Andreas Söderlund is a self-taught wood craftsman exploring modern designs through one of the oldest traditions around.
ANDREAS SÖDERLUND IS EXPLORING MODERN DESIGNS AND IDEAS THROUGH ONE OF THE OLDEST CULTURAL TRADITIONS AROUND: WOODWORKING.
Where are you from originally and where are you based now?
I’m originally from Ostrobothnia, Finland, from a small town called Nykarleby. I moved to Bergen, Norway with my wife this fall.
What materials do you choose to work with and what are their particular characteristics?
I work exclusively with wood, dry wood more than green wood. Mostly birch, maple and walnut. Why I love working with wood is because it’s a living thing and each piece of wood has its own
unique patterns and colours. Even from the same tree you can find many different variations. So opening up a chunk of wood is quite exciting since you never know what you’ll find inside. The wood itself can often be a good source of inspiration when deciding what to make.
I like working with birch and maple since they both have a very white and pale colour, a good contrast to the chocolate brown colour of walnut wood. So varying between those trees is a good mix I think.
What sparked your interest in woodwork?
Since I was a kid I have always been interested in creating things and working with my hands. My dad gave me my first knife when I was five years old, so that opened up the possibility to shape wood. Back then during my childhood years I always had a knife nearby, even in school. So whenever I got bored I found myself a stick and started making shavings. It was mostly that, making shavings, the fascination that the sharp edge could cut wood like it was butter. One day in fifth grade, my teacher saw what I had carved during a short break. It was a wooden knife I’d carved and he was thrilled that I was able to form something like that with just a knife in so short a time. The piece ended up in an exhibition in school.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that my interest in woodwork is something that has evolved over a long period of time.
A few years ago I had a hard time, struggled with depression. One day I started carving on a spoon, and I found it to be so peaceful and therapeutic that I couldn’t stop. So I continued and got well, and since then my interest for woodworking has grown even more.
Can you tell us a little about the tradition of woodwork where you’re from? (what was it used for, the designs or materials used)
Where I’m from the woodworking tradition was making wooden boats. Back in the day they made beautifully crafted boats from locally grown trees. Every village had at least one boat builder who had his own style. They still make boats in Ostrobothnia, but not wooden boats anymore, unfortunately. However there’s still a lot of fine woodworking with these fancy new boats, like Nautor Swan and Baltic Yachts, they all need beautifully crafted interiors.
So the woodworking tradition lives on.
“WHERE I’M FROM THE WOODWORKING TRADITION WAS MAKING WOODEN BOATS. BACK IN THE DAYS THEY MADE BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED BOATS FROM LOCALLY GROWN TREES. EVERY VILLAGE HAD AT LEAST ONE BOAT BUILDER WHO HAD HIS OWN STYLE.”
What’s your favourite piece to make?
I can’t say that I have a favourite thing to make, because I tend to design and make new things. I find that more exciting, exploring new ideas and designs. So guess I can say that my favourite thing to make is something that I haven’t made before.
Can you describe your studio (where you work)?
Right now my workshop is in the attic of the house we live in. It’s a small space, but very cosy and filled with history. The room has only one small roof window, with a magnificent view over the city of Bergen. Since room is so limited, I have no fancy machines,
I keep myself busy instead working with traditional hand tools. When you climb up the ladder to the attic it’s like stepping into another world, long forgotten. There you can see an old workbench with a few hand tools on it, lit up by the light from the window above. You can also see a three legged chopping block with an axe stuck in its centre. In one corner there’s a couch where I can sit and ponder over new ideas, or for my wife to sit and read a book while I’m working. Without big and loud machines, it is a very peaceful place where the mind can be free.
Is this what you always dreamed of doing as a child?
No not as a child, but in my teen years I believe the dream of being a woodworker started to take form.
What inspires your designs? (Where do your design ideas come from?)
That is a question I have always had a hard time finding a short and straight answer to. I often get ideas for new designs when I’m about to go to sleep, or when I sit on my couch in the attic pondering about life, or when I hold a strange piece of wood in my hand and a design kind of just pops out. I believe the inspiration for new designs comes from everything around us, everything you experience during a day, a week or more. I have found inspiration in the landscape around me, from a good book or a tragic movie. A conversation with a good friend over the phone can turn into a great design from the doodles you’ve done while talking. To sum this up, I guess my head gives me ideas for new designs from a mix of everything, good or bad, that has happened around me.
How does the new landscape and location (in Bergen) influence your work?
I can’t say it has influenced my work that much yet since we just have lived here for a few months. But I believe it will open me up to many new ideas, that’s for sure. I come from a very flat landscape in Finland, so moving to Bergen was a huge contrast to what I’m used to. Here there are mountains everywhere, fjords and waterfalls and the sea is just a few minutes away.
So I can’t wait to see what form and direction my work will take after some time in this beautiful city.
What has surprised and delighted you about your new home, Bergen?
The closeness to nature is partly why we moved here. There are seven mountains surrounding the city, so you can basically pick any direction and you’ll end up on a mountaintop with a stunning view. Our apartment is also placed on the hillside of a mountain, with a view over Bergen. So that was sure a delightful catch. We can probably live here for several years without running out of new things to explore.
Your photography is beautiful as well. What’s your favourite thing to capture?
My favourite thing to shoot in the workshop is a good progress shot that tries to capture the atmosphere of the moment. I want the picture to give the same felling as I have myself while working.
What’s your top travel tip?
Be spontaneous! Then you can find adventures in the most unexpected places. Keeping an open mind goes hand in hand with spontaneity, you can never go wrong with that. And if you travel to Bergen, bring rain gear.