Kjersti Johannessen

Sep 18, 2018Julia Kahrs

Kjersti Johannessen discovered glass art at the age of 18 when she attended the Plus school in Fredrikstad. Today, the fascination with glass is still just as strong, and Johannessen consciously utilizes the glass's contrasts to create dynamics in the objects.

What kind of work do you create?
Blown glass objects, both idea-based and functional. And I work a lot with finishing work and grinding the glass. That is where my identity as a glass artist lies.

What is your earliest memory related to art, or to creating something?
In kindergarten I did nothing but draw, I also loved the design lessons at school. I got a lot of praise and that probably did something to my sense of mastery in the shaping subject.

What did you want to be as a child?
I had an early desire to work with creative processes, and it was particularly a teacher in the field of design that appealed.

Did you grow up in a creative environment?
Relatively, but not significantly. In my family there are many craftsmen, and they are very solution-oriented and creative in that way. I like to solve problems myself and look for answers in my projects.

When in life did you first learn about your field of work? What brought you there?
I went to Plus-Skolen in Fredrikstad and lived in Gamlebyen, where there is a glass cabin. We had a project at school where we had to find recycled items and make a sculpture out of them. I went in the bin to the glass hut and found a lot of broken glass in all possible colors, it was shining in the sun and was just so beautiful, even though it was broken and broken. When I entered the glass cabin and saw how they worked with the glowing glass mass, I was stunned. It was an incredibly beautiful dance they performed together, without words. I was 18 years old and deeply fascinated. This is what I wanted to learn.

What is the best advice you have received?
Have faith in your own projects, and don't be afraid to ask for advice along the way. Sometimes it is the process itself that moves you forward and not the finished object. There is nothing wrong!

What does success mean to you?
I get a lot of energy and lots of new ideas when things are going well. When I get recognition by being accepted for exhibitions and grants I have applied for, or being bought by important museums. Then the creativity flows.

What is your relationship with your material?
I love glass, it's an incredibly fascinating material. It is one of the few materials that can be both transparent and opaque, it has so many possibilities. Is fragile, but very strong. Alive but static, hard but soft at the same time. It's full of contrasts and I can't get enough.

Tell us a little about your workplace!
I work in a glass cabin, so it's very hot here, everything has to happen quite quickly, you have to make quick decisions. As a glassblower, you almost always work in a team with several people who help each other to achieve a finished object. So it's never lonely when you carry out the actual work in the glass cabin. The idea process is a little different, there I am often alone, also when I grind the glass, but there I enter a meditative state where things flow and new ideas arise.

Which object is your favorite among all that you have made?
There are many. Fortunately, I really like what I make and can often fall in love with my own things, if I may say so. But right now there is an object called “Diffraction”. It is so complex, but at the same time so simple. I have mixed a warm yellow and a blue color in the sculpture, which has mixed in some places and is turning green. When the light breaks through it, it changes depending on the angle you see it from, it's magical.

What is the most challenging thing about being your own boss?
Marketing of one's own art. It is difficult to have to promote yourself since what you create is such a large part of your identity. Janteloven can probably get the better of us sometimes here, and then it's good to be recognized and get to participate in exhibitions like this one.

Do you have any tricks or techniques that never fail if you need inspiration or to break out of routines?
I am listening to music! There is so much inspiring stuff to listen to.

What is your relationship with Norway Designs?
It is a very nice store that is highly respected. The collaboration with Norske Kunsthåndverkere's members is very exciting and that with this they are helping to focus on Norwegian handicrafts. I am proud to be able to say that I will be participating in this exhibition.

What expectations do you have for Norway Designs NÅ Vol. 5?
Norway Designs is an important arena for showing my glass in a more commercial context than the traditional gallery space. I think that if this goes well, there is an opportunity for a future collaboration with the store.

Tell us a little about the items you are exhibiting in this year's exhibition.
Hand in glove are the name of these vases, which look like a glove before I cut them with the diamond saw, grind and highly polish the edge until it is shiny again. I got the idea for the actual design of the vase when my daughter came home with handpicked spring flowers, all with different stems. I didn't have any suitable vases and had to put the flowers in an egg jar. I wanted to justify this lovely gesture by making a vase that fit the purpose. Over time, the vase has become slightly larger and is suitable for cut flowers as well. The vase is blown and shaped freehand so that everyone is unique. I make them in many different transparent colours, opaque colors and in clear glass. I have also worked with contrasts in the design of the vase, the feminine soft wavy shape against the hard finish at the top and at the bottom.

Which identity do material and technique help to express?
For me, glass is my material, I feel safe and this is something I know and know. It probably helps to define one's identity as a human being as well. This is not a 9-17 job, it's a lifestyle. But since glass is so versatile and you can use so many different techniques, it has been important for me to create my own identity in what I want to express in my objects. And I think those who know some of my things will be able to recognize new ones because the expression is so typical of me.

Is there one or more identities that are reflected through your work?
I have worked with grinding the glass since 2002 and would say that it is the carrier of identity in my works, as well as the deliberate use of contrasts to create dynamism in the objects.

Read more about the process behind the vases here.

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