Sensory Awareness

Sensory Awareness

Sensory Awareness

Process in the studio in Aarhus. Photo: Iben West

ASTRID SKIBSTED

… graduated in textile design from Design School Kolding, 2010. Since completing her studies, Astrid Skibsted has had her own studio and practice, which is split between artistic projects and dissemination. Her artistic practice takes as its starting point weaving and the commercial decorating opportunities in that field, such as the liturgical robes for Saint Nikolai’s Church in Kolding. Or the yarn windings, which have grown more and more influential over the past 10 years, creating an artistic and scholarly foundation for development. Astrid Skibsted lives and works in Aarhus.

www.astridskibsted.dk

Textile designer, weaver and artist Astrid Skibsted has made yarn winding an art form in itself and a piece of art in its own right. Here too, yarn winding is also a communication tool between body and mind, between thread, possibilities and details. This introductory text I wrote for her book “The Yarnwinding Manifest”.

“We’ll sit in here,” Astrid says, leading me to a room snugly outfitted with a loom, knitting machine, and shelves of yarn. Here, in a nook in the heart of Jutland’s largest city, lies her workshop, which she shares with a colleague. Whatever the workshop lacks in square meters, it makes up for in the view. The panoramic view of Aarhus’ harbour is unsurpassed anywhere else on this sunny morning.

Astrid has me wrapped up for the morning. Physically. We will create yarn windings together, she and I. It’s important, she asserts, to understand how the principle works and feel it in your own body. I’m in. Completely in, and looking forward to getting my fingers in the yarn, and all its colour and structure. Different yarns are laid out. Large industrial cones and smaller samples, balls, and remnants. Colourful, subdued, and discreet. Coarse, rough, fine, shiny, gleaming, smooth, and matte. A world of possibilities. We get started. Each of us chooses a piece of cardboard in a base colour and then the first strand, which we attach on the back with a piece of tape. We wind the thread around the cardboard. Three times, four. Tape on the back side. We swap. Choose the next thread. Which colour works together with the one Astrid chose as her first? And do I wind alongside Astrid’s thread or across it? Hmm…

Yarn Winding Art. Photo: Suzanne Reitzma

Sharing a yarn winding turns you into co-creators of each other’s works and broadens your own understanding of the constellation of colour, structure, pattern, and composition. Oh, is that how you’re doing it? Are you wrapping tightly or loosely? With dense or diffuse stripes, where there is distance between the threads?  Astrid and I continue winding, trading, selecting thread, winding, trading, selecting—and talking, once in a while. Mostly about yarn winding and the potential in what’s happening. Because what is it, in the end, that is happening? What is it that happens when people wind together? We talk freely, because we haven’t actually agreed that we are having a conversation. We’re together for an activity that, in principle, doesn’t mean we must talk. Perhaps we don’t have anything to talk about. Perhaps we do. The premise for gathering is something else—namely, yarn winding. But conversation bubbles up—involuntarily and borne of something concrete. Practical. Material. And whatever else comes up, while the threads allow themselves to be wound.

Astrid Skibsted in her studio in Aarhus. Photo: Iben West

Winding is a game, an experiment, that doesn’t demand any special qualifications other than cardboard, yarn, tape, and time. Winding is a method to open up your flow, your inspiration, your head—and it’s a state where you shouldn’t plan or think, just be. Winding can be everything or nothing, play or seriousness, colourful or bland, but most of all, it’s meaningful. Meaningful to immerse yourself in the simple routine of choosing a thread and winding it around, horizontally and vertically. In layers. In turns. See it take shape. Assess the interplay of the composition. Experience the light, reflected differently on the threads depending on whether they are matte or glossy, made of flax, wool, or cotton. See how the colours interact with each other and with you. Observe how something so simple can become so complex in just an hour. Feel how peace settles into your system, and how present you are. Here and now. In the work and the winding. With yarn, colour, and surfaces that you know by feel.    

There’s something meditative about yarn winding. It’s obvious to everyone who tries it. You create. A playful experiment or a textile work of art, just by winding a thread in two directions. Winding becomes a thing unto itself. A path in the world, built from an intuitive understanding of and fascination with the potential of the colours and the material elements. Yarn windings are about composing without needing to be “neat.” Winding welcomes disruptions to the harmony. A variation in the thread or its complexity. A nuance of hue between two seemingly identical colours. An entire composition of contrasts between colour, thickness, and pattern. A difference in height and depth. An unfiltered understanding of the materials. Winding is a way to get to know the materials. To understand with your eyes and hands how they serve as complements and contrasts to each other. To wind a single thread and slowly discover what exactly that particular thread can do. How it plays off the others. That’s about the thread—and the material in itself.

Astrid Skibsted in her studio in Aarhus. Photo: Iben West

Yarn winding was originally a tool for the weaver, used to feel out how the different threads would behave and interact on the loom. How they would stand in relation to each other. How they would take on colour from their surroundings and become new based on whom they stood next to and how the light reflected off them. Yarn winding is an artistic tool for an artistic process, in which you weave between tradition and innovation. With pacing and presence as the ultimate weaving partners. For you must be willing to be swallowed up, to become part of the rhythm of the weaving and the patient work of slowness. To then win the prize, when you at long last pull the textile from the loom and see whether the threads have behaved according to the planned colour shifts, or whether they have exerted their own autonomy, there amongst themselves.

Astrid Skibsted herself says that she decided on weaving due to her temperament. The preparation of planning the yarn, colours, pattern, of setting up the loom and still not having the full picture until the work is finished—this appeals to her. The act of being in the present moment, together with the thread and the material, comes together with her temperament and character, which has always sought to be immersed in and absorbed by the process of creating universes.

Astrid Skibsted in her studio in Aarhus. Photo: Iben West

Yarn winding has become Astrid Skibsted’s undisputed artistic tool, not only for weaving, but for the creative process, drawing her into the universe of colour and to insights about the winding routines that balance between needlework and art. Drawing her into the rewards of sharing the potential of colour and material to others. The potential of colour is also at play in the new interior design trend where colour is no longer only for walls, but for doors and window frames, something which could previously have been perceived as controversial, or as a sign of poor taste.

Today it’s almost mainstream to paint in the same block colours suggested and endorsed by “influencers”. But is colour exclusively fashion, or can it serve as an extra scholarly dimension alongside form and function? Many have worked seriously and professionally within the field—from former Bauhaus luminaries like Anni and Josef Albers to Denmark’s own iconic Poul Gernes and visionary Verner Panton, to the current and relevant Margrethe Odgaard, who develops colour systems independent of their eventual uses. 

Art in stacks. Photo: Suzanne Reitzma

Anni Albers spoke of courage as a vital factor in creativity. Courage and slowness. Conscious, thoughtful experimentation—and she believed that creative innovation always comes from the work of the hand. In her 1952 article “On Weaving”, she writes:

Beginnings are usually more interesting than elaborations and endings. Beginning means exploration, selection, development, a potent vitality not yet limited, not circumscribed by the tried and traditional.… Therefore, I find it intriguing to look at early attempts in history, not for the sake of historical interest, that is, of looking back, but for the sake of looking forward from a point way back in time in order to experience vicariously the exhilaration of accomplishment reached step by step.

In order to move forward, you must stand on a foundation, a base. Know it, explore it, and from that point, dare to leap forward. Toward that which you find interesting, because everything exists in a context of meaning in relation to others. Creation is a force you must embrace, and, as a weaver, you search for that place where lines, form, colour, and texture merge into a greater whole. Where format, function, and aesthetic converse—for better or for worse. It’s the same with yarn winding. Like Albers’ beginnings, which hold infinite possibilities, the winding determines an unmapped land, begun with the first thread. A land full of paths and roads to be examined and explored. Like a language you are learning to speak.

The book ‘The Yarn Winding Manifesto’. Photo: Suzanne Reitzma

Colour is also a language that appeals to the senses. That a colour isn’t just a colour is something most people are gradually coming to realise. But that colours also create peace in the nervous system and release endorphins in the body when you work with them—that’s new and revolutionary. Colours are healing. Poul Gernes showed that, when he set the colour scheme for the waiting rooms and patient rooms at Herlev Hospital and documented that patients stays were shortened when they were in rooms where colour and aesthetic were carefully considered. Verner Panton also worked consciously with colour and psychology, believing that their interaction could cultivate social and cultural transformations. 

 

Colours create an atmosphere that feeds energy or introspection. Most practitioners love both. Disappearing into contagious excitement, and into the aesthetic and functional aspects of a material. Learning something new and transferring that to a creative form. To wind is to create. Endlessly, in principle. Because you can continue. From the sofa, the workshop, together with others. No two are ever the same. Astrid Skibsted has tried, but the works refuse to be identical. They want to be themselves, their own unique expression. In spite of the same format, colour, and yarn. To wind is to lose yourself. And give yourself over to a flow that cultivates a sensory awareness of colour and the world.


Inspiration:
Ulrikka Gernes og Peter Michael Hornung: Farvernes medicin, Borgen, 2004

Anni Albers, On Weaving, Early Techniques of Thread Interlacing p. 52, 1965
Ida Engholm & Anders Michelsen, Verner Panton – miljøer, farver, systemer, mønstre, Strandberg Publishing, 2017

ASTRID SKIBSTED

… graduated in textile design from Design School Kolding, 2010. Since completing her studies, Astrid Skibsted has had her own studio and practice, which is split between artistic projects and dissemination. Her artistic practice takes as its starting point weaving and the commercial decorating opportunities in that field, such as the liturgical robes for Saint Nikolai’s Church in Kolding. Or the yarn windings, which have grown more and more influential over the past 10 years, creating an artistic and scholarly foundation for development. Astrid Skibsted lives and works in Aarhus.

www.astridskibsted.dk

Jakob Jørgensen: The sensuousness of steel

Jakob Jørgensen: The sensuousness of steel

Jakob Jørgensen: The sensuousness of steel

Matter at Hand, Jakob Jørgensen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform.
The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Furniture designer and artist Jakob Jørgensen is one of the Danish artists in the exhibition Matter at Hand – Ten Artists in Denmark, showing at the American gallery Hostler Burrows with locations in L.A. and New York.

Jakob Jørgensen is a hands-on artist, deeply involved in the tangible material he is exploring as well as in the intellectual perspectives of a given project. Resistance is a key focal point for Jørgensen, who is thrilled when materials put up a fight and he has to grapple and tussle with them in order to bring out their core. Grasp the essence and pull out the form, despite any inherent defiance. Engaging in this process is a deeply personal experience, and one that captivates him.

Matter at Hand, Jakob Jørgensen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

For many years Jørgensen has made wood the basis for a range of poetic and epic furniture, many of them chairs and storage pieces with narrative titles. These works occupy a continuum between the commercial and the artistic; Jørgensen is fluent in both idioms and works in a continuous cross-fertilization between set and free tasks. He is also an accomplished craftsman who has masters virtually all the steps in the process, whether the material is wood, stone or steel, and he does nothing by halves. Why should he, since he can achieve whatever he sets his mind to, using his hands and his tools?

Though graduating the Academy as a furniture designer, Jørgensen also trained as a sculptor, working mainly in stone in his 20s. Now, two decades later, he has embraced steel. Always curious about the material, he has the ambition to explore its plasticity, discovering how an industrial cylinder can be transformed to hold an organic and artistic potential that challenges conventional thinking.

In his work with steel, Jørgensen investigates how the basic geometry of a tube reacts when it is subjected to pressure. The result is an organic expression with strong references to nature – and to wood, a material he knows by heart. Jørgensen has learned the techniques involved: welding, forging, using a hammer and anvil, and using a jack to compress the steel. Five targeted pressure points, and the steel tube begins to look like a bench. His organic expression stands in stark contrast to the industrial universe of machinery. A steel tube becomes a totem symbolizing the link between nature and industry.

The act of reshaping the tube and wrestling with its artistic potential appeals to Jørgensen, and during the creative process he is more interested in what the material affords and how it reacts than whether the result is art or design. To him, the goal is to explore a material and the possibilities it can offer in order to arrive at his own unique synthesis of matter and idea. Scale also plays a compelling role in Jørgensen’s work; a simple scaling up of a design or an idea brings out the unexpected and magical. It allows the steel to dominate the room with a grounded materiality; the totem has a palpable impact as it bellows out its strength. Jørgensen does not raise his voice but lets his restrained and powerful sculptures speak for him.

Matter at Hand, Jakob Jørgensen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform.
The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Hanne G: Tactile symbols

Hanne G: Tactile symbols

Hanne G: Tactile symbols

Matter at Hand, Hanne G. Foto: Dorte Krogh

MATTER AT HAND

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform.
The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Textile artist Hanne G is one of the Danish artists in the exhibition Matter at Hand – Ten Artists in Denmark, showing at the American gallery Hostler Burrows with locations in L.A. and New York.

Hanne G is a master of tactility, in both a concrete as well as a metaphoric sense. Using the precise tip of the crochet hook, she creates palm trees, light bulbs and machine guns as tactile symbols delivering political salvos, often cloaked in humor. Her breakthrough in the Danish art scene came with her 2007 piece Weapon Collection – Crocheting for Peace, which attracted attention due to the obvious contrast between weapons, war, toxic masculinity, death and destruction and the soft, crocheted material, rooted in a feminine handicraft universe. Power, status, gender equality, craft, politics and homeliness offered additional, obvious connotations. All of that from crocheting a controversial object and placing it into an artistic context …

Matter at Hand, Hanne G. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Hanne G was one of the first Danish artists to crochet messages with a convincing trinity of expression, content and an exquisite finish. That the simple technique, based on the combination of a crochet hook and a ball of yarn, can be used to manifest large sculptures is fascinating to the artist, who learned to crochet in her teens. According to Hanne G, crocheting can create ANY form. When she came out as an artist after several years as a graphic designer and, later, a TV-concept developer, she was first drawn to painting.

However, once she encountered the textile craft, she realized the potential contrasts of the medium and the opportunities it afforded for artistic statements. She found that crocheting was like riding a bicycle, you never forget. And she excelled at it. Her hands remembered the craft, aided by memories of her grandmother, who had helped her learn. And it was not just her grandmother cheering her on from the beyond but a wider, contemporary audience, who felt a sense of the familiar when they saw her work, a liberating joy. We are all familiar with this soft medium and have a relationship with it – we wear textiles, dry ourselves with a towel after the shower and use a tea towel in the kitchen. Perhaps this every day engagement makes us more receptive to textile art, even when it is placed into an unfamiliar context.

The flip side of this everyday familiarity is that the medium and the material have a low status in the artistic hierarchy and a historical link to homely, feminine pursuits – a fact that only drives Hanne G to be more conscious of her techniques, dimensions and narratives. She desires  her works to have strong impact, to move people and invite reflection.

The handmade imprints and tiny flaws that invariably arise during the process reflect the human perspective, human dreams, human flaws – themes that she finds only more compelling with age. These imperfections hold profound potential, the capacity to deconstruct aesthetic conventions and touch on the essence of what life is – much like the palms she created for this exhibition are positive metaphors for the strength to withstand a storm, even the storm of a global pandemic – existential symbols of triumph and paradise, with all their ambiguous connotations.

Matter at Hand, Hanne G. Foto: Dorte Krogh

MATTER AT HAND

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform.
The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Yuki Ferdinandsen: The beat is my soul

Yuki Ferdinandsen: The beat is my soul

Yuki Ferdinandsen: The beat is my soul

Matter at Hand, Yuki Ferdinandsen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Silversmith Yuki Ferdinandsen is one of the Danish artists in the exhibition Matter at Hand – Ten Artists in Denmark, showing at the American gallery Hostler Burrows with locations in L.A. and New York.

Yuki Ferdinandsen lives and breathes her work in silver. She no longer hears the noisy hammer blows as she works in her studio; rhythm and sound accompany each other in meditative waves, surrounding her and resonating inside as integral parts of her person and artist. Silver has been Ferdinandsen’s material for the past 40 years, and her refined hollowware objects represent a fusion of Japan and Denmark through the ARARE technique. In her own words, she sees Denmark through a Japanese lens, and vice versa.

And it truly feels as if the two countries have fused into one in Ferdinandsen’s silver objects, which draw on the samurais’ nearly 400-year-old defensive technique of hammering round chased bumps on their armor to fend off the enemy’s arrows. Ferdinandsen took this historical and legendary technique and made it her own, creating her singular expression after diminishing the size of the bumps. Now, they appear as graphic dots, which are first drawn on the back of the silver and then hammered, one by one. Twenty blows per bump. An impressive piece such as “Silence”, which has 4,048 bumps, requires 80,960 hammer blows – or four months’ full-time, concentrated work in the studio.

Matter at Hand, Yuki Ferdinandsen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

But it is intended to be hard work, intense and challenging, requiring complete focus and discipline. Ferdinandsen finds the work relaxing, even if that may seem like a contradiction in terms. But when you are your material and your process, and the result sets the bar so extremely high, that makes sense. Ferdinandsen enjoys every stroke and every sound and taps her foot to the rhythm, joy rippling throughout her being. Her ambition and her work never suffer from fatigue. This is her Hammer Dance, and this is how she works.

Ferdinandsen’s sculptures are the ultimate in refinement of technique and material, and their aesthetic balances those of Danish Modern and contemporary design. For decades she has earned recognition and accolades from around the world for her unique designs in silver, a material that is simultaneously cool and warm, matte and shiny. Her works have weight and volume but also shimmer with an ethereal quality when light  reflects on their surface.

Yuki Ferdinandsen makes her own tools, and her studio is full of punches in different sizes. Chasing a flower – another technique she uses in addition to ARARE – can require up to 30 punches in different sizes. Unable to leave that degree of precision to anyone else, she personally designs all her own punches. The works carry titles with meditative references to nature and the world around her, such as “Silence”, “Sound of Ocean” and “Hanabi” (Japanese for fireworks).

The Fibonacci sequence is a natural phenomenon that plays a key role in Ferdinandsen’s practice, a mathematical system of design wherein the innermost and outermost circles comprise the same number of dots, producing a visual impression of infinity – meticulously chased silver dots in a never-ending circle dance. In recent years, she has begun to subject the Fibonacci sequence to tiny disruptions, challenging expectations ever so slightly while her signature essence remains intact and recognizable in the new interpretation. The countless dots may seem insignificant, but together, they are invincible, an army of tiny, high-precision silver bumps, a sublime manifestation of Ferdinandsen’s mind and spirit.

Matter at Hand, Yuki Ferdinandsen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl: The sculptural weight of form

Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl: The sculptural weight of form

Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl: The sculptural weight of form

Matter at Hand, Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform.
The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

 

Ceramic artist Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl is one of the Danish artists in the exhibition Matter at Hand – Ten Artists in Denmark, showing at the American gallery Hostler Burrows with locations in L.A. and New York.

Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl has worked with clay for more than 50 years. Although he was lost to the material from the moment he got his hands on it at the age of 14, it is not the actual plasticity of clay that most holds his interest, but rather the sculptural process of shaping the clay, coaxing the form out, painstakingly, step by step. Or bit by bit, since Kaldahl’s “Spatial Drawings” are extruded and precision-cut clay tubes – used not unlike a plumber’s pipes. The tubes are assembled at angles that bend or twist outward or inward, or form straight lines, like complex tubing in clay.

His construction principle is simple, almost commonplace, in his words, but the characteristic quality lies in how the tubes are used, how they turn into form that moves and extends into the space around it. It is all created in a semi-planned, rhythmic and random unfolding of form that Kaldahl constructs without a model – because a model would in itself already represent an interpretation of his line drawing, his concept. Kaldahl shapes his sculptures by hand in a process guided by his graphic mindset and focused presence. He lets the tubes angle in and out as they want on the day, as he wants on the day. Eventually they form an undeniable and coherent statement enhanced by monochrome glazes that underscore the mood of the work. 

Matter at Hand, Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl. Foto: Dorte Krogh

In a general sense, Kaldahl’s contrasts stem from the tension between lightness and heaviness. His overall idea begins as a loose line drawing – a doodle, a knot – inspiration from the commonplace and often overlooked forms of everyday life, like a piece of string that has fallen on the floor and happened to twist itself into an interesting shape. Or a freeway interchange Kaldahl takes from Google Earth and manipulates into a drawing as a basis for sculpting. Sometimes he spends months unraveling a mystery, exploring the knots and visualizing them in clay as he ponders his options for translating the lines into form.

Kaldahl prefers it when a conceptual phase takes him into uncharted territory, out of his comfort zone and into an intuitive place of freedom, where a persistent strand of an idea begins to take shape and is transformed in its passage from mind to hands into sections of clay tube – manipulated, angled and twisted inch by inch, until form emerges. This is where the weightiness comes in.

The challenge is to achieve the intuitive lightness of the line drawing while adding expressive weight to the meticulously constructed form of the living material. The sense of weight is positive and deliberate. A ceramic statement that insists on being an embodied and impactful presence in space. An encounter that requires our receptive presence. This is Kaldahl’s ambition: to create works of art that are felt by us without reservation and premeditated bias, from the uncomplicated lines of a drawing to the intricate knots and twists of clay. Scaled up in size and taking up room, they are sculptures of intrinsic proportions that actually weigh something –  “Spatial Drawings” imbued with the focused, intuitive presence that created them. 

Matter at Hand, Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform.
The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Anne Brandhøj: The narratives of wood

Anne Brandhøj: The narratives of wood

Anne Brandhøj: The narratives of wood

Matter at Hand, Anne Brandhøj. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform.
The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Furniture designer and artist Anne Brandhøj is one of the Danish artists in the exhibition Matter at Hand – Ten Artists in Denmark, showing at the American gallery Hostler Burrows with locations in L.A. and New York.

Anne Brandhøj draws out the qualities and characteristics of wood in her work, highlighting and honoring the imperfections that represent natural variations in a material that is as old as … the beginnings of life on this planet? Knots, cracks, resin pockets, fungus attacks and variations in color are present as narratives, each contributing to the story of the wood. By accentuating these irregularities, Brandhøj signals that her pieces are born, shaped and proportioned by nature and on nature’s terms. That they are sustainable in form and content, in process and outcome.

As a recent furniture design graduate, Anne Brandhøj was not moved to design new, flawless products, and while working on her graduation project at the Royal Danish Academy-Design, she was able to go into the forest and witness how trees became the planks that arrived at the workshop. In the woods she absorbed any knowledge that the local foresters were willing to share with her – and later, she learned how to cut down a tree. Brandhøj was fascinated by the slow growth cycle of trees, spellbound by the wonder of opening up a trunk and seeing what lies hidden under the bark – the mystery of traces and stories. 

Matter at Hand, Anne Brandhøj. Foto: Dorte Krogh

In an ideal world, it takes up to 20 years to dry a log with minimal stress to the wood. Brandhøj experimented with a faster method, which often resulted in cracks. She became focused on these cracks, on the conflict of the smooth, processed, perhaps oil-finished wood and the natural, tactile knots or cracks, which most people are not accustomed to seeing or touching. Brandhøj believes that the only way to read the full story of her works is to touch them, to feel the variations of the surface by running one’s hands over it, how rough turns to smooth, and the fingers intuitively stop to examine the irregularity. To explore its unfamiliar feel and unique appeal.

The contrasts anchor the objects and create a tension and an inner balance in works that often stand upright or feature a flat surface, reminiscent of furniture. Brandhøj’s background as a designer is easy to spot in her works, which contain both abstract and concrete aspects and act as a link between nature and culture. Her creative practice is driven by a goal of eliminating superficial objects that do not relate to anyone or anything. In order to be in the world, an object should connect to people and to other objects, just as we do in our lives – in relationships that develop, are used and worn and get a few dents and scratches along the way.

Brandhøj spends many hours a day in her workshop. Prior to arrival, she may have been to the forest to find the perfect piece for her next project, which she carries home on her cargo bike. It is necessary that Brandhøj engage in every step of the process, including the heavy lifting, in order to maintain her dialogue with the material. Brandhøj always works in fresh wood, which she shapes and then leaves to dry for 6–12 months. After drying, a round object may become oval or some other shape entirely, at which point she re-engages, reshapes and reinterprets the material, because she has learned through her practice that wood has a mind of its own. Wood breathes and gives, depending on air humidity and other factors, and as a maker she has no choice but to work with circumstance – to balance the will of the wood with her own artistic will and motivation.

Matter at Hand, Anne Brandhøj. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform.
The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

 

Astrid Krogh: Textile structures

Astrid Krogh: Textile structures

Astrid Krogh: Textile structures

Matter at Hand, Astrid Krogh. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Textile artist Astrid Krogh is one of the Danish artists in the exhibition Matter at Hand – Ten Artists in Denmark, showing at the American gallery Hostler Burrows with locations in L.A. and New York.

Astrid Krogh is a translator, an artist who sees the world through a textile lens. Whether exploring the power of light, the galactic complexity of the universe or the aesthetic ramifications of seaweed, Krogh’s work always springs from a textile approach and mindset. Formally trained in classic textile design, anything can serve as her material; thus she is not restricted to one medium, but seeks to reproduce natural life through patterns, fibers and structures.

Throughout her career, Krogh has worked with light, its patterns and variability, and sought to reflect nature’s tactile mutability – in neon. That may sound contradictory, but it is not, as Krogh’s deep respect for nature and textile craft drives her to create her own interpretation based on layers of knowledge and experimentation. Krogh steers her projects down unknown paths, as when she “weaves” with neon or fiber optics, a novelty when she first set out. Over time, the digital medium has become part of her creative expression, always with a textile foundation. In addition to light, repeated patterns with minor variations have been a recurring theme in her work: in large scale digital wall panels, graphic flowers change color at the same intervals as  the light that moves through the course of a day, or the Milky Way is depicted as a pattern in fiber optics that we can understand and relate to as a wall-hung work of art.

Matter at Hand, Astrid Krogh. Foto: Dorte Krogh

For the past two years, Krogh has turned her artistic eye to the galaxies, seeking to convey the patterns created by light-emitting objects in the universe. She has even consulted with Dr. Margaret Geller of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard, a pioneer in the mapping of the universe. Geller’s work provides a new way of seeing the vast patterns in the distribution of galaxies, such as the Milky Way. In their email correspondence, Krogh found a fruitful and contagious connection between science and art, and her dialogue with Dr. Geller enabled a new practice and understanding of the world.

Krogh’s latest projects, however, turn the gaze inward rather than up, as her work dives beneath the surface of the sea to discover the equally complex world of seaweed and marine plants, which form patterns and connections of which few people are aware. Seaweed and its ramifications are as complex as the galaxies and almost resemble them, with equal parts diversity and regularity. Krogh looks for the regularity in order to disrupt it, to find the repetition and the minute variations that prevent complete uniformity, the tiny ramification that is close to but not quite like the other. Through her constantly evolving experiments she expands her own understanding, delving into unknown worlds to translate and interpret, to share her findings through art that opens our senses and eyes to the beauty and power of nature.

Matter at Hand, Astrid Krogh. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark er en udstilling skabt i et samarbejde mellem Statens Kunstfond og det amerikanske galleri Hostler Burrows. Udstillingen blev vist i New York i efteråret 2021 og er lige nu at finde i L.A. på Hostler Burrows andet galleri.

Matter at Hand omfatter også et katalog i egen ret, der bl.a. portrætter de medvirkende udøvere, skrevet af mig. Jeg har fået lov at udgive de ti mindre portrætter af de udvalgte danske udøvere:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

Teamet bag samarbejdet er:
Statens Kunstfond
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows og Kim Hostler
Kurator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Fotograf Dorte Krogh
Skribent: Charlotte Jul
Oversætter Dorte Herholdt Silver
Grafisk design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen: A meeting of equals

Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen: A meeting of equals

Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen: A meeting of equals

Matter at Hand, Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location. Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Ceramic artist Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen is one of the Danish artists in the exhibition Matter at Hand – Ten Artists in Denmark, showing at the American gallery Hostler Burrows with locations in L.A. and New York.

Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen has never aimed for classical beauty. However, even when she challenges the norms of her discipline, she has her feet planted firmly on a foundation of craftsmanship. And because she knows her craft, she is able to dismantle, reinterpret and provoke a subject and a material she knows in depth. The core of her process is the meeting: the meeting between the artist and her material and the imprints her hands and tools leave on the clay. But when is it a meeting of equals? When is the artist in control, and when does the material take over? Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen aims for the equal meeting and is anarchistic in her aesthetic expression, which is profoundly personal and profoundly universal. When is something beautiful or ugly? When does an expression touch us, and when does it fail to connect?

Matter at Hand, Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

In Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen’s works you will discover aspects you recognize and some you will not. You might see something that looks like handles on a jar or like a layer cake that is so delicious and vibrant you can’t wait to sink your teeth into it. Pontoppidan’s works recall hybrids from another world created in a novel encounter of textures, colors, contrasts and stories sampled from random sources.

She might draw inspiration from a nicotine-stained wall in a dive bar, a coupling of two songs from different genres or a pine tree with an odd growth. Pontoppidan Pedersen seeks to merge forms, expressions and textures in tension-filled compositions. Two elements that might seem mismatched find their way and balance on the cusp of something new. There is a connection, an alternative language, where contrasts co-exist as equals. This can make her works seem difficult to decode, because they take us someplace new, an unsettling place with references we don’t recognize. And how are we supposed to respond to that? The titles may aid our comprehension, and here, too, Pontoppidan Pedersen is playful, playing with words, combinations and meaning, so that her titles often seem more like a riddle than a clue.

Pontoppidan Pedersen pinches her sculptures by hand, and sometimes a surface texture appears spontaneously as she kneads the clay. Any choice implies the rejection of an alternative, and when does the artist dominate the clay? When do the two engage in a dialogue? When and how can the artist’s intuition and feeling find an expression in the material? Pontoppidan Pedersen can sense it, the tension that so easily tips from interesting to overdone and then loses its justification. At that point, the artist’s co-existence with the material is lost.

Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen must have been an amusing and inquisitive child, constantly questioning the established and the expected. This naive and philosophical reflection lends Pontoppidan Pedersen’s works and her practice their original, relevant and engaging quality. Her works are a contemporary manifestation of an ancient tradition, a new language, full of sequences where we might recognize individual words but cannot quite grasp the full meaning. That makes sense to Pontoppidan Pedersen, who strives to penetrate behind language, expectations and the classic notion of aesthetics in order to reach a place that has not already been colored, coded or articulated into fixed concepts or categories. “Square peg, round hole.” Pernille Pontoppidan’s works are both – in a crisp, taut, equal balance.

Matter at Hand, Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location. Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Maria Sparre-Petersen: An eternal cycle of glass

Maria Sparre-Petersen: An eternal cycle of glass

Maria Sparre-Petersen: An eternal cycle of glass

Matter at Hand, Maria Sparre-Petersen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Glass blower and artist Maria Sparre-Petersen is one of the Danish artists in the exhibition Matter at Hand – Ten Artists in Denmark, showing at the American gallery Hostler Burrows with locations in L.A. and New York.

Maria Sparre-Petersen makes sculptures from recycled container glass, a material that has all the poetic qualities of virgin glass but is much kinder to the planet. She is fascinated by the plasticity and uncertainty of this hybrid material, which is rarely used by studio glassmakers.

Sparre-Petersen melts containers in a furnace and then shapes the molten glass into balls, which appear like spherical drops of childhood mystique; she then  composes these balls into a pattern which is fused in a frame of high-fired concrete. When heated, each sphere develops a membrane that remains visible as the balls fuse in the kiln, becoming of one piece but appearing distinct, like soap bubbles adhering to each other. An artistic chaos in an ordered array, or graphic elements of liquid mass in a structured frame. Form, pattern, color and light enter into a dialogue and create new stories. In some places, the glass appears matte or translucent – depending on how the light refracts in the material and its depth of the color.

Matter at Hand, Maria Sparre-Petersen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Sustainability is a lifelong passion that Sparre-Petersen pursues with an experimental and socially oriented outlook. She includes the titles of sailor, designer, teacher, Master of Fine Arts and PhD on her CV. Together, these diverse skills paint a straight line to the practice that motivates and inspires Sparre-Petersen today: to spread awareness of recycled glass from a sustainable and ethical perspective. It is a crucial and deeply meaningful ambition, not least because it leaves the virgin materials in the ground, where they belong, and avoids exposing the maker to hazardous substances. Furthermore, used glass can be recycled infinitely without losing its material qualities – a capacity that textile, plastic and many other materials lack.

The particular material qualities of recycled container glass make for an interesting process. The recycled glass has to be handled differently because it is “shorter” when it is blown, so the glassmaker has to work faster. With this technique it is not always possible to fuse two used window panes because they may be made from different recipes, which means they do not expand in the same way and therefore develop stress that will cause cracks – immediately or over time. Hence, recycling container glass requires a high level of craftsmanship and technique. And though the challenges of working with recycled materials are greater, so is the satisfaction of cracking the code and knowing that one is making a difference for the planet. Sparre-Petersen is continuously challenged by the specific qualities of the material, which throws up obstacles that she can resolve and also take advantage of.

According to Sparre-Petersen, this only makes her conversation with the glass more intriguing. The material talks back and sometimes strands the artist on thin ice. This provides new insights, which lead to new methods and techniques that she then can develop and incorporate. Her many studies and experiments have given rise to an aesthetic vocabulary that she could not have arrived at through strategic planning. This is part of the alchemy, when material and idea come together in unpredictable constellations, often rife with contrasts. Like organic playmates in a framework that is only semi-controlled and does not allow for anticipating or planning colors, density, transparency or translucency. The glass artist has to surrender to the will of the material, regardless of experience and technique, which is a beautiful part of the process – a sustainable process that holds good news for a planet under pressure.

Matter at Hand, Maria Sparre-Petersen. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location. Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Bjørn Friborg: Sensuous implosions

Bjørn Friborg: Sensuous implosions

Bjørn Friborg: Sensuous implosions

Matter at Hand, Bjørn Friborg. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are: :

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Glass blower and artist Bjørn Friborg is one of the Danish artists in the exhibition Matter at Hand – Ten Artists in Denmark, showing at the American gallery Hostler Burrows with locations in L.A. and New York.

Bjørn Friborg has a loud and powerful expression. An expression that is equal parts art and craftmanship. The dramatic titles of his two series, Implosion and Penetration, have wild connotations because to Friborg, life is wild and sensuous. His glass sculptures are beautiful, roaring and seductive – transparent oval displays filled with dynamically twisted life in tantalizing colors. They are also slightly unsettling and provocative, almost like an aching tooth that you can’t stop poking at with your tongue. The sculptures make you want to stick your hand inside and touch, although that feels like it would be a transgression.

Matter at Hand, Bjørn Friborg. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Friborg feels it is important to speak loudly and clearly, to be honest and unpretentious in order to arrive at a genuine expression. His works of art are an extension of his person, of a desire to touch and penetrate deeper and seem to be explosive discharges of personal and artistic energy. He is impassioned about the creative process, during which everything has to come together in close coordination with the different makers; it is team effort, and as demanding and disciplined as any form of elite sport. That is part of the rush: the uncertainty; that split second when the artist does not have time to think or hesitate but simply acts. Glassmaking is an extremely intimate process, emotionally speaking, and according to Friborg it is so euphoric that it compares to violence or sex. Many things can go wrong, and even if everything has gone right, all can still be lost when the kiln is opened.

Friborg is a high-energy personality. He talks so fast you catch yourself leaning forward to make sure you don’t miss anything, even during a phone conversation. His explanations and thought sequences often leap ahead, skipping intermediate steps, so you have to stay on your toes to fill in the gaps. He is in a hurry, has no time to waste. In addition to several projects in the works, Friborg recently took on the position of smeltery foreman at the reopened Holmegaard Værk, the renowned Danish glasswork which has been resurrected in an ambitious and fresh renovation after falling into obscurity and struggling economically for years. Now it is time for Danish glass to reclaim its former position under Friborg’s leadership – a clever appointment as Friborg is one of Scandinavia’s leading studio glassmakers, who has masters every aspect of the craft.

He learned from the best, a senior, hardcore master, who took Friborg under his wing when he came to Sweden in his youth to learn the trade. Sweden has historically had a stronger glassmaking tradition than Denmark, and “Glasriket” (The Kingdom of Crystal), a town where everything revolves around glass, is a hotbed of industrial and artistic development. In addition to his training in Sweden, Friborg has also trained in Denmark and the United States and has developed an artistic practice concurrently with his work as a master craftsman. Glassmaking runs in his veins, and for Friborg, art and craft are inextricably enmeshed in the creation of sculpture that is not afraid to walk on the wild side.

Matter at Hand, Bjørn Friborg. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are: :

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Stine Bidstrup: Tradition and renewal

Stine Bidstrup: Tradition and renewal

Stine Bidstrup: Tradition and renewal

Matter at Hand, Stine Bidstrup. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Glass artist Stine Bidstrup is one of the Danish artists in the exhibition Matter at Hand – Ten Artists in Denmark, showing at the American gallery Hostler Burrows with branches in L.A. and New York.

Glass artist Stine Bidstrup’s works are about seeing. Seeing many things at once without seeing everything. Seeing reflecting surfaces. Seeing through the material. Seeing patterns, edges and contrasts between matte and shiny, rough and smooth, transparent and opalized. Seeing mirror images, spatial qualities and depth from different angles. Seeing multiple shapes in one form and discovering art historical references as you form your own impressions.

Bidstrup’s colorful works position themselves between past and future. Inspired by historical stylistic periods and created using traditional techniques in a classic material, they are old-school. But by sampling techniques and raising the technical bar ever higher, Bidstrup deconstructs the traditional craft, blowing the glass into a customized hand-built mold. Through this technique, the familiar and characteristic organic glass blob at the end of the blowpipe changes into mannered form, conceived and designed by Bidstrup. The objects then re-emerge as new, ultra-cool hybrids, each one designed to highlight the unique characteristics of glass.

Matter at Hand, Stine Bidstrup. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Bidstrup combines ancient techniques and methods with a strong conceptual grasp in a contemporary interpretation. The making of her sculptures requires time and skill in each stage; it is an intense and demanding process, involving three experienced makers at the final stage. Glass is not a material that can be manipulated once it is cast or blown – the artist only gets one shot at it. Those are tough odds – or disciplining conditions, depending on your perspective and inclination. But Stine Bidstrup wouldn’t have it any other way. The demanding tasks of creating the molds, designing the digital patterns that are fused into the glass, the high-intensity process of blowing in front of the hot kiln, and the final, painstaking stage of cleaning and polishing the finished object are all vital steps in a wonderful and unpredictable process.

Glass is an amazing material, according to Bidstrup, who in addition to training in Denmark and the United States also holds a bachelor’s degree in art history. Having a foundation in art history is a vital parameter for Bidstrup, who has a personal affinity for the groundbreaking cubists and avant-garde architects of the 20th century. And though Bidstrup’s works have a futuristic sci-fi feel – they can resemble miniature architecture made from the crystalline rods out of a Superman movie – they are all handblown. That is part of their fascination: they look like something that was coded on a computer, but in fact, they take weeks to make, with every element in the process shaped by hand in the workshop. They are composed of countless references, and while open to interpretation Bidstrup’s glass sculptures defy quick and easy decoding. Old-school glass transformed into objects too cool for school.

Matter at Hand, Stine Bidstrup. Foto: Dorte Krogh

Matter at Hand

Matter at Hand – Ten Artist in Denmark is an exhibition created in collaboration with the Danish Art Foundation and the American gallery Hostler Burrows. The exhibition opened in New York in Autumn 2021 and is now showing in L.A, the gallery’s second location.

Matter at Hand is also a catalogue with ten condensed portraits by me, among other texts. I have been given the permission to publish the portraits on my platform. The ten artists are:

Anne Brandhøj
Stine Bidstrup
Astrid Krogh
Jakob Jørgensen
Bjørn Friborg
Hanne G
Maria Sparre-Petersen
Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl
Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen
Yuki Ferdinandsen

The team behind the co-lab is:
The Danish Art Foundation
Hostler Burrows; Juliet Burrows and Kim Hostler
Curator: Nanna Balslev Strøyer
Photographer Dorte Krogh
Writer: Charlotte Jul
Translation: Dorte Herholdt Silver
Graphic design: Laura Silke og Line-Gry Hørup
Co-editor, US-translation: Juliet Burrows

www.hostlerburrows

Biography: Charlotte Jul

Biography: Charlotte Jul

BIOGRAPHY:

Charlotte Jul is a curator, writer, counsellor and editor with 20 years of experience in the business helping artists, leading design brands and key design institutions communicate their potential. She has also worked as an interior stylist for several years besides creating editorial content for various medias and platforms, both analogue and digital.

Charlotte Jul holds an MA in Spanish, philosophy and design from the University of Copenhagen. She has written for individual makers and designers as well as for organizations, museums, newspapers, magazines and design brands. She established, created and operated the digital platform items.nu to promote craft makers and brands to stylists, media and the press for six years.

Following this, she co-developed and served as editor-in-chief of the online magazine designETC for three years, a platform dedicated to elevating and broadening the dialogue about crafts and design by reviewing and portraying makers in the field.

In recent years, she has also been active as a moderator of design talks, a talent spotter and a consultant to artists, makers, designers, organizations and foundations. In 2020 she wrote the book Danish Creatives – portraying 15 Danish designers, makers and artists.

 

‘I love writing. Love the flow that I get into when thoughts and keyboard become one and the stories seem to write themselves. I love to delve into and lose myself in the process – that is my favourite place to be. I am deeply fascinated by materials, quality and stories about people who make a difference. And I am fascinated with the capacity of ideas to take on physical form in a process driven by exceptional craftsmanship, wit and verve as manifestations that resonate with our senses.

I am deeply moved by the word and the capacity of text to serve as vehicles for works of art, design and craft to connect with receptive minds. As an academic, I have a certain affinity for the intellectual aspects of the field, but as a person, I am directly influenced by the mood an object transmits via its sensuous qualities, material character and the link between ideas and references.’

“It is important to me that form and content balance each other”. Photo: Camilla Stephan

Opening speech at the outdoor Craft Market in central Copenhagen in 2021.
Photo: Helle Severinsen, Danish Arts & Crafts Association

Awarding the Talent Grant of the 15. of June Foundation to fashion designer Domantas Smaizys in 2018. Photo: PR

Future design symbioses

Future design symbioses

Future design symbioses

The practical and aesthetic potential of fungal mycelium was illustrated by The Growing Pavilion presented by Biobased Creations and the Dutch Design Foundation at Dutch Design Week 2019. The bio-based rotunda is related to the fungal architecture that the Royal Danish Academy’s professor of bio-hybrid architecture, Phil Ayres, is experimenting with. Press photo.

ANNI NØRSKOV MØRCH

… is a historian of art and ideas with an independent practice as a curator and writer. She has been responsible for exhibitions and research and communication projects at the intersection of art, craft and design. In recent years, she has taken a particular interest in jewellery and its ability to couple intimate and collective aspects. Since January 2022, she has also been the head of the Danish Arts Foundation’s Committee for Crafts and Design Project Funding.

www.anninomo.com

The text is translated by Dorte Herholdt Silver

We have an all-important problem to solve: the sustainability crisis, which is turning the design of additional objects to weigh down the planet into a dubious activity. Do fungi or robots have a lead role to play in future design scenarios?

The sustainability crisis comes with a philosophical quandary: not where to find room for all the design objects but to find the right place for human beings in this dawning world order, where humankind can no longer be seen as the centre of everything – in fact can no longer be preserved as a delimited existential or physical whole. There are worlds within us and around us. We are intimately connected with other entities, from bacteria to plants and planets. Today, design is already manifested in symbiotic partnerships between human being, machine and nature, so how do we envision future design?

The concept of design is historically associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, which a century ago insisted on craft and the human imprint in a new world of industrial mass production. Over time, design became a general term for the intentional process of drawing and developing products, eventually extending into materials and processes, with or without a direct human imprint.

In the Arts and Crafts tradition, the gesamtkunstwerk, the total work of art, represented an ideal of the decorative and functional coordination of craft and art disciplines in a single manifestation in which individual components and disciplines formed a coherent whole. As Anders V. Munch writes in a presentation of his dissertation on the gesamtkunstwerk, From Bayreuth to Bauhaus, in the Carlsberg Foundation’s 2013 yearbook, modern design developed as part of society’s ‘total architecture’, shaped by a holistic perspective with goals that go far beyond the form of the individual product.

Pinar Yoldas: Copulation-Free Reproductive Organ for Pollution Affected Humans, 2021. Installation view, The World is in You, Medical Museion and Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2021. Photo: David Stjernholm. Courtesy of the artist.

Gesamtkunstwerk and news value

However, if I were asked right now – on the threshold to 2022, which, even before the first announcements of Covid cancellations of New Year’s concerts, smells as fresh and promising as a day-old dishrag – to point to a contemporary gesamtkunstwerk, I would not turn to the pleasure of works of convincing sensuous harmony or seek satisfaction in sublimely functional design products. What seems to be sprouting and breaking through everywhere, in defiance of the current crisis fatigue, as today’s gesamtkunstwerks are projects that span across science, art and nature with unprecedented radicalism. The boundaries being crossed today are not those separating classic craft disciplines but the boundaries between weaving, architecture and fungal growth; between AI, indoor climate and monolithic mycelia; between flowers and computer science. Human processing – the X-factor that the Arts and Crafts Movement insisted industrial production needed in order to render our industrialized future human, beautiful and meaningful – is no longer regarded as essential.

One of the more exquisite craft and design experiences in 2021 was the exhibition series at the new exhibition venue for ceramic art in Copenhagen Peach Corner. On 30 September, Peach Corner presented News Value, curated by Danish ceramicist and designer Ole Jensen. Throughout his career, Ole Jensen has consistently pursued innovation, always seeking new paths and choosing his own turn when the mainstream path points straight ahead – or pausing and reflecting when others rush forward. As curator, he collected a varied and competent selection of artists for News Value, all focused on a brief that was no small declaration of trust: creating something entirely new. What might a new utilitarian object be? A charged and weighty question today – at once sparking existentialist reflections, requiring innovative thinking and representing Stone Age tangibility. Underneath lurks the question of how we can maintain human existence while safeguarding nature’s, to a reasonable degree, while creating new stuff.

Material experimentalist Jonas Edvard framed and displayed his fungal co-designers in the exhibition News Value at Peach Corner. Photo: Ole Akhøj.

One of the exhibitors was designer and material experimentalist Jonas Edvard, whose work is guided by the motto ‘form follows materials’. He grows fungi and hemp for furniture and boils seaweed and mixes it with chalk to create a material for lampshades. At Peach Corner, he presented his fungal fabric Myx-skin, based on the fungal mycelium, a network of fine white filaments that is usually invisible to the naked eye. In previous projects, Jonas Edvard has used it to make a chair.

In Myx-skin the mycelium is framed and put on display, a presentation that highlighted the beauty of this unusual material, its unwillingness to yield fully and smoothly to the two-dimensional format simultaneously a reminder of its living, self-organizing origin. The most interesting quality of Jonas Edvard’s design practice is his willingness to surrender part of the process to another life form. Rather than simply harvesting and shaping a raw material, he works with fungi, collaborates with it. It is a humbling thought to ponder that your body and mine contain more bacteria and fungi than human cells. In Jonas Edvard’s work, the symbiosis between human being and fungus is not an abstract idea or invisible scientific curiosity but an explicit approach and a sustainable design construction principle.

Luke Jerram: Gaia, 2018. Detail, The World is in You, Medical Museion and Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2021. Photo: David Stjernholm. Courtesy of the artist.

Everything is connected

Fungi are also thriving in academic halls. When 2021 turns 2022, the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen will have a new professorship in bio-hybrid architecture, which couples living organisms with digital and technical components. Architect and Associate Professior Phil Ayres comes into the position from a background in research, including projects such as Flora Robotica, which experiments with cooperation between robots and plants in the creation of spatial structures, and Fungal Architecture, a project aimed at building with and learning from living fungi on monolithic architectural scales.

Human cooperation with fungi and other life forms was also a topic in Medical Museion’s large interdisciplinary exhibition The World is in You at the Copenhagen art centre Kunsthal Charlottenborg in autumn 2021. Based on recent biomedical research, it illustrates how human beings exist in networks of connections from the microscopic to the planetary level. To accomplish the dizzying ambition of showing how our bodies are connected with the world, the curators incorporated art, history, philosophy, politics and heath sciences.

Familiar hierarchies crumble, and enlightened, culture-building human beings are revealed, as semipermeable membranes inhabited by previously disregarded life forms. And once you have caught the scent of this displacement, you can smell the fermented fragrance of the invasion everywhere. Although most of us, including yours truly, have yet to appreciate the full extent of the displacement, I am beginning to notice the growing interest in nature’s couplings around and inside us everywhere: my kefir bottle proclaims that ‘the garden in your tummy should flourish’, the container boldly decorated with an explosion of colourful flowers in the outline of an intestinal system. Our gut deserves attention, as stated in the title of the young German gastroenterologist Giulia Enders’s fascinating popular science book Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ about our digestive system and our best friends forever: the bacteria that dwell inside us.

Before her, another German bestseller author, Peter Wohlleben, demonstrated his unique ability to communicate natural science through relatable narratives. While Enders tells the riveting tale of the unseen life inside our gut, Wohlleben writes with equal impact about invisible cooperation and biosemiotics in the beech wood in The Hidden Life of Trees and The Secret Network of Nature. Recently, another important voice has been translated into both Danish and English: In The Life of Plants: A Metaphysics of Mixture, Emanuele Coccia proposes nothing less than a rethinking of cosmology and the philosophy of nature. Coccia, who studied agriculture and philosophy and is an associate professor at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris, announces a radical metaphysical shift in which human beings are no longer the existential centre of philosophy, plants are seen as the central life form, and time has come for a new receptiveness towards other creatures in and around human beings.

Anne Tophøj’s experiments with imparting properties of permeability to a traditional handmade ceramic bowl in industrial ceramic filters resulted in her Permeability Test no. 1 in the News Value exhibition at Peach Corner. Photo: Ole Akhøj.

Arts and Crafts version 2.0

From kefir to philosophy, the message is that humanity can no longer simply gaze at our own navel and maintain an ontological distinction between the products of culture and nature. We need to dig deeper – even into the depths of our own gut – in order to understand that being human simultaneously implies being an insignificant grain of sand in the universe, host to a colony of trillions of microbes and the instigator of the Anthropocene – a geological age profoundly shaped by humankind.

At this point, the main focus of our newfound attention of the emotional life of plants, the architectural potential of the mycelium and the gastronomic rediscovery of fermentation is on the search for solutions to current problems, since we are, metaphorically speaking, standing on arable soil, looking for new crops to reap and feed to the coming generations. However, on the horizon we can glimpse the outline of a transformation that is more profound than simply finding new materials to fuel consumption. There is the potential for a new Copernican turn that turns our gaze away from the enlightened, culture-building human centre and towards boundary-transcending connections and networks and an entirely new understanding of design processes in symbiosis with other forms of intelligence.

It is going to be interesting to see the impact of this dissolution or expansion of human boundaries in conjunction with the other sustainability trend, represented by the growing interest in crafts – perhaps we can even speak of Arts and Crafts 2.0, as our buying behaviour is guided by the mantra of fewer but better things with an emphasis on the local and handmade.

One of the great thinkers and practitioners of the Arts and Crafts movement William Morris, famously said, ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’. Today, this golden rule is echoed by Glenn Adamson, American curator, writer and former director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, who in his 2018 book Fewer, Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects declares himself ‘pro-object’. In a collection of essays that get deep into the weeds on issues of materials and crafts, he explains how the love of objects is not the same as advocating just any object. Adamson convincingly argues that physical know-how ties our society together, as a well-made object is the result of thousands of years of accumulated human experience and that this embedded material intelligence is what enables us to make better decisions about how to inhabit this planet.

Using traditional cabinetmaking techniques, Rasmus Bækkel Fex elevated a simple chipboard to Potato in the News Value exhibition at Peach Corner. Photo: Ole Akhøj.

Sustainable culture and education

Thus, enhancing material intelligence and craftsmanship is not just of interest to the avant-garde elite who drive inspiration and development; it is also an issue of basic sustainable culture and education, enabling all of us to master cooking, repairs and new and old tools and materials and to participate in the conversation about the products of the avant-garde. Material intelligence is rooted in cultural history and learning, as it is in the continuous preservation of traditions that we pass on the often embodied knowledge of tools and materials.

In the future, these traditions need to coexist with radical innovations and a new embrace of non-human life forms, from fungi to robot technology and new paradigms of production that incorporate new expectations of use, reuse and durability. Our clothes need to last longer than a single party or the average seven or eight uses cheap clothes typically see before they are discarded, and perhaps we may also need to accept that other things, like organic apples or fungal architectural constructions, cannot maintain their form for quite as long.

Around the time of the Second World War, the German philosopher and cultural theorist Walter Benjamin evoked his famous image of the angle of history who is being blown backwards into the future, his gaze on the piled-up rubble of the past. In this time of crisis, as art and design make their both hectic and loving attempts at creating something entirely new, they seem to be driven by a refusal to create more old news to be piled up in the slipstream of inevitable forward progression.

Instead, art and design seek to compel the angel to turn his gaze forward in order to see and change the future. Of course, no one can truly see the future, but today, there are many indications that the Anthropocene will also be the post-Anthropocentric era. The need to embrace other life forms and high tech in the name of sustainability is inescapable, and this will hopefully also result in design and craft objects that are both useful and beautiful.

Søren Thygesen presented Kande fra den Antropocæne tidsalder (Jug from the Anthropocene) in the News Value exhibition at Peach Corner. Photo: Ole Akhøj.

ANNI NØRSKOV MØRCH

… is a historian of art and ideas with an independent practice as a curator and writer. She has been responsible for exhibitions and research and communication projects at the intersection of art, craft and design. In recent years, she has taken a particular interest in jewellery and its ability to couple intimate and collective aspects. Since January 2022, she has also been the head of the Danish Arts Foundation’s Committee for Crafts and Design Project Funding.

www.anninomo.com

The text is translated by Dorte Herholdt Silver

Existential Workflow

Existential Workflow

Existential Workflow

Personal column

Published at Adorno.design

The process is a vital part of the work of all designers, craft artists, and artists. No one just seems to acknowledge it. Because processes are a bit airy. A bit like working for fun. And does it even qualify as real work? This column attempts to provide an insight into what drives practitioners to live on the poverty line. And why official Denmark should take more responsibility when they are still promoting themselves through “Danish Design”.

The process is a practitioner’s most important tool. The place where everything is in play, ideas are tried, and materials and possibilities are tested. As a communicator in the field for 20 years, I believe that process is the most crucial tool in a designer’s toolbox. It is in the process that you talk to and against your material. This is where, through a tactile approach to materials, a stack of calculations, visual sketches, technique, craft skills, craftsmanship, and an experimental approach, you gain deeply meaningful insights. This is where you, as a designer, talk to yourself in your creative process. Here, you try out ideas in form and material. Here, you adjust your expectations and go to and from your idea in concrete form.

Why is the process vital as a designer?
What is it that the process gives back that you cannot figure out in advance?
And why is it essential to know your materials in depth?

The above questions are not only rhetorical but deeply grounded in any designer’s practice. In my many years as a communicator, I have spoken, interviewed, and discussed with a large part of the Danish field of designers, craft artists, and artists. Common to most is a deep understanding of their material and the possibilities that come with it. It takes years to master a craft. It takes years to exhaust the possibilities of a material. And it takes years to let the link between the two create fruitful constellations, whose mission is to improve the established – be it aesthetic, functional, or metaphorical.

Thora Projects aka Thora Finnsdottirs studio. Foto: Charlotte Jul

In Japan, people like to say that it takes 20 years to learn a craft and 20 years to make it your own. Developing your signature and sharpening your understanding of the material sometimes becomes a practitioner’s physical and intuitive extension. It is also here that you can set yourself free from tradition. Put yourself beyond conventions and reinterpret, turn the original starting point upside down, and bring forward craft – in principle, the whole context around the subject such as expectations, norms, competitors, history, present, references, etc. – to new places.

Most practitioners have an existential approach to their profession. They create from an inner necessity that is synonymous with their personal well-being – and vice versa. To create is often an individual claim that, through the presence and realisation of experience, translate into particular objects, shaped solely because the accumulated knowledge is refined through a long and creative life.

Knowledge of the material, the resistance in it, and its possibilities are a language that the creator has studied for years and excelled in reading, understanding, clarifying, and speaking. Many practitioners have even established their alphabet, which they actively use and refer to throughout their lifelong work. A work, a form, a typology becomes their letters and signature, which they push and develop anew – some for years, others in bursts. That is precisely why creating is a matter of life and death.

Tekstilkunstner og designer Stine Skyttes studio. Foto: Charlotte Jul

There are no quality-conscious artists, craft artists, or designers who create for fun. For the fun of it. Because it’s nice. That premise does not exist. Most craft artists I know have never opened a housing magazine. Not because it does not interest them, but because trends are volatile beings who have no errands in their dwelling. In their practice. In their hands. And they will most likely rather prioritise money for a glaze, the right nut, or heat in their workshop.

When they create, passion, personal agendas, and preferences merge with the material, craft, and history and become a unified whole that triggers meaningful satisfaction. A state of calm, energy, and perfection. When they know the curve is right. When things finally fall into place. When the result is a synthesis of precise idea, material, craft, and aesthetics. In the process of small staging points. In a connected series of large and small experiments, frustrations – and realisations. No realisations, no process. Without process, no realisations. Without process, no pieces.

Thora Projects aka Thora Finnsdottirs studio. Foto: Charlotte Jul

But everything takes time. And diligence. And courage. Ideas, projects, techniques, materials, or collaborations must mature. Take the time they have to take. And be allowed to be at peace in that process. This is why I get annoyed when I experience that designers’ processes and practices are read as a trend that one can adopt, and not a step in a sometimes, extremely sensitive process, where one puts oneself, one’s competencies, and one’s person in insecure fluctuations. Right out there, where it hurts, and there is far to fall.

There is a lack of understanding that a creative workflow is a grave career choice in line with the hard-working and sharp-thinking lawyer. During the Corona crisis’s initial shutdown, it was demonstrated that the vast majority of artists balance or live entirely below the poverty line. Getting paid with a bottle of wine and the joy of working with what they love??? I experience it myself when people think my writing is so good that they reuse it differently without asking for permission or crediting me for it.

Respect for professionalism and wise hands is lacking in our society, where most people buy a copy in the supermarket rather than buying original design and craftsmanship. Because they do not think about it. Because the knowledge society has become our main self-image and global currency instead of wise and competent hands. And knowledge of it. Respect for it. But one does not exclude the other.

Tekstilkunstner og designer Stine Skyttes studio. Foto: Charlotte Jul

Processes occur in all subjects. Not only in the field of design, but this is where they are not fully recognised as vital, necessary, and worthy because only the end result is focused on. Good, not good. Sells doesn’t sell. The process is the designer’s most important tool. To create. To be in the world. Denmark still lives off the “hype” of the great furniture designers of the post-war period, such as Hans Wegner, Børge Mogensen, Poul Kjærholm, Verner Panton, and all the other furniture architects who are relaunched in one go – and enjoy the constant respect that surrounds “Danish Design”.

Many of today’s designers also experience a global interest in Danish design, supported by the successful Danish-global design brands. But I miss more significant support for the field from official Denmark. Such support and prioritisation have not only real economic value but also a substantial symbolic value. Nationally and internationally. It starts with respect for the process. And for the knowledge and pride that lies in wise hands.

Say it out loud:
Wise hands. Wise pieces. Wise practitioners.
A wise country that still lives by its savvy designers…

Pin It on Pinterest