Am I a ghost?
For several years, Johnny Ståhl has held a position at my studio.
His primary task is to send emails, especially to manufacturers and subcontractors of various kinds. The responses he gets are always helpful, quick and polite. Whenever someone wants to talk to Johnny though, he is never there. He hasn’t even got a phone. Whenever someone wants to include him in a meeting he’s always home, often with sick kids.
Even if Johnny Ståhl doesn’t seem to be very present, he still deserves some credit since he saves the studio a lot of time and hassle. Johnny is hard to meet in person, the only way one can reach him is via email. By making this perfume dedicated to him, one can at least perceive his presence in the room.
The Ghost is a scent made in collaboration with perfumer Nenad Jovanov. Nenad is the last perfumer in Belgrade and runs the Sava Perfumery, which has been in his family for three generations. Nenad was asked to compose a scent for the ghost Johnny Ståhl. He came up with nine different directions and we continued working with one of them ending up with the final scent — The Ghost. Sava’s standard perfume bottle is used for The Ghost, but the cap has been replaced by a wooden piece manufactured by the Belgrade-based Carpentry Production Xylon, which is also a family business, and is now run by Sabina Simović together with her brother and uncle. The company has developed from a traditional carpentry into also having a high tech machine park.
Johnny Ståhl was invented after having problems getting in contact with manufacturers and subcontractors. Very few replied and even after a contact was established, it was often problematic getting the right information or even closing the deal. The Johnny-character solved all of this.
If you would like to get in contact with Johnny, please email email@example.com.
Strategies for moving freely
Book about the practice of Jenny Nordberg. Published in 2020 by Nilleditions. Buy it here.
“Jenny Nordberg is arguably the brightest shining star in contemporary Swedish design. Her experimental and forward looking design practice manages to bring together a series of values that for most designers is very hard to achieve, if not unobtainable – It is highly conceptual without feeling factitious, process based yet result orientated, entertaining without being banal, scientific without being technocratic, universal yet markable. At the moment she is running circles around her contemporaries, raising the bar with every new project. She is the guiding light leading the way out of the derivative cul de sac of retro-post-modern aesthetics that has highly overstayed its welcome by now. Designers and design lovers alike – let this book, and Jenny, lead us all forward, and keep moving. In freedom.”
Nille Svensson, publisher.
In several of her projects, Jenny Nordberg has composed new objects out of discarded or rejected materials – for example in the exhibitions Omkompositioner (Recompositions) at Rian designmuseum (2014), Most Common Element at OBRA (2018) and Possibilities at stockholmmodern (2020). The unwanted materials she works with can, as the British anthropologist Mary Douglas suggests, be seen as matter out of place – or as Nordberg self puts it: “assets in need of recontextualisation in order to regain their full potential.” To dig into rejected things is a way to renegotiate norms and to highlight more or less hidden value systems.
Nordberg’s use of waste instead of new materials is not only about optimising resources and sustainability; it is also about the joy of using a heuristic approach. This is a rapid method since it centres on existing knowledge and strategies from previous experiences. For Nordberg, working with elements with a predetermined appearance is a way to optimise the design process, and to find new possible paths despite of restricted parameters. Several decisions are hence avoided – such as material, form and origin – which makes the actual composition both the first and last step in the process. The different objects are put together according to a set of strict rules:
– The found parts can only be minimally processed.
– Size and shape are to be maintained, but bending and making holes is allowed.
– Quick surface-treatment is ok if needed.
– Pop rivets are used for assemblage.
– The materials must be classified as leftovers or trash.
The exhibition Accumulations (September 9-26, 2020) at Olsson & Gerthel is based on a library of rejected elements, which through Nordberg’s disruptions are given new function and potential. In the performative presentation, she joints these materials with an assemblage-like technique in order to make unique utility objects, stretching from brutalist bedcovers in textile and metal to lamp constructions, tables and vessels. The leftovers that are used have been collected from subcontractors to Olsson & Gerthel, as well as from Nordberg’s studio, and a declaration of each part’s origin accompanies each final object.
Tray concept for Vandalorum
The trays at Åry usually get their decorative top layer via a printed paper or fabric. Creating a pattern or illustration to be repeated on the trays does not lie within Nordbergs field of expertise. Instead she wanted to tweak the production process, especially the pressing of the multiple veneer layers which forms the tray itself. The initial plan was to experiment at the tray production site but then Corona happened. The factory was closed for outside visitors. Instead she got a stack of veneers sent to her studio and the process continue in a Covid-adjusted manner.
The standardised side of production, such as the making of canteen trays, has always appealed to Nordberg. Maybe not always the outcome but rather the un-used possibilities that appears around it. Nordberg searched for an interference with the material that would enable a seamless float into the standardised production but still allowing each tray to become different. Various paints, brushes, pens, antennas, tools and methods were tested to achieve a result that did not interfere with the next industrial step. The studio cleaning mop together with a screwdriver eventually became the ultimate interference tool. She then used this as a large rotating paintbrush and painted directly on the veenere.
275 canteen trays, each different, were painted for Vandalorum and the pressed by Åry Trays.
Throughout her practice, Nordberg has turned a critical eye on contemporary conditions of production, adopting an experimental and research-based approach. However, finding manufacturers who are willing to experiment is not an easy task. As a counter-strategy, she has developed her studio workshop such that it accommodates a variety of industrial techniques, including powder coating and metal casting. This framework has functioned as a stimulus, rather than a limitation, enabling the development of experiments that would not be possible in a large-scale manufacturing context.
Within the Powder Vessel concept Norberg has searched for a wild and irregular expression using a technique that most often is used to gain perfection, powder coating. She ordered laser cut metal parts form her local metal supplier which she then welded together into large vessels. By altering the powder coating setup in her studio Nordberg gained a brutal and vivid surface treatment.
Hem will unveil the third object from its decorative accessories collection curated by Modern Design Review during Stockholm Design Week following successful launches with London-based SuperGroup and Dutch designer Bertjan Pot in 2019. This new series has been produced by Swedish designer Jenny Nordberg, a designer who is known for her research-led approach to making objects – something which has been key to the development of the Powder Vase for Hem. Produced as a signed, limited-edition of 15 pieces featuring three different shapes, the vases are made from sheet steel which Nordberg folds and welds by hand. Unique to the pieces is the unexpected, brutal and vivid surface treatment that Nordberg has developed through experimentation with powder-coating in her studio. Whilst powder-coating is most commonly used to achieve a uniform surface treatment, here Nordberg uses it to achieve an expressive decoration.
Hem’s decorative accessories collection commissioned by Modern Design Review intends to present objects that are the essence of their makers. For Jenny Nordberg this has meant a work that demonstrates her commitment to her industrially-inspired workshop production and is a continuation of her ideas-led, yet ultimately covetable, collection of works.
A special thanks to Laura Houseley at Modern Design Review.
ÅKER is a site specific public work done in 2019. Åker means field and the large installation refers to the site where the now 110 meter high property is built. The soil at this specific place was unique and used to be one of the most fertile in Europe.
The wooden zigzag panels are covered with mirror metal and fabric in an every other repeating pattern. The light in this very bright room plays with the mirror panels, and the installation alters depending on the movement of the sun and position of the observer.
The project was commissioned by Peab Fastighetsutveckling via Nina Warnolf and Nanna Lagerman for the entrance hall in new building The Point at Hyllie, Malmö.
Upholstery by Carina Grefmar along with carpentry work by Theo Husberg and Freddie Muller. Photo by Marcus Lawett.
Site specific commission for Hallands Konstmsueum (the Art Museum of Halland). Aside from setting the artistic and interior framework, Nordberg also designed all the seating furniture for the new auditorium. The chair collection is based on a short story by the Halmstad-born writer Klara Johanson (1875–1948; pen name Huck Leber) from her book Oskuld och arsenik (Innocence and arsenic), published in 1901. Johanson dedicated one of the chapters to Halmstad where also the Art Museum of Halland is situated. She describes how Halmstad differs from Stockholm where she lived most of her life.
Man skall näppeligen bland invånarna i Stockholms nyare stadsdelar anträffa någon individ som icke är anfäktad af snufva och hosta, och detta är ju också oundvikligt när de ständig måste röra sig på oblygt öppna gator, som skära hvarandra i räta vinklar, hvararaf det naturnödvändigt uppstår ett olidligt korsdrag. En liten krökning här, en liten svängning där, en parkanläggning till vänster, en fontän till höger, och Nissens bröstkarameller skulle sjunka i pris!
I min födelsestad finna de sannerligen inte många afnämare, ty där har stadsplanen allt från början varit ägnad att afvärja förkylningar. Där skall man aldrig lyckas skåda tvänne parallella husrader, som i oändlighet draga sig fram, tills de försvinna i det blånade intet och på regelbundna distanser korsas af andra lika beskaffade rader, som förlora sig i ett likadant intet. Nej då, för det första stå inte husen så där hopkörda och hålla varandra under armen gatan utefter, utan de samla sig i smärre slutna sällskap, allt efter sina personliga sympatier, eller dra sig misstroget ifrån hvarandra med litet plank och småsaker emellan. Inte häller stå de och fåna på samma linje, utan somliga spatsera ett stycke ut på trottoaren för att se sig om och delta i världsvimlet, under det andra, som äro blygare af sig, förskrämda hoppa tillbaka och gömma sig innanför ett staket eller några popplar.
Which can be translated to:
You will hardly ever find any individual who is not challenged by colds and coughing among the inhabitants of Stockholm’s newer neighbourhoods, and this is also inevitable when they have to constantly move on unobstructed open streets, which intersect at right angles, where it naturally occurs an unbearable draft. A little bend here, a little swing there, a park on the left, a fountain on the right, and Nissen’s cough drops would fall in price!
In my city of birth, they certainly do not find many venders, because there, from the beginning, the city plan has been devoted to warding off colds. There one should never be able to see two parallel house rows, which endlessly extend, until they disappear into the blue nothing and at regular distances intersected by other equally acquired rows, which lose themselves in a similar nothing. No no, firstly, the houses do not stand together like that holding each other under the arm street along, but they gather in smaller closed societies, according to their personal sympathies, or distrust each other with a little plank and small things in between. They do not pour and stand on the same line, but some walk a bit out on the sidewalk to look around and participate in the crowd, while others, who are shy of themselves, frightened jump back and hide inside a fence or some poplar .
Klara Johansons description of the city planning of Halmstad in the early 1900-hundreds became the basic concept of Nordberg’s chair collection. All the different seating devices are based on steel structures that “do not pour and stand on the same line, but some walk a bit out on the sidewalk to look around and participate in the crowd, while others, who are shy of themselves, frightened jump back and hide inside”.
The rectangular shapes steel tubes in the structures of each chair are cut in unexpected ways and directions are altered. A beachy sand like coating is covering the steel frames as a reminiscence of the long white beaches of Halland.
The Baloney Sandwich
For several years, Nordberg lived next to a supermarket with absurdly low prices, and it was this context that served as the starting point of The Baloney Sandwich. The store was always a last resort for groceries, but now and then Nordberg wandered the aisles looking for something edible. Some of the bread had a shelf
life of three months; some tasted like hay. The butter had no butter in it, and the salami was packed with nitrates and antibiotics. For a long time, this inedible baloney sandwich was on her mind – a sandwich which could not be classified as food but rather was something else. During this time, she was also absorbed by a range of casting techniques. Could the inedible baloney sandwich work as a mould material, or be incorporated in some other way in the casting process? It seemed logical to treat the sandwich more as a material than a food. However, Nordberg struggled to find a way to use the soft food-like material in casting production, and after a while she forgot about it. That is, until recently. As it turned out, transforming the baloney sandwich into a frozen state made it durable enough for casting, and the hard sandwich finally became the material by which to create a hollow cavity for a negative casting mould. Together with some other casted elements, the baloney sandwich was then used to construct a candleholder.
Throughout her practice, Nordberg has turned a critical eye on contemporary conditions of production, adopting an experimental and research-based approach. However, finding manufacturers who are willing to experiment is not an easy task. As a counter-strategy, she has developed her studio workshop such that it accommodates a variety of industrial techniques, including powder coating and metal casting. This framework has functioned as a stimulus, rather than a limitation, enabling the development of experiments that would not be possible in a large-scale manufacturing context. The Baloney Sandwish was made in 2019.
A loose continuation of Most Common Element, this project further explored the craft of welding. Here, it was accompanied by other industrial techniques, including metal casting, powder coating and vari- ous surface-treatment processes. All components of the different assemblages were metal offcuts and scraps from industries surrounding Nordberg’s studio, which she collected and stored in a “library of possibilities”; there, she arranged them into objects with a variety of possible functions. Employing an assemblage-like process, and leaning on improvisation within a set of predetermined rules, the project further investigated the tension between the uncontrollable and the standardised.
Auditorium, Halland Art Museum
In 2017 Hallands Konstmuseum invited Jenny Nordberg to serve as lead creative of a new auditorium, which was to be built as an extension of the museum’s 1930s-era building. Having grown up in this part of Sweden, she developed a concept that was based on the heritage and surroundings of the specific site. Everything from materials and colours to the invited artists and manufacturers has a connection to the region. For example, the museum’s archive, along with architects and poets from the area, served as inspiration for many of the artworks and furniture she developed for the auditorium.
As she worked with the concept, time became a central aspect, which led to the title 80+ – a reference to the lifespan assigned to new buildings today, and a comment both on the historical perspective and on the urge for things to last. As a way of expanding the project, Nordberg also invited Byggstudio (Hanna Nilsson and Sofia Østerhus), Hilda Hellström, Milan Kosovic and Kajsa Willner to contribute to specific parts of the auditorium. Aside from setting the artistic and interior framework, Nordberg designed a collection of chairs based on a short story by the Halmstad-born writer Klara Johanson (1875–1948; pen name Huck Leber) from her book Oskuld och arsenik (Innocence and arsenic), published in 1901. Nordberg also designed a twenty-two-metre-long curtain with a large appliqué depicting the four different angles of Villa Simonsson – a modernist home designed in 1930 by the groundbreaking architect Ingrid Wallberg.
Byggstudio (Hanna Nilsson and Sofia Østerhus) – Wall panels
Hilda Hellström – Floor
Milan Kosovic – Lectern
Jenny Nordberg – Lead creative and all chairs
Kajsa Willner – All tables