-How did your affection for clay and craftsmanship start?
In 1997 I was an intern in a studio run by Danish ceramist Lise Seier Petersen who introduced me to the Japanese Wabi-sabi aesthetics. The combination of being exposed to her incredible library filled with books describing Corean and Japanese aesthetics and her lovingly strict approach to genuine craftsmanship laid the foundation for my work today. I still return to these books when I visit her, and I owe her a lot.
-Is Wabi-Sabi influencing only your work or also your general way of life, and what does it mean to you? (Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese philosophical concept recognizing and appreciating the “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete” in everyday life; objects, nature and people.
I have an affinity for the imperfect and rustic side of the Wabi aesthetics. While there is a whole philosophy behind it that would take ages to explore to the core, I do feel very rooted in the Scandinavian traditions as well, and that’s why I refer to my take on the Japanese concept as “Nordic Wabi-sabi.” To both honour my heritage and acknowledge that one can hardly ever grasp the whole meaning of Wabi-Sabi.
That said, I’ve always had a penchant for natural decor and things that patinate over the years. Honest things. I try to look “behind” the natural occurrence of things than what first meets the eye; the essence of things, nature, people. I haven’t thought of it as a Wabi way of life, but I assume they are related.
-The questions have come up in other Q & A’s but are always interesting; what is it with Danes and inspiration from Japan…?
Good question! Travelling in Japan, I learned that I had only explored a tiny part of what Japanese culture can offer. There is a much more playful side to it that I hadn’t discovered. But regarding furniture and strict architecture, we have much in common. I believe that the love for genuine craftsmanship has survived in Japan because of their inherent respect and eye for beauty. And maybe that’s something we in the West are re-discovering these years. In other words, craftsmanship and design are inseparable, and it’s very much in line with the present trend of “slow living”. We are re-learning to appreciate the subtle details, and I believe that a significant part of that stems from the Japanese culture.
-There’s a fascinating variety in your work. Do you freely jump from one technique and expression to another, or do you follow a stringent protocol with prepared sketches for each piece?
The process of working with clay is a physical and intuitive matter rather than a matter of the mind. Though I often work in series, I realize that the best pieces are made without planning and following my intuition. The ceramic master Shoji Hamada said that “it takes ten years to learn and 20 years to forget”, which is spot-on. One needs to master the craft and then “get out of the way.” I’ve had my studio 13 years now, and I think I’ve just entered the “forget-phase.” I do make some sketches now and then if an idea can’t be executed right away. But mostly, I find that one work paves the way for the next. Clay has a distinct personality; it pushes back, collapses, and does unexpected things. And all the while, one needs to accommodate, stay flexible and be patient.
-For some, the pandemic and lock-down created a very focused vacuum to work in, and for others, definitely not. How has the pandemic affected your work and process?
I’ve realized that, in general, I live quite an isolated and simple life! I hardly realized what was going on because I just kept going to work. I live far out in the countryside with my family, and my studio is just a two-minute walk from home, so I wasn’t affected by it daily. On the contrary, I felt that people had more time to engage in conversations on social media, and I had a sense of connecting with more people on Instagram, talking about art and ceramics with collectors and gallerists. Honestly, I enjoyed that the world spun a bit slower for a while.
-Do you have a favourite shape or technique you always go back to or prefer over others?
The wheel is my preferred tool. I like the rhythm of the work and the skill of crafting wheel-thrown objects. I often return to the narrow-necked vase. It takes a lot of practice to achieve a strong and simple shape. I like to make harmonious pieces with imperfections and leave marks from the process while keeping it simple. Reaching that goal – and knowing when to stop – is my main focus.
-Some ceramic objects have an obvious function, while others are less so. What is your thoughts and relation to the container or vessel, symbolically, spiritually or otherwise?
I think of my vases or vessels more as sculptures than flower-holders. To me, they represent personalities. If I should put it into words, they strike me as solid and understated. Even though they can be used functionally (they are glazed on the inside), I strive to make forms that can stand on their own and the test of time.