Anglo-Swedish Society Scholar 2017-2018

Sara Söderberg

Through my practice as a craft artist I examine how a certain space or object can function as a mediator between
people, and between people and materiality. How and by whom a room, an object, or a context is created, and then
utilized is examined to understand the significance of materiality as an important ingredient in making sense of
ourselves and the world around us. Everyday life is filled with personal rituals where we create an illusion of control
in the chaos that is the universe. Each and everyone has their personal take on how they conduct their steady habits,
and there is comfort in the act of repetition through something that is uniquely your own experience, connecting the
past, present and future. I think therefor I am, or rather; I think through  some habitual day-to-day mission like make
a cup of coffee, and therefor I am. We connect the body and mind when we come in contact with material tools
suggested to aid us with our needs. Depending on how that tool is made, feels, looks or smells – the function can be
well beyond practical. I argue that the more or less subtle humor in a handmade ceramic handle can be the type of
amusing detail that makes a certain room feel more embracive, human and generous. It acts as a materialized
reminder of something, something important to experience to feel at home and welcome in a certain space and time.
Much of my work has been made in the context of a domestic interior, because of my interest in that space but also
because I have not been sure where the work I was making would fit in a more public setting. The white cube did not
seem appropriate, and the scale I have been working in appeared to me too small in comparison to be placed in an
urban sculptural landscape. I wanted to keep the functional aspects within in my work since the hands on connection
is important, but I had a need to step beyond the private home to examine how my work could effect the
communication between people and between people and materiality elsewhere. Taking space, both figuratively and
literally, and making it personalized and crafted – more domestic in a sense – felt like a crucial method to expand the
context where and by whom, my work could be experienced. Visiting the renaissance capital of Florence reminded
me of a long tradition of architecture and craft working together to create shared spaces. This interdisciplinary
approach is not all too common today when most built spaces are far from what I would define as crafted. Assuming
this lost tradition of crafting  larger spaces, I am examining different ways how I can re-formulate it in a
contemporary setting where the senior executive hands is that of the craft artist – not the architect’s. All materiality is
political, and being a material based craft artist is a political statement. Craft can be either hobby or haute couture,
with different associated connotations, and the work I make as a professional is definitely expensive and exclusive.
To balance this element and critically question my practice is how my sauna project was born – from the need to
make work that was not intended as a commodity.
Steamy, steady and sanctuary – The importance of crafting a shared sauna at Sunds Grustag  is a site-specific craft
project conceptualizing utility and materializing ways to experience and share a space. The Swedish notion of
allemansrätten  describes an unique access right which permits most of the land in the country to be freely roamed
and utilized by its residents and visitors. This access right is limited to the outdoors, and any built structure is
predominantly private property and off-limits for anyone to use without the owner’s permission. Scattered though the
vast woodland of the Swedish landscape are summer cabins, bathhouses, saunas, sheds, and huts – destinations for
some, but off-access for most. Crafting a shared sauna is my way of making a suggested destination, open to all. By
utilizing Sunds Grustag’s material and dramaturgical resources, I question the idea of ownership and challenge what
an extension of allemansrätten could mean to spaces we share and meet in. Making a functional structure in this scale
easily becomes read in an architectural context, but I emphasize that the sauna I have built by coiling it like a giant
planter pot, is very much part of a craft/ceramic tradition. How I shape materiality and people’s experiences through
a handle or a coffee cup, is transferred into a larger scale to challenge and extend the functions of my work, but the
making remains very much associated with the same intimacy and hands-on physicality linked to my smaller scale
craft.
At RCA, my ambition is to continue to investigate an expanded approach to experience and share craft. Through
learning new techniques, materials and meeting new people with different skill sets, I wish to further formulate an
interdisciplinary and collaborative practice.

Sara Söderberg

Sara Söderberg

www.sarasoderberg.com