Interview with Astrid Gillenius
Updated: May 6
Ingrid and I
Describe your art practise and your family dynamic:
I am a sculptor and a mother of two children, almost two and 3,5 years old. The human figure is always present in my work in one way or another. I have my studio at home right now, and I work in clay and cast in bronze, plaster, resin, or any material that I find interesting. I love carving in granite, and would like to spend more time doing that.
Have you got any upcoming events or plans that you can share:
I will soon install a public sculpture in bronze and granite in Henån, Orust.
And will show some of my work at KKV GBG, Sockerbruket with MIR soon, I am excited about that!
(10th and 11th of April in MiR's residence studio)
Tell us a little bit more about how you developed your technique?
I have learned to sculpt the human body in a very classical way in Florence, Italy.
And developed my knowledge of different materials and casting techniques while working as an assistant for several artists in Italy and NYC, and while collaborating with a bronze foundry in Florence. I still cast some pieces in that foundry.
I come from the west coast in Sweden and love the granite shaped by the ice up there, so I took a class at KKV-B to learn the basics. I love to just walk around and look at the granite blocks and from their shapes I develop my ideas and start shaping them. I play with different ways of communicating feelings and states of mind through the body.
To interact and use your own body with my sculptures is something I find especially exciting and rewarding since it often makes people engage with the sculptures in a playful way.
You’re based in:
Stora Askerön between Orust and Tjörn, an hour north of Gothenburg.
Have you lived or studied elsewhere:
I have studied in Italy, where I continued to live for many years before moving to London, where I worked as a freelancing sculptor for Madame Tussauds for a few years. I met my partner there and shortly before we got our first child we moved to the west coast in Sweden. Has your location affected you, your art practise, perspective and network:
I find that it is difficult to feel at home here, in a country that is actually my own country.
This might be because I got my education abroad, and most of my artist friends and network are abroad. Funnily enough, I felt more at home moving to London than I did moving back to Sweden! Living on a small island on the west coast makes me hang out with nature more than people, and I think nature is coming into my work more and more.
I miss the life and the people in a big city, that is very stimulating, but I think the absence of it has made me create more.
What is your story on becoming a mother, and has your approach and methods changed since you became a parent:
Becoming a mother has been a bit of an identity crisis for me and I have constantly searched for quicker methods to work since I have less time and energy for my work now.
Making sculptures or sketches in iron-net is a new way of working for me that I have just discovered.
I always come back to working in clay, and I think I just have to admit that I love that!
Also I have come to understood that time for myself, and enough rest and sleep are essential for family life and for creating my work. How much time a week do you spend on working/thinking/planning:
It depends on the period. In a good period when I can work only with my own projects I spend four to five hours sculpting.
And I think I spend around an hour of admin every day and should probably benefit from spending more time planning! I usually think while working on my sculptures or while taking walks or runs. I need to go running or walking every day to cleanse my head, to get ideas or to solve problems.
What were your future plans regarding your creative work, and how did those plans work out:
I had an idea of being able to develop my own work a lot during my maternity leave but that didn't work out as I thought it would. It just got me a lot more tired and I found it very difficult to change my focus and energy from the baby to my work.
To go from the baby bubble into another bubble felt almost impossible, and my head just felt like chewing gum. Can you describe a moment or artwork that you feel was a turning point in your career?
I think becoming a mother has been a turning point for me since it forced me to make a decision about how important sculpture is for me. I have worked a lot for other people in many different places, being very flexible with time and location, and made my own work on the side.
As a mother I can't work like that so I decided to really try to put more energy into developing my own work and my own career. Are you part of an artist community:
Yes, Konstnärscentrum väst, KKV-B and now also MIR!
Could you see yourself as a mentor to another artist / What would you be good at mentoring:
I would love to try, I don't know if I would be any good but I would love to follow another artist and discuss their work and perhaps their life. How is your experience with the representation on female artists combining motherhood within the art world/your community:
Many of my female artist friends seem to do less work than my male artist friends when they get children.
Mother and child
Do you have daily routines or rituals that help you get into work mode:
If it feels hard to go directly into the studio I go for a walk or a run first. Music usually helps me to get into work mode once in my studio. How do you relax / where / how do you source your power:
I like to go for walks or runs in the woods or somewhere by water. I usually find my secret little spots where I can stop for a moment. I also get energy from going to exhibitions, meeting friends or reading good books.
Where is your studio, where do you have private space to reflect and develop and execute ideas:
I have my studio where I live right now.
(How) Has the pandemic changed your artist practise:
I have been in my studio more since trips to exhibitions and friends further away has been harder or impossible to do.
Who do you discuss your ideas and future projects with:
Mostly myself! Sometimes a bit with my partner, my mother or friends.
Do you have someone that inspires your art practise or reflect ideas with:
Not really, sometimes I get that from friends, but not being close to them has made it more difficult.
What excites you most about your future:
Having time creating new work and meeting people in real life that I can discuss projects and ideas with!
What advice would you give to emerging artists entering motherhood:
Sleep first! And don't stress about getting work done but try to get some time for yourself every day.
What do you want to bring to the table within your art community / Are you missing any discussions, themes etc:
How to keep inspired and creative and how to make space for yourself and your work.