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Danish creatives collaborate with nature and ingenuity at The Mindcraft Project 2023
Exhibition view of The Mindcraft Project 2023
Image: Anders Sune Berg

Danish creatives collaborate with nature and ingenuity at The Mindcraft Project 2023

The annual exhibition, curated by last year’s participant Sara Martinsen, platforms ten projects that delve into nature-based facets through a series of materials and methods. 

by Almas Sadique
Published on : Oct 16, 2023

The Mindcraft Project is a platform based in Copenhagen, Denmark, that consistently hosts experimental works conceived by Danish artists, designers, and makers every year. While the previous edition of The Mindcraft Project showcased a series of furniture, sculptures, and installations made using textiles, metals, wood, and glass, this year's edition platforms creations that are either a result of experimenting with natural materials or serve as a commentary on both archaic traditions involving natural means and materials, as well as speculative futures, in tandem with natural entities.

Led by the Copenhagen Design Agency, the event has been held virtually for the past few years, owing to to the pandemic. However, its current edition (unveiled on October 5, 2023), makes both, a digital and physical presence, at Otto Mønsteds Gade 5 in Copenhagen and The Mindcraft Project’s official website. The virtual exhibition displays a gallery of images showcasing individual projects, as well as videos delineating the maker's inspiration and process, and brief notes specifying the materials used and the method employed to shape the final pieces.

Danish multi-disciplinary designer Sara Martinsen, who participated in the previous edition of the event, is the curator for The Mindcraft Project 2023. “With several years of experience within the Danish design industry, alongside an intimate knowledge of materials and processes, craft traditions and innovations, we see Martinsen as a relevant custodian for a new generation of Danish designers and makers who have our natural environment front of mind,” shares Anders Kongskov and Kristian Kastoft, founders of the Copenhagen Design Agency, and co-directors of The Mindcraft Project.

This year’s exhibiting designers, artists, and makers hail from diverse creative backgrounds. While some specialise in material research and speculative explorations, others exhibit training in crafts and tailoring. The result is a series of ten projects that bear distinct and flavourful narratives that adhere to dispositions of nature. “All the participants touch on themes of nature and our relationship to nature as humans, in a way where you can understand that all objects were made by a skilled and experienced pair of hands. I believe it is important to keep the knowledge of materials alive. Our species needs to adapt now and into the future, possibly faster than we can imagine. This is where an experienced set of hands becomes most relevant,” relays Martinsen.

The ten studios platformed this year include Anna Søgaard, Christian & Jade, Henrik Tjærby, Jonas Edvard, Marianne Eriksen Scott-Hansen, Mia Lisa Spon & Nadine Burkhardt, Natural Material Studio, Sia Hurtigkarl, Wang & Söderström, and Yukari Hotta. Collectively, the projects hint at utilising materials and processes that are natural, while also nudging viewers to seek out ways in which humans and nature can peacefully coexist, and even go on to collaborate creatively.

Furthermore, the physical, as well as the online exhibition, stands true to the mission statement of The Mindcraft Project, to platform designs from Denmark that are explorative and experimental. An excerpt from the press release further highlights the intent behind the platform and event—“The combination of the words ‘Mind’ and ‘Craft’ highlights the essence of the project. It is a field that merges experimental, innovative, and conceptual design approaches with material knowledge and craftsmanship. The Danish designers and makers in this particular field address future challenges and opportunities, and inspire new ways of thinking, making, and living.”

STIR scans through the ten intriguing projects conceived by Danish artists, designers and architects, at The Mindcraft Project 2023:

Cabinet on Wheels by Anna Søgaard

Copenhagen-based product and furniture designer Anna Søgaard’s practice is pivoted on her inquisitive and explorative nature. Using her preferred material—wood—as the canvas upon which she imbues her iterative experiments, Søgaard typically creates objects that are minimalist, yet bear functions that prick one’s innate ability to question and explore. Her 'Cabinet on Wheels,' inspired by the way some resident creatives in her communal workspace in Amager would wheel various furniture and product designs in and out of their workshops, offers users a chance to play around with the two movable storage doors. By adding wheels below the two-fold cabinet, Søgaard offers a variety of configurations in which it can be placed, in a number of different indoor and outdoor spaces.

“You get a tactility and sense of exploration from the cabinet when you use it as part of your everyday. It has a function, but it's not any one specific function—I love this open nature and how it reacts differently to each individual,” the product designer shares.

Weight of Wood by Christian & Jade

Christian Hammer Juhl and Jade Chan’s eponymous design practice focuses on exploring the extractive processes (and their impact on natural dispositions) that lead to the formation of certain materials. Currently exploring the materiality of different kinds of woods, the design duo presents Weight of Wood, a project that, through the mediums of a rocking chair, rocking horse and seesaw, presents a study on the temperament and density of wood. All three pieces of the wooden furniture, made using at least two distinct varieties of wood and fulcrum-ed at the centre, lean on one side, depicting the disparate densities of different kinds of wood. Some wood varieties used to build the furniture designs include pine, oak, Douglas and ash.

“Each piece of furniture is a starting point for discovering a familiar material—wood—from another perspective. To be reminded of its beauty, complexity and most importantly, why we continue to surround ourselves with it today. The best way to bring all the knowledge and research around wood back into the home was to design furniture that allowed you to see, touch, and feel the varying weights between species,” the Copenhagen-based practice elaborates.

4 x 4 by Henrik Tjærby

Henrik Tjærby, a Danish industrial and furniture designer based in Spain, finds an interest in the way ‘materials are formed and combined through joints and connections.’ He utilises both traditional techniques and technological means to test the limits of various materials. With a key focus on wood, the industrial designer builds objects that can easily be repeated and interpreted in different materials. Tjærby shares the inspiration behind 4 X 4: “The idea behind 4 x 4 was to design an adaptable ‘universal frame.’ The wooden frame can be made in different species of wood or even extruded materials (such as) aluminium or recycled fibres. The woven seat can be anything from paper cord to leather hide, leather lace, cotton belt or recycled webbing."

For The Mindcraft Project 2023, Tjærby designed the 4 X 4 dining chair and the 4 X 4 kids chair, both of which are part of a larger seating collection. Each chair design is conceived in Spanish eucalyptus, a wood species that is specific to Tjærby’s studio in La Coruña, Spain. Every piece is constructed using three sections of solid wood cut to length and joined using 'ovulated dowels.'

Myx Sail / Floor by Jonas Edvard

Keeping in tune with The Mindcraft Project’s theme of designers collaborating with nature for this year's edition, Jonas Edvard designed Myx Sail / Floor, a sound absorbing design installation and room divider made out of mushroom mycelium. Measuring one metre (across and down), the panel serves to demonstrate the flexibility and strength of this composite biomaterial in its final form. “I want people to sense the qualities of the sound-absorbing materials and to engage in a new understanding of how natural materials can be incorporated into our homes and living areas,” the Amager-based designer shares. Myx Sail / Floor is part of a larger research study by Edvard, undertaken in collaboration with Germany-based Arup Engineers. The mycelium panels created as part of this research can ‘absorb sound frequencies between 200 – 2500hz, the standard range at which humans talk and interact.'

Pollination Plant Shelter System by Marianne Eriksen Scott-Hansen

Marianne Eriksen Scott-Hansen, who formerly worked in the fashion industry, currently works as a paper artist and sculptor, utilising her maximalist urges and creating with an understanding of her responsibility toward the environment. She primarily works with paper, especially tissue paper, which easily takes a desired shape and form. Utilising a barrage of colours and the inspiration wrought from the organic forms of flora and fauna, the Danish artist shapes large-scale installations that betray the lightweight material employed to shape them.

Her installation for The Mindcraft Project 2023 called the Pollination Plant Shelter System, is made using paper and ribbon, and resembles ropy roots, branches, and vines. Stretching from the floor to the ceiling, the twisted paper elements that come together to form this installation, also referred to as a ‘safe space’ by the artist, resemble entities found in rainforests. The usage of light materials to build the piece ensures its movement at a slight disturbance. “The installation is not static, rather it is still alive and growing. While some parts will eventually wither, new stems will flourish. The organic growth of these paper plants depends on my artistic 'weather,' alongside the different ways people will interact and cross-pollinate with the installation,” the paper artist asserts.

Piece by Piece, One Square at a Time by Mia Lisa Spon and Nadine Burkhardt

Mia Lisa Spon and Nadine Burkhardt are designers and tailors who head the studio Pure Fabrications. Trained as tailors, the designers exhibit a shared interest in combining traditional tailoring techniques with a contemporary approach to materiality. Their work is often identified through the patchwork tailoring of upcycled leftover fabric pieces. “We dream of a return to ancient consumer behaviourism, where a garment is treasured through life, and maybe, even passed on to the next generation. As a comment to that, we want to create objects that express the time used to form them—objects that focus on the craft,” the designers explain.

Piece by Piece, One Square at a Time reverberates the same shared belief of levying importance to past traditions. The patchwork sculptural installation is produced from three variants of raw cotton, namely, a fine perkal, a thick canvas, and a dense canvas. The sculpture art's form is inspired by the designers’ childhood memories, of folding paper to build boats, hence hinting at another nostalgic experience. It showcases the versatility of this archaic method of sewing, which works just as well for a sculptural creation as it does for a garment design.

Lighting Works, LW-B004-1-3 by Natural Material Studio

Natural Material Studio is headed by Bonnie Hvillum, who utilised several years of her research into immersive materials and interaction research to build this studio, which aims to expand and propagate this understanding of material conceptions through artistic design and spatial installations. Their Lighting Works collection, comprising two wall hangings named LW-B004-1 and LW-B004-2, as well as a stand called LW-B004-3, is made using Natural Material Studio's own bio-textiles and a mixture of bio-polymers, natural softeners, and chalk, combined with cool-toned LED illumination. This material can easily diffuse and spread light.

“Through these works we view light as a design detail—just as a screw or piece of joinery, creating a lighting object that becomes a holistic, sculptural piece. Our intention was not to specifically design lamps, rather to work with light as an element that transforms and deepens the natural waves and occurrences within our bio textiles,” shares Hvillum, enunciating the inspiration behind the lighting design collection.

Plain Weave by Sia Hurtigkarl

Sia Hurtigkarl’s practice based in Amager is heavily influenced by her training as a craftsperson. She employs her crafting and designing expertise to build a range of both small and large-scale installations. Hurtigkarl's Plain Weave is a hanging installation made using paper and pine. “The miniature warp and weft of standard textile production has been recontextualised through the use of hand-dyed and waxed paper strands reaching from floor to ceiling between a slender pine wood frame,” reads an excerpt from the project's description. The installation aims to celebrate the raw materials and time-consuming processes employed to craft the piece.

“The way in which I have treated the paper and created the gradient effect replicates how much time and effort goes into preparing fabric yarns to be hand spun, dyed, and then woven. I have mirrored these processes, magnifying them in order to highlight details that are hidden within textile production,” Hurtigkarl adds.

Rehousing Technosphere by Wang and Söderström

Rehousing Technosphere by Wang and Söderström is an animation film that explores a speculative, adaptive environment in the distant future. The two halves of Wang and Söderström, namely Anny Wang, an artist and designer, and Tim Soderstrom, an artist and architect, delve into the exploration of liminal spaces that lie at the brink of human existence and nature, as well as the physical and digital, and nature and technology.

Their digital installation for The Mindcraft Project 2023 presents a coloured, three-dimensional, and animated terrain accompanied by sound bytes, where the organic and technological matters meet and interact, resulting in a strangely familiar landscape. “By mixing man-made materials with natural ones we want to highlight how technology has become so interconnected with our lives. It is starting to behave more like ecosystems to the extent in which it is shaping our planet,” the Danish architect and designer share.

IKIMONO by Yukari Hotta

Yukari Hotta’s anthropomorphic stoneware sculptures, inspired by the contours of the human body as well as the natural objects collected by her on forest trips, express the push and pull between the Danish artist’s dextrous directions and the material’s natural behaviour. “I hope people can relate to their own sense of body when they look at these works. It could be their child's body, or their partner's, or even their own. By bringing up thoughts of your own personal relationships with these forms, I hope people can see a little bit more than just an object,” the ceramic artist shares. The artist strayed away from glazing the pieces, hence permitting the unique hand-imprinted textures upon the sculptures to graciously shine through.

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