Each of us needs a sense of direction in their lives and Swedish artist and jewellery designer Sara Engberg seems to have finally found hers.
After running the jewellery and clothes brand mori & mimosa with fashion designer Christina Wemming, Engberg - an MFA graduate in Metalwork Design from Konstfack, the University College for Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm - decided to focus on jewellery and give it an arty twist.
Her new pieces will be part of a solo exhibition opening at Konsthantverkarna, Sweden's oldest crafts association, in August.
The event, entitled “A Sense of Direction”, revolves around the theme of maps and cartography, the main inspirations for Engberg's new designs. Stepping into the gallery will be a bit like being transported into a museum or an old classroom as the visitors will be surrounded by maps and old-fashioned school wall charts.
Yet all the maps and coastlines are fictitious and will contribute to create a dream landscape and the background for Engberg's designs - jewellery pieces in pastel colours or in dark red and gold with plexiglass pendants shaped like imaginary islands, golden compass roses or streamers, hanging from hand-stitched silk and cotton ribbons with map prints.
The designs integrate materials Engberg picked all over the globe, often from rather unexpected or remote places, that will contribute to give a further “sense of direction” to the wearer.
Where does the title of the exhibition come from?
Sara Engberg: Having a sense of direction means finding your way around, so there is a connection to geography there, but to me the title also has a wider meaning. I think everyone needs to have a sense of direction in life – a feeling of continuity and progress that things are moving forward.
When you were a child you had a dream about maps: can you tell us more about it?
Sara Engberg: I used to have really strong and colourful dreams as a child. One night, I dreamt that I opened the window and the sky was covered with maps – as if we were inside a terrestrial globe, lit up from the outside. I had this overwhelming sensation of beauty, which has followed me ever since. Maybe that's where my fascination with maps started!
What fascinates you about maps and cartography?
Sara Engberg: Looking at maps is exciting, it makes you wonder what it’s like in all those faraway places – what does it look like, what does it smell like, what’s it like to live there. It’s a bit like being in an airport: you get this feeling of adventure and possibilities. I also like how maps can change your perspective: I have a Laotian world map on the wall at home, and it looks completely different from the Eurocentric world map I grew up with – the centre of the world is located in Southeast Asia, and Europe looks really peripheral somewhere up there in a corner.
Can you tell us more about the materials employed/incorporated in these pieces? From which countries do they come from?
Sara Engberg: I have picked up the materials I used all over the globe, sometimes in completely unexpected places, like a gas station in the North of Sweden or a stationery shop in Saigon. The plexiglass comes mainly from an old sign manufacturer outside Stockholm who had this amazing stock of acrylic sheets from the '50s, but I also found some nice plexiglass on Canal Street in New York and at Tokyu Hands in Tokyo. I always search for new materials when I travel, and over the years I’ve discovered that I instinctively choose materials in a specific set of colours – map colours! It's as if everything I like boils down to a map.
How would you define the new pieces - art or jewellery?
Sara Engberg: I prefer not to draw a line between art and jewellery, because to me, everything creative is part of the same field. As soon as one starts trying to define something that has to do with art, it gets complicated. But if I had to choose I would say that these pieces are jewellery: they are clearly wearable, and they are made to look beautiful. A lot of what's going on on the jewellery art scene today is highly conceptual and some jewellery artists are challenging the notion that jewellery should be beautiful. But I have always been into this field for the beauty of it, so I keep trying to make pretty things. They may sometimes be conceptual in other ways, but you can always enjoy them and wear them just because you think they look nice. I guess it also depends on the expectations of the viewer – to me these pieces are jewellery, but someone who has a more strictly conventional idea of what jewellery should be - like a pearl necklace or a diamond ring - might perceive my works as art.
Will the exhibition feature also videos or visual installations?
Sara Engberg: There will be a set of custom printed wallpaper lengths with inspiration from maps hanging from the ceiling, reminiscent of old-fashioned school wall charts. There will also be a photographic piece with ten framed pictures from a field of grass, where the grass has been shaped to form different letters. When you view them in order, you can read the sentence ”you are here” in the grass.
Do you feel that this new career – artist and jewellery designer – fits you better at the moment?
Sara Engberg: Yes, I think so. I love it that the creative process gets to take a lot more time than it did when I was in fashion. Fashion is fun too, but I guess I’m really more of a bohemian artist type than a businesswoman, and I felt that the business part was taking over too much. Also, the fashion world was a bit too fast-paced for me. I like to work with the same theme for extended periods of time, and it feels completely absurd to discard what I did six months ago just because it’s “last season”.
Will we be able to buy any of the pieces included in your exhibition?
Sara Engberg: Yes, they will be for sale through the gallery, Konsthantverkarna, here in Stockholm.
“A Sense of Direction: Sara Engberg” opens at arts and crafts gallery Konsthantverkarna in Stockholm on 25th August.
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