed that one immediately feels immersed  in the calmness which exudes from the individuals behind the work, Eric Landon and Karin Blach Nielsen.

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The building stems back from 1734 and was built after the big Copenhagen fire of 1728. True to their style, Tortus have maintained a much of the building’s original charm. This also goes for the truss-style wood courtyard house which was built in 1830. In fact, the courtyard is one of Copenhagen’s best kept secrets amongst locals (so don’t tell anyone) and it is not hard to see why. Most artists can only dream of working in such beautiful surroundings.

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If you visit Copenhagen, I can truly recommend that you visit Tortus’ workshop at Kompagnistræde 23, 1208 Copenhagen K.
However, if you are London based like me, you do not have to miss out on the chance to view/buy their beautiful products as Flow Gallery in the Heart of Notting Hill are exhibiting some of Tortus’ work. This gallery is also an amazing hidden gem, by the way – but one to be discussed in another SkandiHus blog post.
Bye for now and welcome to SkandiHus.
Much love.