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.

SHIBUI Issue - - CONTENTS - CURATOR KARINA EASTWAY THE MAKER AN­DREAS SÖDER­LUND PHOTOS AN­DREAS SÖDER­LUND COUN­TRY NOR­WAY

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.

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