Interview with Sofi Svensson
Updated: May 18
MiR interview with the pre summer 2021 artist in residence.
Portrait and work in progress at Mothers in Residence, May 2021
Name: Sofi Svensson website:
Describe your art practice and your family dynamics: I work with ceramics and build figurative and abstract sculptures. In my creation, I want to approach different reflections of actual, personal events but also fantasies about stories and states. I also make different series of animals. My family consists of a partner and our 8 month old baby. What is your plan of execution through this residency: "I'm going to build bigger." It is a formulation that I repeat to myself. My works are usually quite small, or consist of several smaller objects. It's a great start for me to get to this big empty studio. To be able to spread myself, to be able to do my thing, that the work can take place, both physically and emotionally for me.
Tell us a little more about how you developed your internship / technology? When I tested clay work in high school, I felt that it was a material that I could be free with, without the same expectations from myself as with e.g. drawing or painting. Then it has continued and I have not felt any reason to change. What I like most about clay is that it can be redone, changed, added or removed. I have a very hard time being accurate and constant, for example I can not do carpentry and measure in millimeters. With clay you can be picky and super-accurate, and at times that is what you have to be with it. But you can also be very direct. Then there are a thousand bad things with ceramics, that it cracks, skews, shrinks, etc. but strangely enough, there is a patience for what I do not really know where they come from You are based in: Gothenburg Have you lived or studied elsewhere: I have attended preparatory ceramics courses in Grebbestad and at Capellagården, Öland. I studied my master's and master's at HDK-Valand in Gothenburg. One semester I studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, USA. In the fall of 2017, I was at a residence for 4 months in Shigaraki, Japan.
Spara det viktiga (lukten av tid som står still) / Save the important (the smell of time that stands still) 2020
Has your place influenced you, your art practice, your perspective and your network: Since my education was here in Gothenburg, and that I wanted to stay in the city after graduation, there are quite a few acquaintances around. I wish I had time to meet more of them, visit their studio and just talk about what one does. In 2019, I became a member of FLICK, a feminist artist collective that those I share a workshop with started in 2015. Being able to get into that community and partly take part in what they have built up and partly work together gives me a context and a valuable place. What is your story about becoming a mother and has your attitude and methods changed since you became a parent: It was of course a big change to have a child but I felt very ready and have enjoyed being at home with my baby. Having a baby was much more fun than I thought, fun as a baby is not only amazing, cozy and cute, but also fun to hang out with. Now that I have started working again, I feel that I do not really know what to expect, will I be able to work more efficiently and how do we as a family solve it? I often need clarity, clear working hours and division, but at the same time the artist job requires quite a lot of flexibility. So I do not have any method yet but feel a tension and realise how much I miss working. Something I think about a lot and that goes hand in hand with parenting is self-confidence and self-esteem. I think emotional life is a great asset in my art, to feel something when I spend time with art is among the best of emotions. At the same time, it is a pain and a saboteur. As a parent, I can feel a great fear of making mistakes, of being inadequate for my child at the same time as I want to give my child everything and that she will gain a self-confidence of steel. Most parents want this for their children and if I am to follow the classic saying "children do not do as you say, but as you do" then I have to start with myself. I have to show my daughter that I think I'm important, that what I do is important and that my time is important.
Titta ut (och se omgivning) / Look out (and see the surroundings) 2020
A very complex thing about working with art is that you do it because you have a need and desire to realize what you think and feel. The clash then often becomes (for me) that someone else should judge you, a jury should judge if you get a scholarship, a gallery should judge if you can exhibit, a customer should want to buy your item. Of course it goes up and down for everyone, but when it mostly goes downhill and you are in a slump, then it is difficult to have that self-confidence. At that moment, it must not become pitch black. As a parent, I do not want my child to hear me say that my work is bad, and that I as a person is not good enough. What is your perception of the representation with female artists who combine their motherhood in the art world: Valuing your profession and the time you want to spend on it probably brings similar feelings within your parenting regardless of what profession you have. You as a parent and mother want to give your child everything but also yourself space and that there can be a conflict in yourself. I know artists who are also mothers but not at all what it is like for them to be both of that together. What I want to know (is) how their everyday lives go together with creating art where the framework can be so flexible. If you have a job with clear times, holidays, structure, you can plan in a way, are you your own where projects / jobs come and go, I think it can easily be that working time becomes family time. Like "can you take the sick leave day because you still have no one waiting for you at work". So my answer is: The representation I think exists is like a facade but I do not know what is there behind the facade.
Do you have a moment in the mother / artist duality that you want to share: When my baby was three weeks old, I had my first solo show, thankfully it was here in Gothenburg. When I think about it now, I shudder a little, it is not something I recommend but at the same time something that I am very proud of. I had known about the show even before I knew I would have children and wanted to drop it off several times during pregnancy but was determined to finish it. Baby was born and got to follow and build the exhibition. It was really not easy, baby wanted to breastfeed, to be carried, I was sweating at the same time as a lot of decisions had to be made but I got invaluable help and it turned out well. Now I am more proud of the work of building the exhibition than the works themselves.
”Det är ingen som bor här längre” / "Nobody lives here anymore" exhibition 2020 at Lerverk
How has your background / upbringing affected you in your choice of profession / performance as a parent: When I was little, people around me were doing creative things, they were not artists but did / created a lot, my mother sewed, felted, knitted, made paper, repainted at home, etc. ) was "normal". I also saw adults who were quite tired of their jobs and the burden of spending so many hours working on something boring. Not because I have to have fun all the time but I have a picture of how I do not want that life, as far as possible, and try to make choices to be able to do what I want. It may be negative and a bit teenage-naive to strive away from something that the previous generation did, but I think I have been supported and encouraged to do what is important to me. What do you want to bring to the table within your art community / Do you miss any discussions, themes etc: In general, a lot of things came out after I had children that shocked me, a lot about the body. It has nothing to do with art per se, but I wish there was talk everywhere about the birth body, about parenthood and that the talk was normalised. Kind of like menstruation, now is much easier to talk about than a few years ago. Even if parenting has no role in the works an artist does, I would like to hear and talk more about the art itself in combination with being a parent. For example. find inspiration and approaches in how others have done. How have they done when maybe all of a sudden there are a lot of openings about exhibitions at the same time and it becomes super-intense for a period? Can one's job get the same amount of space even though it may not generate any money? Has anyone gone to a residence far away? How did they solve it then by being away from the family for a long time or did everyone have to come along? When I was at the residence in Shigaraki, they had family rooms where artists took the family with them, it felt nice and inviting.
Where is your studio, do you have a private space to reflect and develop and implement ideas?
My studio is located in Kungssten's industrial area. We share work surfaces and ovens so there are often others around. It feels very good, you can discuss if you want, but it's just as okay not to talk about what you do. I'm thinking about what it would be like to have my own studio and if I had it at home. It feels like a pretty idyllic picture of having a small house on the plot with a ceramics workshop that you can stroll over to a little look as close. Right now it's very good that my studio is a place I get to go to, I try to have fixed times, that it becomes a marker, now I go to work.
Do you have someone who inspires your art practice or reflects ideas with?
I enjoy talking to friends who are artists about being an artist. How to do with different things and feel in front of what you do, when you doubt and how to tackle others who do not understand what or why you do (what you do or the way you do). Sometimes it can be very empowering to cave in to some kind of "no one understands me" feeling together. It is also nice to just talk about things without having to explain details to an "uninitiated", e.g. the classic where does the money come from. Can you see yourself as a mentor to another artist:
Both yes and no, it's fun to talk to others about what they do but I do not feel that I can afford to spend so much, or that I am sitting on any wisdom. So maybe more ballpark than mentor. What makes you most expectant of your future:
(The realisation of) everything that can be done, (when and) that all of a sudden something happens that gives a lot of energy to continue (with making art).
In MiR's residence studio at KKV GBG, May 2021