Norwegian artist Kaja Solgaard Dahl was trained at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm and at Ecal in Lausanne. She began working with interior design and furniture, but today, she has fallen in love with Norwegian stone – and the dirty work of making magic out of this raw material. Read more about the Norwegian artist reviewing the magic of Norwegian stone.
At the present time, Kaja says she is working with larvikite (from the Sandefjord/Larvik area), masi (from Finnmark), Norwegian Rose (marble from Fauske) and will be adding romeporfyr (from central Norway).
“My works are about sensory and contrasts between the raw and the processed,” Kaja explains. “Over the last three years I have focused more and more on stone and think this is an exciting material to work with. It opens opportunities to work with larger design projects for landscape architecture, sculptures for galleries, interior products as well as small jewelry design objects.”
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Kaja Solgaard Dahl is a pleasure to talk with and she tells me that most of her present projects are based on different forms of collaboration – that being producers, craftsmen or meetings with other creatives. Over the past year she has established a close collaboration with a stone workshop in Sandefjord.
“Together with them, I can take on larger assignments in stone and I can develop my own products and sculptures together with skilled craftsmen. In addition, I have had a couple of projects where I have collaborated with my mother who is a jewelry artist,” she says.
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Why have you chosen to specialize in Norwegian stone?
“In recent years, I have had the opportunity to work with stone in various ways both as a designer and sculptor. I have always been fascinated by nature’s raw materials and the more I work with stone the more I discover. We have an incredible number of exciting natural stone in Norway which is also more sustainable to use locally,” Kaja explains.
What is the joy of working with Norwegian stone?
“What I love in my work is the possibility of learning new processes, and design as an endeavor in itself. The greatest joy is probably to go on a journey of discovery and select ingenious rocks in the quarry – and making something completely unique out of them every time is endlessly fascinating.”
Read more about the Norwegian artist reviewing the magic of Norwegian stone.
What is your biggest source of inspiration – what triggers you?
“Crafts, nature and various materials. In addition, it is exciting and inspiring to meet people with different skills and different perspectives.”
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Are there special things to be aware of when it comes to turning stone into an art object?
“Stone is a natural material so it can be unpredictable; something unexpected can be lurking in the middle of it. On top of that, more than 100-year-old stonemason tools are still standard today, while at the same time we use modern tools and technology that provide completely new possibilities. My goal in all my projects is to transfer old traditions into contemporary objects and design. My interpretation and processing are based on my unique approach to the world, and this can result in art”
Can you tell us a little about the creative process? Do you have any systems (habits) that help you get started?
“I think of being creative as a practical thing. I don’t want to idealize it. Habits that help me get started in a workday, where you are both boss and employee, is a basic combination of good coffee, dressing for work (I never work in sweatpants or pajama), walking, calling or meeting people for lunch and to plan your week with lists and calendars.
My personal creative process always looks different from project to project, but is a lot about reflecting, sketching, doing research in various forms, seeking experiences relevant to the project, learning new things and tactile sketching; contact with materials is incredibly important in my process.”
Do you have your studio at home, and if so, what is it like to combine work and private life?
“I work in different places. I have previously been a consultant and worked in Paris and Bangkok, among other places. I have also traveled to Cape Town and New York to create projects. Now, I have a studio and workshop in Oslo, but when I work with stone, I go to Sandefjord. In addition, I have a home office, which has always been part of the way I work as a designer. Many artists and creatives have long experience in working from home and could probably be some of the best advisory consultants for large companies that have introduced this kind of workday during the pandemic.”
Do you feel that being an artist is a lonely job?
“On the contrary, I’m rarely working by myself. All different projects often involve meetings with new people. When I have assignments that require more competence than my own, I have some permanent consultants abroad who I work with. We skype or email and act like nerds over curves and millimeters. In my opinion, the idea of the artist as a lonely person standing alone in a large bright studio and painting is outdated. Very few have such luxury and with the creative career choice in our time comes a lot of project management, application writing, accounting, PR and sales, own production, research and collaboration.”
What three things do you prioritize when not working with art?
“Be on the move and being social, sleep and nature.”
Have you always been creative?
“Yes, there was a lot of creativity at home when I was growing up. I am lucky to have grown up in a family where creativity was encouraged and seen as a valuable skill.”
Has it been (and is it) a difficult journey?
“It hasn’t always been easy, but as more and more people value my skills it’s exciting. It is important to take decisions as you go, being an optimist and perhaps a little naive. This is my 6th year after graduation. They say it takes five years to stand the acid test, and here I am, so I believe I have made it – so far.”
In later years, Kaja Solgaard Dahl has also had teaching assignments. She has just completed her second lecture assignment in crafts design for Hjerleid School of Craft, where the students learn about traditional crafts like woodcarving and furniture carpentry.
“ It’s great that I’m able use my specialization arrived from my master’s from Ecal,” says Kaja. “the master called ‘Design for luxury and craftsmanship’ was just about using crafts in contemporary ways. Teaching can be very rewarding when you get the opportunity to inspire others. This is more or less the responsibility of all artists.”
Kaja is planning to work with stone in Sandefjord this summer. That includes new Larvik vases for the Norwegian company Fram Oslo, sculptures for QB Gallery in Oslo and several unique stone vases in Norwegian Rose marble.
Together with Sandefjord Stenhuggeri, she is also planning an exciting collection in stone that we will be exhibited 2021/2022. She will not disclose what it contains, but says it will be unique and different.
A Norwegian Artist Reviewing the Magic of Norwegian Stone, Kaja Solgaard Dahl interviewed by Tor Kjolberg
All images © Kaja Dahl, except where otherwise noted