Frederik Gustav, a design duo that celebrates craftsmanship and construction
Frederik Gustav, you have worked with carpentry and studied object design and spatial design. How do you relate to these disciplines and how does this translate into your work?
As a side job during our studies, we did several carpentry projects together, which has influenced the way we think and work with design today. Carpentry is much about statics - how forces travel and balance in constructions and these factors are something that is evident in several of our projects. Most of our projects begin as an investigation of either a static principle, a tectonic system or a simple assembly method that we explore both artistically and functionally. Often when we work from such a starting point, we don’t know where we are going but as a project develops, a concept and a direction naturally begin to emerge. In this way, it's often the process and our own intuition that dictates the type of work we do.
Craftsmanship and construction play a central role in our practice and are the focal point in many of our projects. Through our work, whether we work with furniture design, spatial design or do installation-based projects, we focus on passing on the joy and quality we experience by making. We therefore always try to clarify the construction and expose its structure to give the recipient an insight into the making process. Function is a constant in our work, however our works do not necessarily unfold as functional objects. In several cases, we use the construction as a narrator which we either use to illuminate the history of an area, a societal tendency or simply a quality in the construction and the material itself.
When did you decide to create your own studio "Frederik Gustav" and why?
When we met at the design school, we realized quite early on that we shared the same approach to design and we therefore started hanging out, having endless talks about design, architecture and art. The first project we did together was a design competition, which we initially entered individually, but as we both struggled to find a way into the project, we decided to team up. We were working on a chair and we were both very excited about our idea and the overall design of the chair. But when it came to the chair's backrest, we strongly disagreed. It was, to put it mildly, a long and hard battle as we both were very firm on our own idea, but as we had to find a solution, we decided to test new possibilities. We ended up with a completely different backrest and ultimately a chair that was far more refined and true to its own concept than if we had worked on the project individually. The project taught us how to collaborate and showed us the creative quality of challenging each other's ideas. The chair has since then found its way into a Danish furniture brand and is set to be launched this summer, so we are very much looking forward to that.
Based on this chair project, we started doing more and more projects together and eventually we just grew together. The same goes with our names. In the school's workshops there was this rule that you had to write your name and phone number on the material you own. So when we started working together we both had our full names written on the materials. As we started to do more and more projects together, we eventually dropped our last names and finally the "&" between our names.
On a daily basis, what do you enjoy the most and what is the most challenging?
The most exciting part is definitely when we reach the point where we have to prototype on the idea. We often shift between sketching and working directly with the material and it is only rarely that we make scale models. Typically we cut right to the chase and start building either a section or a full size version of what we are working on. During this process we almost always find that there is either something we have overlooked or something that needs to be changed. The most challenging part is when we find that we have to abandon an idea entirely. It can be heartbreaking, but that's how it is sometimes.
Can you present your latest work, "Paper Work" for The Mindcraft Project and tell about your inspiration behind this project?
The project is based on a simple discovery we made a couple years ago during an installation which involved thread. Somewhat by accident we noticed how two connected threads added with weight will automatically spin around each other and create a tense clamping mechanism that can fasten a relatively light object such as a piece of paper. What intrigued us about this system was the relationship between the thread and the paper and how the thread gently carries the paper without perforating it or damaging it in any way. In that sense the system displays a humbleness and sensitivity which elevates the paper as something valuable and precious. The technique has been floating around in our heads ever since but it wasn't until we got invited to exhibit at the Mindcraft project that we finally decided to explore and contextualize the concept. We started the project at our small studio space which naturally influenced the scale of our work, but as the project grew and we started lacking ceiling space, we gradually began expanding to the production hall next to our studio. Quite quickly the 1000 square meter space started mirroring in our work as the project began moving in a more architectural direction.
The project is in a way a reaction to the current situation where our resources are limited and we at the same time experience price increases. We therefore wanted to work in a more material limited way and seek beauty and quality in cheaper and more accessible materials. This let us working with traditional cardboard paper which we discovered takes an almost cobber-ish hue when illuminated. To emphasize this effect we treated the paper with beeswax to make it more translucent and began working with artificial lighting which eventually grew to be an essential part for the project.
The project resulted in a series of abstract architectural elements that can be reshaped, scaled and modified and in that way adapt to a wider spacious environment.
In general, what are your inspirations?
When we draw inspiration it's often from architecture, old crafting techniques or just plain stuff in our everyday life. We enjoy basic things and love working with the ordinary and adding a twist to it. But mainly we generate our ideas while making. The process of each project always seems to assist in initiating the next, which also has created a form of structural and aesthetic language across our work.
In 2021, you made the exhibition design for the Ukurant exhibition. How did you approach this task and how do these events contribute to your development?
When we were asked to make the exhibition design, the photographer on the project, Sofie Flint already had decided that the exhibited objects should be photographed in a green-screen setting. The idea was that the recipients should imagine a fictional space proposing the potential of the pieces. We interpreted this concept as a form of honest staging; so when we first saw the exhibition space, which was an old library building in the center of Copenhagen, it stood perfectly clear that we needed to work with the old Library as a theatrical scenery. In contrary to the greenscreen, we wanted the exhibition design to refer to the old library building and therefore focused on implementing traditional stage equipment as both an aesthetic and a functional element.
Of course we had a plan as to where and how the works should be arranged in the library space. But the systems many blue cords and pulleys allowed us to change and rearrange the different backdrops. In this way, the exposed system assisted as a form of process tool, which ultimately also led to a more vibrant exhibition experience.
We are very happy and proud of this project. It was and big privilege but also a huge responsibility to set the scene for all these talented designers and artists. It has definitely boosted our self-confidence and expanded our professional repertoire. The experience has also triggered a desire to work more with space and do projects which are site-specific and in a much bigger scale. This is something we believe will reflect more and more in our future work.
Finally, what is the project you are currently working on the most?
At the moment we are mostly working on a furniture project which we are quite excited about. It’s a simple and playful concept were the user is a bit more included in both the design and making process than usually. We don't want to reveal more, but we hope to be able to present the project in spring - We'll keep you posted!
Frederik, Gustav, what can we wish you for the future?
It seems like we are getting more and more exciting projects. We hope this continues so that we can keep doing what we are doing and hopefully expand our practice both professionally and economically along the way. It's no secret that it can be tough sometimes but we are optimistic and excited about what the future holds.