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3days why?

left Birgitte Due Madsen m. Signe Fensholt & Anne Brandhøj, Statens Værksteder for Kunst, right Royal Danish Academy

Last week, a design festival took place in Copenhagen. Maybe you joined the festivities, maybe you followed from a distance, or maybe the event escaped your attention entirely?

By the time you read this, all the exhibitions have been packed up. The air has been let out of the pink balloons, and this year’s headline, ‘Dare to dream’,
is either forgotten or has been translated into a tough challenge, as we ask ourselves,
‘Does the world need any more products?’

June 2024


Malene Malling, who was a magazine publisher for many years and now designs absolutely beautiful clothes, does not care how good you are at what you do. They key question is, ‘Do you have substance?’ That is how she put it in an op-ed in the Danish newspaper Børsen on Thursday during the festival.

It may be true that clothes make the person, but crises build character, and how you handle them determines whether you have personal substance.

In conclusion, she writes ‘I have met many people who, on paper, had done really well for themselves, who were successful. But not everyone – far from it – has substance. Having susbstance is hard work, because it requires decent human behaviour. Clothes simply look better on a person with substance. Substance shines through.

 

I sense that Malene Malling is speaking of personal crises – the ones that do not kill you but make you stronger – but I am tempted to expand on her point about crises, since we certainly have enough of them.

The climate crisis and the resulting challenges with regard to materials were a recurring topic at the festival.
For established companies, the urge to help save the planet is competing with the need to remain profitable and with the status of growth as the yardstick of success. Up-and-coming companies are struggling to build a platform to express themselves, while feeling guilty over every single piece of virgin material they put to use.
This results in good products, and it results in shamefully poor products.
In particular, it results in many ‘collectible designs’ (a phenomenon I wrote about in bookazine no. 10).

Around Copenhagen, I saw countless examples of crushed whatever mixed with a binder and used to make chairs, tabletops and objects.
It is not all equally beautiful or aesthetically durable, but the intention is laudable.

The Ikea Hub on Refshaleøen, right next to Noma’s Food Project and shaded by flowing white textiles (of a quality that would probably not survive many washes), hosted talks and symposiums under headings such as ‘Building Communities’, ‘Selecting Materials for Design’, ‘Designing for Impact’ and ‘Leading with ESG and Design’.

Designmuseum Danmark’s wonderful garden was home to the Lifestyle & Design Cluster, which also hosted talks and panel debates.
Here, I attended a conversation between Mathilde Aggebo, dean of design at the Royal Danish Academy; Michael McKay, Vice President of Digital Products at Novo; Henrik Lorensen, CEO and founder of the furniture company TAKT; and Kent Martinussen, director of Danish Architecture Center – among others.

The topic of their conversation was the designer’s role in relation to our common challenge of creating a sustainable future. In the spirit of the time, this included design as product, process, strategic tool and, not least, a discipline that is not a solitary but a collaborative pursuit.

One point that emerged from this debate was that, although designers must be able to address complex issues intellectually, and even though workshop hours and knowledge of materials are not exactly a rising priority in design education, the designer’s ability to enchant and to shape form and direction should remain the key focus for companies that work with designers.

Here, based on my own experience, I might add that it is much easier to engage in abstract but constructive thinking when your practice has a concrete basis in craftsmanship and knowledge of materials.

Rounding off my first day, I ran into an American reader who had come to Copenhagen for the second year in a row to pursue his (personal) interest in Scandinavian design and, especially, Danish furniture design.

He spoke enthusiastically about the craft tradition. In his assessment, apart from its aesthetic qualities, this is what makes Scandinavian design furniture so interesting – that and the fact that he can gain insight into the story behind the furniture, both the design and the manufacturing process.

Before my American reader came to Copenhagen, he had spent a couple of nights in Stockholm at the exceptional hotel Et Hem, which was decorated by the owner, Jeanette Mix, in collaboration with the English designer Ilse Crawford.

left and m Noma Food Project , right Søuld

Apropos Et Hem: my final stop on the second day of 3daysofdesign was a visit to the Swedish carpet company Vandra Rugs.

I know this company both from a brief story I wrote for bookazine no. 7 about the Swedish-born designer LARS NILSSON, who works with Vandra Rugs, and from a visit I made to their Stockholm showroom in 2022 and wrote about in connection with my coverage of the Stockholm Design Week.

Vandra Rugs is run by two Swedish and one Ukrainian woman. The weaving mill was originally placed in the part of Ukraine that is now hardest hit by the war. Thanks to the local partner, her network and her indomitable persistence and thanks to support from the two Swedish partners, the weaving mill and the weavers were relocated to western Ukraine in 1922–23 and are now back in full swing.

Their delivery of rugs to Sweden and the rest of the world was only discontinued for a short time, and the weavers have an everyday life and a source of income, which means that they can provide for their children and that the women and children can live in relative safety in these uncertain times.

In recent years, Lars, who trained as a fashion designer and lives in Paris, has designed patterns for several Swedish home furnishing companies, including Vandra Rugs. He wrote me a few days ago to invite me to visit Vandra’s 3daysofdesign exhibition, where he was going to be present.

With pleasure! Lars presented several rugs, including designs that have been part of Vandra’s collection for some time, one of them a runner that was commissioned by Ilse Crawford for Et Hem.

 

This is far from everything I saw, heard and discussed with my fellow design enthusiasts.

For example, in Frederiksgade, I had a good talk with designer and maker Ole Jensen, who in cooperation with the rest of the team behind the artist-driven ceramic gallery Peach Corner presented Peach Melba: a selection of pieces by the gallery’s regular artists.

Until 29 June, Ole has a solo exhibition at Peach Corner, Howitzvej 67A, Frederiksberg, which is definitely worth seeing.

I also stopped by the library at the Royal Danish Academy at Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 50.
Until 21 June, the library shows the exhibition Danish Design meets Ancient Egypt: a presentation of 20 pieces of furniture ranging from stools, chair and benches to a variety of storage solutions.

The furniture designs on display explore methodology and inspiration from ancient Egypt in combination with modern circularity.

The students behind the exhibition worked in groups to design furniture that is both durable and contains mechanisms to enable repair, reuse and recycling.

Last but not least, I visited the Danish Art Workshops in Strandgade, where Birgitte Due Madsen had cocurated and designed an excellent craft and design exhibition.

In bookazine no. 10, you can read about Birgitte Due Madsen’s work – here is an excerpt from the article.

Der har været designfestival i København i forgangne uge. Måske festede du med, måske fulgte du begivenhederne på afstand, måske gik festen hen over hovedet på dig?

Når du læser dette, er alle udstillinger pakket sammen. Luften er lukket ud af de lyserøde balloner, og årets overskrift ”dare to dream” er enten glemt eller begyndt at udfordre for alvor, mens vi spørger os selv, behøver verden flere produkter?

Malene Malling, som i en lang årrække udgav magasiner og nu designer tøj, smukt tøj, er ligeglad med, hvor dygtig du er. Det afgørende er: ”Har du format? Sådan formulerede hun sig i en klumme torsdagens Børsen midt under festlighederne.

”Det er muligt, at klæder skaber folk, men kriser skaber karakter, og hvordan du håndterer dem, afgør dit format”

Hun afrunder sin klumme: ”Jeg har mødt mange mennesker på min vej, som på papiret har klaret sig godt, som er dygtige. Men ikke alle, slet ikke alle, har format. At have format er fandens belastende, for det kræver, at man opfører sig ordentligt. Det er, som om tøjet ligger smukkere på kroppen, hvis et menneske har format. Format skinner igennem”.

 

Nuvel, jeg fornemmer at hun taler om personlige kriser, dem man ikke dør af, men bliver stærkere af, men jeg fristes til at brede krisetankegangen ud, for kriser har vi nok af.

Især klimakrisen, og den deraf følgende materialeudfordring, har været nærværende festivalen igennem.
Lysten til at bidrage til at rede planeten dyster for de etablerede virksomheder med nødvendigheden af at tjene penge, og vækst som målestok for succes.
De yngre kæmper for at få lov til at udtrykke sig, alt mens de har dårlig samvittighed over hvert eneste stykke jomfrumateriale de bringer i anvendelse. Det kommer der gode produkter ud af og det kommer der skamligt dårlige produkter ud af.

Navnlig kommer der mange ”collectible unika items” ud. (et fænomen jeg har skrevet om i bookazine 10)

Jeg har rundt omkring i byen set uendelige mængder af nedknust hvad som helst, klistret sammen til noget, der kan laves stole, bordplader, og objekter af.
Det er ikke lige smukt og æstetisk langtidsholdbart alt sammen, men tanken er ædel.

I Ikeas Hub på Refshaleøen, døre om dør med Nomas Food Project, i skyggen af blafrende hvide tekstiler, (i en kvalitet som næppe overlever mange gange i vaskemaskinen) var der udbudt talks og symposier under overskrifter som ”Building Communities”, ”Selecting Materials for Design”, ”Designing for Impact” og ”Leading with ESG and Design”.

I Designmuseum Danmarks vidunderlige have holdt Lifestyle & Design Cluster til, og på Design Danmarks scene var der også talks og paneldiskussioner.
Jeg overværede en samtale mellem blandt andre Dekan Mathilde Aggebo, KADK, Vice President of Digital Products, Novo, Michael McKay, CEO & founder af møbelvirksomheden TAKT Henrik Lorensen, og direktør på Dansk Arkitekturcenter Kent Martinussen.

Samtalen handlede om designerens rolle i forholdet til vores fælles udfordring med at skabe en bæredygtig fremtid.
Der blev, helt i tidens ånd, talt om design både som produkt, proces og strategisk redskab og i høj grad om design som en disciplin, man ikke udfører alene men i samarbejde.

Til trods for, at det er et uomtvisteligt et krav, at designeren kan forholde sig intellektuelt til komplekse problemstillinger, og at værkstedsfagene og materialeforståelsen ikke just i disse år opprioriteres på designuddannelserne, så er det designerens evne til at fortrylle og skabe form og retning, som bør være det centrale, det dem som benytter designere i deres virksomheder, forstod jeg.

Jeg kan måske her indskyde, belært af egen erfaring, at det er langt lettere at tænke abstrakt men konstruktivt, når man har en forankring i noget konkret, et håndværk og en viden om materialer.

left Ole Jensen Parch Corner, m showroom Ukurant, right Vandra Rugs
left Snedkerlauget/Malte Gormsen, m Stilling, Nadja Olive Schnack Gurli Elbækgaard, right Woodnotes/Framing

Jeg rundede min første dag af med at træffe en amerikansk læser, som for andet år i træk var i København for at dyrke sin særlige (ikke professionelle) interesse for skandinavisk design og i særdeleshed sin interesse for dansk møbelkunst.

Han talte i lyriske vendinger om at det som, ud over æstetikken, i hans øjne, gør skandinaviske designmøbler interessante er, at de er knyttet til en håndværkstradition og ikke nok med det, at han kan få adgang til den historie som møblerne er baseret på, både hvad angår design-og fremstillingsproces.

Min Amerikanske læser havde, inden han kom til København, boet et par nætter i Stockholm på det helt ekstraordinære hotel Et Hem, som er indrettet i samarbejde mellem ejeren Jeanette Mix og den engelske designer Ilse Crawford.

Apropos Et Hem, mit sidste besøg på min anden dags 3daysofdesign rute gik til den svenske tæppevirksomhed Vandra Rugs.

Virksomheden kender jeg til, både fordi jeg i bookazine 7 skrev en kort omtale af den svenskfødte designer LARS NILSSON, som samarbejder med Vandra Rugs, men også fordi jeg i 2022 besøgte deres showroom i Stockholm og omtalt dem i forbindelse med Stockholm Design Week.

Vandra Rugs drives i fællesskab af to svenske og en ukrainsk kvinde. Væveriet var oprindelig etableret i den del af Ukraine, som nu er hårdest ramt af krigen. Takket være den lokale partner, hendes netværk og ukuelighed, og takket være support fra de to svenske partnere, blev væveriet og væverne i 22-23 flyttet til det vestlige Ukraine, og er i fuld sving igen.

Tæppeleverancerne til Sverige og resten af verden lå derfor kun stille i en kort periode og væverne har en hverdag og en indtægt, hvilket betyder at deres børn er forsørgede, og kvinder og børn er i relativ sikkerhed i en usikker tid.

Lars, som er uddannet modedesigner og bosiddende i Paris, har de senere år har han tegnet mønstre for flere svenske designvirksomheder i indretningsbranchen blandt andre Vandra Rugs. Han skrev til mig for nogle dage siden og inviterede mig til at besøge Vandras 3daysofdesignudstilling hvor han ville være til stede.

Med fornøjelse – Lars viste flere tæpper, både designs som har eksisteret et stykke tid i Vands kollektion, herunder en løber som blev udviklet til Et Hem på bestilling af Ilse Crawford.

Ovenstående er langt fra alt hvad jeg har set, hørt og talt med mine designinteresserede medmennesker om.

Jeg kan i flæng nævne, at jeg i Frederiksgade havde en god samtale med designer og kunsthåndværker Ole Jensen, som sammen med kolleger fra det kunstnerdrevne keramiske galleri Peach Corner udstillede ”Peach Melba”, (udpluk af værker af galleriets faste kunstnere).

Ole har frem til 29 juni en meget seværdig separatudstilling i Peach Corner på Howitzvej 67A, Frederiksberg,

Jeg nåede også forbi biblioteket på KADK på Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 50.
Her kan man frem til 21 juni se udstillingen ”Danish Design meets Ancient Egypt” en udstilling, som viser 20 møbler, der spænder fra skamler, stole og bænke til forskellige opbevaringsløsninger.

I disse møbeldesigns udforskes metodik og inspiration fra det gamle Egypten i kombination med moderne cirkularitet.

De studerende bag udstillingen har arbejdet sammen i grupper for at designe møbler, som kan holde, men som også har mekanismer, der muliggør reparation, genbrug og genfremstilling.

Sidst men ikke mindst var jeg på Statens Værksteder i Strandgade, hvor Birgitte Due Madsen havde været medkurator og udstillingsdesigner på en meget fin udstilling af håndværk og design.

I bookazine 10 kan du læse om Birgitte Due Madsens virke, du får et uddrag af artiklen her.

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