We’ve been fans of southern Sweden-based ceramicist Alexandra Nilasdotter for years. Her work is artistic, minimalist and functional – all the aspects of Scandinavian design to which we connect. From her personal work, her collaborations and her lovely instagram (including her gorgeous bird Sigrid), everything she produces falls within a simple and structured visual universe. We’re thrilled to share her work with you.
This interview has been edited & condensed for clarity.
When and why did you start working with ceramics?
I’ve been working with ceramics for three years. Last year I started my own studio and company “Studio Nilasdotter.” It’s a small, temporary studio in southern Sweden and I only work there in periods when I’m not in school.
Before I started to study ceramics I wanted to be an architect. I don’t really know what interested me in clay. I think the potters wheel drives my desire to shape an organic material like clay, which wants to have an organic form, to straight cylinders.
What are the guiding principles for creating your pieces? Do you have an aesthetic in mind beforehand?
For me it’s all about lines, surfaces and shapes; to try and make things as clean as possible. Minimalistic but still functional. Trying to be honest with the material, but at the same time shaping it into a form the material is not familiar with. I want sharp angles and straight, clean lines. I try to always push the medium to the limits, push the organic towards sharp angles.
Do you consider your ceramics art, design, or a mix of both?
For me it is a mix of design and art. It is design because it is functional objects but also art because I try to make the functional object as minimalist and pure as possible. I live as a minimalist and everything in my life is about simplicity. I will say it is design because I design functional objects, designed for specific purposes or activities, but I also try to convey a sense of minimalism and pureness through my work, which perhaps lies nearer art than design.
Do you think your work fits within the Scandinavian aesthetic?
I think it does but it’s not a conscious decision. The nordic minimalistic shapes and colors inspire me a lot. The simple life and the light. The deep forest, the sea and the people. I try to keep things as simple as possible while maintaining function.
Explain the production process for your ceramics.
All my products or things I do have different a process, no process is the same, but my ideas derive from a desire to push the limits of the medium. Testing what is possible to do on a potter’s wheel. I choose technique depending on what is best for the project, but I mostly work with the potter’s wheel in stoneware or porcelain. I like to mix my own clay so that I have full control over the clay’s quality, color and surface.
I work best in an intense environment, when I have lots of things to do. I’ve found that stress is an important factor for new ideas. They tend to pop up when I have a lot of projects going on.
How many pieces do you usually produce per series? How many pieces would you say you produce per year?
Since I just started my company, my production is not that big. I do sell through retailers, but everything is so new for me so I have no statistics.
You’ve done a few collaborations. What is it like to collaborate on a product that is so individually made? Did you find it challenging or freeing?
I like to work with others. It’s a new challenge every time and everyone in the collaboration must work together as a team. It is not always easy; as an ceramicist you usually work alone. But I think it’s important to help each other. Working with other talented people, you learn a lot about yourself and your medium.
What are your future goals for your work?
I want to finish my education, figure out in which country I want to live and where to start up a permanent workshop and begin to produce in large scale. In the longer term, I want to make my living as a designer and ceramist in Scandinavia. I want to work with my own handmade series but also collaborations and design for other materials.
Currently, I’m working on material for a group exhibition in Japan together with other Swedish designers. The exhibition will be from August until September 2016. I’m also looking forward to going to Finland for an internship at Päivi Rintaniemi this spring.
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