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Today we chat with Ida Elke, founder of her eponymous design studio, Elkeland. Her curious and clean-design pieces are thought up and made in a small cabin, hidden away in the Danish countryside. She explains how silence, slowness and solitude are the three necessary circumstances for creating. How retreating from the distractions of the busy city life and the quick-pace of modern society sets the conditions for her to envision new designs and craft peacefully – though Ida is now looking to relocate her home and studio even deeper into the woods, feeling a physical need to be surrounded by rich biodiversity. Her concerns for the nature of humanity and the consequences we’ve had on our surroundings are evident in her latest conceptualizations and in her exploration of unconventional materials.
Firstly, a little background on Elkeland. How did you start your career in the design industry?
I think I took a side road. I’m trained as a visual artist and have no experience with industrial design – there is a rather sharp distinction in the educational system in Denmark, whether you are a designer or an artist. However, I like to take advantage of the natural relation people form to an interior, objects and furniture. I think when working with art, there is always a distance that you have to overcome. It is in the nature of art to be something else, an alternative to ‘reality’. Furniture objects are included in everyday life just by their categories.
Curious and unconventional are the two words that come to mind when looking at your work. In your own words, how would you describe your aesthetic?
Thank you, that is quite close to how I perceive my work. I do not know if seeking is an adjective that you can use to describe aesthetic, but I consider all my work as a continuous search for a profound resonance. I allow myself to change styles, materials, scales, etc. as long as I feel the resonance.
When forming an idea and design what do you value most: functionality or aesthetics?
It is obviously not functionality if you know my work. Not that I have anything against a functional and minimal approach, I love it very much. It is just that my ideas are not about function. The function is the category that defines the space to act on it. My idea is to challenge that space with unconventional choices rooted in aesthetics.
I think aesthetics are very subjective, but when you see trends taking shape it becomes collective. Then it is not 'just aesthetics', but an indication of new collective narratives. It is a mix of future possibilities and re-actualization of the past, of longings and fears.
You describe silence, solitude, and slowness as the three pillars of your working process, how did you find this to be?
It is as simple as some of the conditions that are important to my working process and wellbeing in general. I guess it is opposed to the pace of modern society, while a lot of people are longing for these qualities.
When retreating to your cabin and workshop away in the countryside, is it ever difficult to find new sources of inspiration?
I do not find it difficult. Travelling, visiting larger cities, or going online is always a possibility, but impressions easily overwhelm me. I need time to sort things out. The biggest inspiration is like a vacuum; the hunch of something of which there is too little of. Which is then followed by the search.
The mirror mobiles you designed some time ago made quite an impression in the design community for their elegant simplicity. What was the source of inspiration for these pieces?
At the time, one the one hand, I was working with plaiting and weaving. I was interested in different ways to attach parts together. On the other hand, I was interested in reflective surfaces and the way they can change the perception of light and space. The overall design of the Mirror Mobiles was created by reduction and reflection.

Your three-pillar seat, shown at the Age of Man exhibition in Milan, was composed of fossil wax and carbon. Can you tell us a little about the process of creating this piece and the choice of materials?
At that time I read a lot of articles and texts dealing with the anthropogenic scene. I also saw the first season of the science fiction TV series The 100. I was intrigued by this other perspective on how objects and buildings made of materials that we do not consider as valuable – like plastic and concrete – are durable, and therefore become artefacts and monuments from the past. I really had that post-apocalyptic feeling under my skin. When I made the drawings for the chair, I wanted to balance it between something powerful yet precarious, like human beings on planet Earth. I think this paradox is present in both the form and material of the piece.
Fossil wax is widely used in industries today, but it’s still easily overlooked. It is used in thin layers, especially for its '-less qualities' so to speak; it’s odourless, colourless, tasteless, reactionless. Paraffin is derived from crude oil and is therefore closely connected to the escalating human impact on the planet. I wanted to explore how this almost 'material-less' substance as a manifestation of negation can form a piece of furniture – a throne of denial so to speak. The material is quite brittle, and it was a challenge to cast the chair. All three legs actually broke in the first prototype. I then added carbon fibres to the composite, which made it stronger.

This exhibition was mounted by Form & Seek, a collective of young designers that you form a part of. What is it like working among all of these talented creatives?
It was very inspiring to meet creatives from all over the world. I think it is of great value to meet with other small studios and creative minds to exchange experiences, collaborate, and see new perspectives.
Are you currently working on any new designs or projects? 
Yes, I'm working on new projects, in different stages. This comes after an involuntary long summer break: throughout this time my mind has been occupied by grasping the consequences of the increasing lack of biodiversity. Most areas in Denmark are reserved for intensive agriculture. More than sixty per cent of the country is covered in deserts of monoculture. This causes an increased lack of biodiversity, which concerns me deeply. I felt it almost physically as if there was a lack of nutrients in my body. That's why I've spent as much time as possible in protected natural areas during this summer and fall. It also means I have been looking for a new place to live and have my studio, even further out in the woods. Luckily, I think I may have found one, so right now I am crossing my fingers that everything will fall into place.

Andrea Toro
Anitta Behrendt
Elklenad Studio

Mirror Mobiles with brass

Enok Holsegård
Sofie Brünner

Woven Mirror (flamed steel)

Set design
Benita Marcussen
Pernille Andersen

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