Andreas Engesvik: “The Future is Now for Craft and Design”
Andreas Engesvik (b. 1970) has a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from the University of Bergen. He continued his studies in design at the National College of Art and Design, graduating with a Master’s degree in 2000. The same year, he founded Norway Says. In 2009, after six successful years with his company, Engesvik went solo and set up his new, eponymous studio in Oslo working in various fields of design, ranging from furniture and tableware to industrial design for international clients such as Iittala, Muuto, Ligne Roset and Asplund. Among his awards, he counts the Red Dot in 2012, the IF Product Design in 2010, the prestigious Swedish Torsten & Wanja Søderberg Award in 2007, and the Bruno Mathsson Award in 2004. His studio recently moved to Homansbyen, in the centre of Oslo. At Révélations, in the Grand Palais, the second collaboration between Norwegian design studios StokkeAustad and Andreas Engesvik will be exhibited. The inspiration for The Woods came from Norway’s forests and the Northern lights. The glass objects capture the fascinating process of the changing colours and transparency of a tree through the seasons. “Our ambition was to work sculpturally – without any specific function other than the purely decorative. A renewed interest in the field of craftsmanship, in tradition and in new categories has brought us to an area and to expressions that we want to explore further. In particular, we seek to reduce the gap between industrial design and what we know as ‘arts and crafts’”, states Engesvik. A unique, freestanding glass sculpture, The Woods is made of hand-blown glass. Each cluster consists of seven trees, joined in two separate sections. Launched at Designgalleriet during the Stockholm Design Week in February 2013, it was also shown during Milan Design Week and New York’s ICFF.
TLmag met Andreas Engesvik on his birthday: the best moment to have a friendly lunch together right in the kitchen he shares with other in-house studios! Rather than discussing his work, we focussed on the context in which design and craft are evolving in Norway.
TLmag: How do you think Norwegian Crafts as an institution will position itself in the near future ?
Andreas Engesvik: After 10 critical years for me as a designer and for the entire design community involved in product design, we need to start up new counters and shut down some of the institutions, in order to be able to develop good and sustainable projects. Norsk Form and the Norwegian Council of Design focus, from my point of view, too much on architecture, services and the like, and not enough on how to improve the lives of people in terms of product development and promotion abroad. Now you have 100% Norway and InsideNorway, in which I participated in New York with ICFF. This is just a start but it could be much more !
TLmag: Is your business as a designer comfortable today ?
A. E.: I would rather say that Norway should not differentiate its subsidies so much between fine arts and craft or design. From a business and cultural point of view, less distinction between these would encourage more cross-overs and interdisciplinary relationships, more diversity and societal dialogue. To step back in times, in the 1950s we had PLUS, a collective of innovators in an old fortress town in Norway discussing crafts and design. Some of their pieces are on show at the National Museum. This period of the 1950s was the hottest for design in and from Scandinavia. Regarding the educational grants, I would also develop more supportive scholarships that bridge crafts and design, and not just devote the money to developing the fine arts sector. Politicians are not aware enough of the high relevance of supporting Norwegian designers. They should not waste money, but rather sustain our economy by supporting the establishment of new craft and design businesses. This is why I am not a member of any design association, but I invest myself in the future of Norwegian Crafts as an institution that is able to re-connect the creative, individual artists with the industry, the aesthetics with a certain degree of functional art, the handmade with the prototyping process and the making, and the collaboration between skilled minds. As part of this new wave of contemporary design-led crafts professionals, I am becoming even more international, teaming up with not only Norwegian brands but those from Scandinavia as well, such as such as Muuto, Menu, etc., and from Italy like Fontanarte. Ten years ago, in 2003, I co-curated a show on Norwegian design called TODAY ! with Bradley Quinn, which has evolved into 100% Norway in London. In 2013, I hope all the energy I have put into the Norwegian and international brands I am working with will be fruitful for the craft businesses as well. THE FUTURE IS NOW!
Pictures: Stokke Austad & Andreas Engesvik, The Woods spring, 2012.