From our earliest moments, touch is how we navigate the world. It is our first tool to teach us, and provide immediate haptic feedback for everything we come across. Hot and cold, rough and smooth, sharp and dull, soft and hard. All new, these experiences swallow you up, as we try to make sense of them. But quickly we lose this playful and explorative approach to the tactile.
One lucky enough to hold on to this approach is ceramic artist Hanna Järlehed Hyving, who has not outgrown it but sought ways to evolve it. The Gothenburg based artist looks for ways to explore the haptic from all angles with two strong influences pushing her towards a career in clay and water. The first being her father’s work as a toy designer for LEGO and Brio which afforded her the unbridled freedom to shape, and play with anything she could get her hands on. The second, an ongoing fascination with water and a sense that modern society has forgotten the ongoing role of nature in our lives.
Hanna Järlehed Hyvings work “Frozen Lakes” was exhibited at our flagship store in Stockholm during spring 2016.
When L:a Bruket exhibited Hanna Järlehed Hyving´s work ‘Frozen Lakes’ at our flagship store in Stockholm where we spoke with the artist about her work so far, the physicality of ceramics, the importance of nature, and about forgetting rational plans.
L:AB — What attracted you to the medium to begin with?
HJH — I always loved working with clay, even from a young age. It’s a three dimensional material from the beginning,
it has presence and a personality which ultimately makes
it a challenge. Working with clay is a fight. Every time. You need to defeat the clay and get it to perform as you wish. It has so much possibility as a material, but is frustratingly difficult to control. I believe that’s one of the reasons why I continue to work with clay. I am stubborn and never feel that I am truly finished with it. Never really satisfied with the end result. The process
of taking wet clay to fired ceramic has so many steps and stages opening up the opportunity to be influenced by
so many elements that I always strive to make each piece
a little bit better. To push the material further to fully reach that specific expression.
L:AB — And what exactly is that expression? You’ve mentioned before about nature being the source
of your inspiration.
HJH — Well, I feel that nature is overlooked
in today’s society.
We as people prioritize ourselves and our comfort
over a global connected consciousness of how we impact the Earth. There are so many distractions that shift people’s focus away from nature, and so many
of us around the world living a disjointed existence from the natural world. This isn’t helped by the global trend of more and more people moving into densely packed urban environments. The result is a disconnect with the natural world, and a casual approach to pollution and environmental impact. Humans are living completely separate to nature making us unable to comprehend that we are completely dependant on it.
L:AB – But with all the information we have today about pollution and our impact on the natural world, why do
you think that is?
HJH – I believe many people are afraid of nature or
rather unfamiliar with it. If you have no relationship and knowledge about nature then it can be a very uncertain and strange place. If one does not consider it in their daily life, then how can you change your perception of it? Most people probably see it as place for recreation, rest and the occasional visit, but they are not aware that it is the source of life. Our lives and every other living thing. Environmental awareness
and the debate about how we consume resources
might have increased in the past few decades, but at
the same time we consume at unprecedented levels never before experienced. I am fearful that this amazing and inspirational aspect of our world will disappear or never be experienced by everyone. As it should be.
L:AB – So how are you inspired by nature? How does that translate through your work in ceramics?
HJH – For me nature as a force is amazing. Water is a huge source of inspiration for me both in its raw power and its stillness. I don’t know where the fascination with water comes from, probably living in a coastal environment with equal access to both sea, rivers and lakes which react and behave in very different ways. The ability of the element to be in many shapes and forms, from bubbling hot springs to still puddles or rippling tidal pools, carries a particular feeling, or emotion that I try and capture. Glazes are where I usually try and capture this. That has been the common thread throughout
my career. For me the right glaze can add depth, curiosity and texture from a visual perspective that might be hard to convey from a tactile perspective.
The clay is of course important in finding the perfect base for my glazes and the expression, which tends to be on a larger scale. I feel that size matters when it comes
to creating and conveying the experience for my audience. It has a better chance of leaving a stronger imprint in
a viewer’s mind. I am very conscious of the connection or interaction between the glaze and the base, the raw
clay and the firing and of course between myself as the artist and the finished piece. The interaction between
all these parts is constant.
L:AB – So you see this interaction as more of a mutually beneficial relationship between artist and material – a kind
of memory material.
HJH – Exactly! Everyone who creates leaves some imprint of themselves in their finished work. I have always struggled to try and start a piece with a clear vision of the end result. During my work, I try and not think or plan too much. I like to keep my work more experimental and intuitive. When not in the studio, I plan and draw up new sketches of shapes, or recipes for bases and glazes to then go back into the studio with the intention of following this plan. It doesn’t last very long and pretty soon I have wandered off. I guess that might be my process? Letting my work leave the laid plans and go off piste opens up the influence to be more emotional and intuitive.
L:AB – That intuition comes from a strong understanding of
the raw materials though. A sense of connection and being able to touch and feel it.
HJH – That connection and understanding is hugely important. I know some artists who wear gloves throughout their process. I have never been able to do that. I would
have such a hard time, because I wouldn’t know the status of the mud. How wet it is, or smooth or rough it needs to be, generally what is the character of the clay. This is crucial to forming the pieces you want and to constructively be present in the process. In that sense you need sensitive hands to capture and interpret all aspects of the material you’re working with. When the hand, or the human body, are present in the creative process, I believe it gives a dimension to the finished article which is difficult to reach for machine production. You really want as little as possible in between your hands and what you work with.
L:AB – So you think it’s about more than just the masterful control of ceramicists hands?
HJH – Definitely! Being a ceramic artist is a whole body artistic practice. It is not only the skin and touch of your hands but the whole body. This is physical work. It’s easy to damage your back, shoulders, wrists and hips, so you have to take care of yourself. Much like the natural world, everything is connected and works together. Like I mentioned before, I might have a vision and plan for how to achieve a piece but I let my work be influenced by the process and what happens throughout. That means that each step needs to be respected and allowed to build from one to the next in an organic way.