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INTERVIEW BY ANNICA KVINT, PHOTO BY EMMA SHEVTZOFF
An ornamentation course at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design (Konstfack) has a special place in Jakob Solgren’s heart. It was that course which gave him the impetus to make a ceramic tree branch, and the clipped branch has become something of a trademark for him ever since.
The tree branch pattern was soon transferred to a stoneware teapot and “Wood you like a cup of tea?” was exhibited at the Galleria Rossana Orlandi in Milan in connection with the annual furniture fair. Shortly after the exhibition Jakob’s mailbox was full of requests: Where could one buy the original teapot? Did he want to exhibit it elsewhere?
The idea for the branch came intuitively, according to Jakob. But perhaps it was no coincidence that that an Iranian-born artist who grew up in the forests of Småland, Sweden, had a clipped branch in mind?
The teapot, with its engraved tree branch pattern was in design magazines around the world. It also became Jakob Solgren’s entrance ticket to Svenskt Tenn. Prior to the opening of the newly renovated store in 2013, Svenskt Tenn wanted to renew its pewter range and Jakob contributed with a collection of pewter boxes with different decorations.
Candle Holder ”Gren” (Branch in English).
Samples of “Trädgårdsmattan” (The Garden Carpet).
“I recognise myself in Estrid Ericson’s way of mixing high and low and I let her way of composing and experimenting inspire me,” says Jakob.
The pewter project soon resulted in three pewter candlesticks shaped like branches.
“A garden seen from above,” is how Jakob Solgren describes the tufted carpet, which he also designed for Svenskt Tenn. The carpet, which is distinguished by its irregular geometric pattern and a rectangular hole in the middle, required a great deal of innovative thinking on the part of Kasthall, a traditional carpet manufacturer in Kinna, Sweden. If Jakob had been a textile designer he probably wouldn’t have designed a carpet with a hole in the middle, he admits. But he had no prior knowledge of textiles…
“Sometimes it can be good to enter into something as a novice to break the notions of how things should be done. But it is based, of course, on being able to work with skilled craftspeople and on the product development being able to take time. In that sense, the collaboration with Svenskt Tenn is unique.”
Jakob Solgren’s studio in Stockholm, Sweden.
In addition to his design assignments, Jakob works as an artist.
“My art always involves and activates the walls and the surrounding room and I strive to be both concrete and tangible. Both the painting and the sculptures are about using small means to shift and join seemingly incompatible objects into a larger context.
Over the past two years I have tried to reach for the sky. I see it as dealing with a naturalistic alchemy and that the pictures and sculptures include a metaphysical, philosophical perspective.”
Jakob has had several collaborations with other artists and says that his art is based a lot on discussions similar to the production processes, which led to the Svenskt Tenn products. The difference is that art does not need to fulfil a practical function to be successful. But, on the other hand, Jakob’s teapot didn’t need to do that either.
“The fact is that the teapot, which was the origin of everything, hardly pours!”