ÅBEN’s second Designer in Residence is Erik Olovsson. Born in the historic city of Uppsala in Sweden, Erik’s studies to date include fine art & photography, graphic design and an MA from Konstfack in ‘Storytelling’.
The storytelling part was something they wanted us to think about in the work we made. I think it was a good way to go deeper into the assignments and to think in a broader sense.” Erik’s creative path began with computing: “I became interested in computers and started to make things with drawing programs. I thought I should become a graphic designer and from there I just explored the design field further.”
Erik was Art Director of the creative collective Acne Studios for three years and his eye for presentation is evident throughout his work. “I put a lot of energy into composition and imagery. At one point I really wanted to become a photographer, but I found it more interesting to make things that you could touch and feel.” Aspects of previous studies echo throughout Erik’s work: “I’ve learned to value details in a way I wouldn’t had done if I hadn’t studied graphic design. I love typefaces and everything that has to do with graphic design. “
Studio EO was created in 2013, with a focus on product, furniture, and graphic design. Erik’s description of his studio is: “..a master multimedia flex interdisciplinary design studio working with a conceptual approach.” Improvisation and experiment are a daily practise: “This is key to all my work; I try to make small studio experiments on a daily basis. From these experiments I can learn things that I later use in my works.
“I put a lot of energy into composition and imagery. At one point I really wanted to become a photographer, but I found it more interesting to make things that you could touch and feel.”
Erik’s creative journey has been physical as well as theoretical. His MA thesis took the form of a mobile design studio – the Design Bus: “I drove around in Sweden to help people design things locally, this was in some way inspired from my own upbringing and lifestyle as a kid. I was interested how people outside cities valued design and if it could be a sustainable way of living. I would go directly to the backyard of someone’s business and stay for a couple of days and design whatever they needed and in return I would get food, gas or whatever I needed to continue my travels.”
Erik’s parents are meditation teachers whose practice and work meant a childhood of travel and freedom for the designer. Meditation remains an essential part of Erik’s working life: “I meditate twice a day; I try to sketch in the morning and do more practical things in the afternoon. I find this most effective for my daily process.”
Quarry wanderings formed the basis of Erik’s ‘Drill Vases’ project. It was during a quarry visit in Carrara that he discovered small fragments of discarded marble and began a collection. The vases become “an exercise in improvisation”. “I like the weight, the history and that all pieces are unique. When I go to quarries it’s like going on a treasure hunt, I just find it fascinating and calming in the same way walking around all the blocks.” Experimentation masks strict process and play can only be attempted when techniques have been fully understood. Although Erik still revels in the inherent disobedience of glass: “I can’t really understand or control the material fully, it sometimes reacts differently to what I expect and I enjoy that in a time when everything is so controlled.”
In his ‘Indefinite Vases’ series free-blown glass flows between stone, each material enhancing the other’s qualities of fragility and solidity. Erik uses locally sourced glass when possible: “I try to work locally when I can, I think you get a better result if you’re there when the pieces are made and you can talk to the craftsmen.” Fluidity is also found in Erik’s strikingly graphic ‘Spine Tables’. The curved undulations of the aluminium spine are captured and frozen in a cast resin surface.
Erik’s often nomadic design always had a destination and ÅBEN’s new Designer in Residence offers this advice to young designers: “Stay focused and good things will happen.”
“I can’t really understand or control the material fully, it sometimes reacts differently to what I expect and I enjoy that in a time when everything is so controlled.”