Anette Krogstad make plates that look like paintings. Moa Håkansson crafts every day objects for the gallery. Next week they take part in this years Norwegian design exhibition in Milano.
– My work usually starts with a memory or an experience related to food and food culture. When I start glazing the plates, nature becomes a part of it, usually through my own childhood experiences of staying with my grandparents by the sea. For me it’s ultimately about the importance of daily rituals. I want to pay tribute to the plate as an everyday object.
Anette Krogstad sits in her studio at Grünerløkka in Oslo surrounded by just that: stacks of plates she has made, ready to be glazed in a ways reminiscent of natures own patterns, of moss, lichen and even mould. Some of these plates are travelling to Milan this spring as part of the exhibition Everything is Connected. This is the third time Anette Krogstad participates in her home country’s joint effort in Milano, whereas for Moa Håkansson who is seated beside her, it’s the first time.
– I think it’s really cool that my work, which is more of an art object, is included in this world of design, says Håkansson.
– From a very young age I was interested in things that lay at the intersection between art, craft and design, and I wanted to play around in that space myself. Being a part of this exhibition makes me think that I’ve succeeded in some way.
Håkansson says she wanted to make ‘inner’ portraits using clay and glaze, and she even wrote a book of poems describing each of the characters portrayed. Having grown up in Kristianstad in Southern Sweden, she studied psychology and sociology at the University of Stockholm but then decided to take her education in a more creative direction. She interned with a local ceramist and discovered clay was a material she liked to work with, but she didn’t feel comfortable making mugs.
– One thing that drew me to KHiO was that there was a lot of collaboration between the different departments. At the same time, there was a lot of resistance towards traditional craft in the beginning, the wheels for turning clay were locked away, although I don’t know if that was intentional. But then it was like something burst. All of a sudden craft was back, which suited me perfectly.
At that point Anette Krogstad had struggled to embrace what is today her favourite object: The plate. She enrolled at the Academy two years before Håkansson, after studying production design at Oslo and Akershus University College and working part time as a tattoo artist and a chef. Now she set out to become a true artist. The only problem was that she wasn’t quite sure what that was.
– I thought I didn’t have it in me, simply because I had no interested in delving into the conceptual art. I couldn’t stop making things that were pretty and practical. Then one night I was out on the town in Oslo and I talked to a friend who worked for a restaurant. They were looking for a young ceramist who could make something nice for them. So I did. Then my supervisor at school came to me and said: Why don’t you make plates for your Master’s degree project? And I thought: Are you mad? I can’t make plates as an art project!
Today Anette Krogstad has firmly established herself at that very intersection between art, craft and design that Moa Håkansson was steering towards, having exhibited at both museums and galleries as well as design fairs both in Norway and abroad. The Milano exhibitions also created new opportunities for her work and made her think that she could actually turn what she is doing into a business.
– But it’s not necessarily that easy, she says.
– I’m just one person with one pair of hands. I tried to outsource production last year, but it didn’t feel right. This is something I think a lot about, whether I should move more towards production or keep it more exclusive. I’m thinking perhaps I could do both, that even if I make ten vases I can still put a number on them and make them into something special. Sometimes I miss going completely crazy and making something that is just art, but at the same time it’s really important to me that you can actually use the things I make.
– For me it’s the exact opposite,” says Moa.
– I don’t want the things I make to be specific. But then people ask me from time to time if they can order something and then I have to take a step back and think about it. It’s a really relevant question at this time in my life, because I’m fresh out of school and I just started working in my studio, I spent a lot of time getting it in order, buying a kiln, furniture and tools. So which direction am I heading? It’s been a long process and it’s still on-going.
At this point in our meeting, the conversation turns towards glazes. The two artists become so engaged in the topic that they almost forget they’re in the middle of an interview.
– Although our generation tries to perpetuate traditional methods such as throwing pots by hand, we don’t mind blending a ready-made glaze from a factory with a hand-made one based on a hundred-year-old Japanese recipe. We don’t follow a lot of rules.
Moa Håkansson nods and adds:
– I have the greatest respect for the people who really know the craft, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s all that important that things are crafted to perfection. I see a lot of artist who work in an almost sloppy and naïve way when they make things by hand. They work fast and the result doesn’t always have those beautiful lines. I think you should be allowed to make something that’s a bit humorous and perhaps even ugly. It’s still made by hand and it shows. That’s probably where our generation stands out. We’re impatient and a little fed up with everything being so perfect.”
We talk about the title of the Milan exhibition, and I ask them how they are connected as artists:
– I think one of the good things about the art and design scene in Norway is that it’s quite small, says Krogstad.
– We all know each other, we talk to each other and ask each other’s advice. For example, when Moa was looking for a studio, she called us to ask how much we pay for this one. We’re all in the same boat.
– It’s a really small boat”, says Håkansson and smiles.
– But there are a lot of really exciting things going on in that boat at the moment.
This is an edited version of an interview originally commissioned by Norwegian Craft. Everything is Connected opens in Milan on April 4th.