After being lost for a while, Ronja and I were recused by a handsome man and led to a building with intense workout music pounding from it. Working next to a CrossFit centre has it’s pros and cons; ‘It’s quite rare in Oslo just to find a place where you can really work in, it’s perfect here, but we’ve been complaining about it raising our heartbeat. We’re here all day so it’s a bit much’ Sigve explained to us. When he’s managed to remove himself from the sound of the CrossFitters, Sigve Knutson is an experimental designer based in Oslo whose work is internationally renowned.
We were introduced to Stian Korntved Ruud, who Sigve shares the space with and Jørgen Platou Willumsen, who is there one day a month to work with Stian. The space was big with high ceilings and gave off an industrial feel. ‘We separated the space so we have our own parts. During the winter it is around 10 degrees in here so we have to have a heated cabinet workspace so we can be here’. We were shown what Sigve calls his ‘messy space’ which was a small work bench area behind a PVC curtain. ‘Sometimes it is almost full to the ceiling with sawdust in here’. We were surrounded by Sigve’s work and introduced to a commissioned low table that he was also working on. It had a fuzzy sand texture to it; ‘It’s made of sawdust, I pack it around cardboard which is what the structure is made of, I just use whatever materials I have around to just build a shape and then I pack this wood glue and wood chip mixture to solidify it, it’s nice because it’s different all the time if I have been using different types of wood’. This explained the mountain of sawdust which was stacking up. ’I sand it down after it has dried and then it becomes a stone like, ceramic looking object’. He also showed us his favourite sculpture which I thought looked really ‘friendly’. I asked him if he also saw them as characters - ‘It’s hard to say if they have a gender or anything but somehow I see them as boys, but that may be because I am a boy…It is, however, fun that you can add a character to them’.
Sigve was also creating a shelf in the same style for an exhibition he is having after the summer with three other artists at Sørlandet Museum of Art - Johanne Hestvold, Bjarne Bare, and duo Tokyo Twins. ‘It’s also nice that it’s where I’m from. I’m from Lillesand next to Kristiansand so it’s nice to do an exhibition so close to home’. Whilst speaking about Lillesand, he told us about his summer pottery sale. ‘Every summer I exhibit…well, I put some pots and cups on my mothers fence and I put a poster with VIPPS 200kr and then people just take’. Sigve explained that some of his neighbours have collected cups and pots every year and that this year they will receive their 2018 editions. ‘It’s a really nice and fun exercise as I have a pottery wheel and then it’s just something to do in between’. I was curious as to whether Sigve would have one of these sales in Oslo, he replied ‘My friends in Eindhoven and I have this pottery club called "Pottery Yacht Club" so I was playing with the idea that if we did the pottery sale in Oslo, working with a gallery or something, I could invite them here to work and make cups for an exhibition. It’s a fun function to play around with!’.
Sigve studied in the Netherlands where he took his masters at Design Academy Eindhoven. ‘First I did three years at AHO architecture and design, but I needed a change. I felt like it wasn’t a 100% match…it was good for me to go to Eindhoven’. Sigve lived there for one year after he graduated to try it out, ‘I paid 500 euro a month for a studio and an apartment so it was incomparable to Oslo - Here it would have been a different story’. The year was to see if it was possible to stay there and work, but Sigve explained that it ended up being quite busy with lots of exhibitions. Being in the middle of Europe was also beneficial for Sigve as it allowed him to ship his work easily to exhibitions and also made it easier to attend them.
Coming back to live and work in Oslo is something that Sigve says he is still figuring Oslo out. ‘I think it was good to come back and feel that there was a long term plan, instead of being this international, having no clue where you’re living and feeling a little lost. All my friends were from so many different countries so in the end you’re just a hybrid which could be good but I was always keen on moving back’.
His return to Norway seemed to influence the choice of materials that Sigve used. When moving back he wanted to choose a material to work with and wood become important as it is easily sourced. ‘At the moment we have this deal where we go down to the botanical garden when they’re chopping off parts of trees and they are given to me’ which keeps things very local as well. I had seen on Instagram that Sigve had also been working with metals. ‘That is in the Netherlands. So I’m doing a project there now with a foundry that I used a lot as a student. We’re doing this exhibition in November, it’s really nice to go back there and do a lot of castings and see a lot of my friends that are still living there’.
During our tour of the office space we were shown the different works and material experiments on the shelves. ‘Now I’ve started working a bit with textile, with this tufting technique like the tufted rugs…just building around a shape instead of having a flat piece’. Sigve explained that working with textiles is something he really wants to push now. The pieces themselves were amazingly structured and one in particular looked as though it would make a great glove accessory as Sigve tried it on. ‘I build the structure in foam and then wrap it in a textile and start punching in the threads’. He showed us an old tufting tool that he is planning to use. It was intriguing to see that even in his explorative process, testing with different materials, there is is still a definitive style throughout his work. ‘I really like exhibiting work in as many different materials as possible together because I think it makes it stronger if you can see that they are different materials…I like ‘this guy’ also…’ he said picking up and office supply container that he had created from one chunk of wood. The piece had holes carved into it so that it fit lots of different things inside.
‘I feel like most of the time I start out with the idea of an object and then I sort of lose that intention along the way or it turns out not being super functional which I think is nice…I think it’s good to have a purpose whilst you’re making something but then it might not turn out that way’. I was interested in how Sigve finds time to come up with new ideas as he seemed so busy making things. ‘I don’t know actually, it depends, sometimes you are just working with a material and then you tell yourself “Ok today you can do whatever you want” and often that works really well as you start feeling productive and you get a good high from it’. Other times, if a brand is asking Sigve to create something then he explained he has a different approach ‘I feel like at night when I am laying in bed that is a good time…I think many people that make things have a good 3D feeling in their mind so I can lay down in my bed and try to build things in my mind but then when you get sleepy you easily think that things are really good…When you wake up, however, you see the idea that you wrote down and it wasn’t so good…but sometimes they are!’.
We discussed how Sigve prefers his work to be when exhibiting; ‘In Oslo I feel like there is not so many people making commercial work for galleries…I like making a little piece that you could buy and take home…that’s why I like to play with function because people can own it and use it’. Sigve added that creating something intended for use gives him more opportunity rather than limiting him to sculptures intended to be looked at.
We really enjoyed chatting with Sigve, being able to see his work and process up close and hear his motivations was such an insight in to where he draws his inspiration from. I’m hoping there’s a pottery sale in Oslo next summer!
All photography by Ronja Penzo