Interview with Tove Berggren, Swedish Fashion Designer and Artist in Residence at RUD Air, Sweden
When you first find out there are artist residencies all over the world and you’re trying to decide which one to go on, you may be very tempted to go as far as you can. You might want to explore a new culture and go to a place that is completely different from what you know, to shock yourself into creating new work by overwhelming your senses with new impulses. But is that really what you need at that time?
When I first arrived at Rud AIR in the rural area of west Sweden, I met up with the other artists who were going to be staying there. One of them, Rim Yoo, had done exactly that; she went from the bustling city of Seoul on her very first trip to Europe to the countryside in Sweden, where the nearest town of 3000 souls is 10 km away and where you see more deer than people on most days.
The other artist however, seemed to have done exactly the opposite. Tove Berggen is a Swedish fashion designer, currently living in Copenhagen. I was intrigued that she would go on a residency in her own country, as it was something I had never considered doing. When talking to her, I got an insight in her thought process behind this choice and a great appreciation for this decision, for how well she understands herself and what she needed at this time.
Sometimes, our daily lives as artists take us to so many new places in our head, a residency in your own country in familiar surroundings can be exactly what you need to go back to yourself and reflect on who you are as a person and an artist. I hope this interview will give you the insights and inspiration it gave me.
You can see Tove’s work at www.berggrenstudio.se
Can you tell us something about you and your work?
Yeah! I’m a fashion designer, I started as a fine artist so my work mixes fine art and fashion, and I also do print design. Right now, I’m building my own fashion brand and learning the details of building a brand and running a business. Actually, it’s very nice to be far away, in a place like this right now. It can be quite stressful, dealing with production and factories and all of the details of building a new fashion brand, but in a place like this it’s much easier to reflect on your decisions than it is back in my studio in Copenhagen.
Is that why you decided to go do a residency at this point in time?
Yes..also because I was very tired, I started my brand one year ago and it has been very intense for me as a person. It got a lot of attention very quickly and then you get sucked into this loop of fashion where you have to put out new shows, new collections, new new new all the time. You have to be outgoing and ready to answer and be this kind of person all the time and that can be very exhausting. I felt like I needed to take some time away from all that, to understand what I have build and focus on the little details. I’m also giving myself the time to think and reflect on myself and what role I want to have in my brand.
Is that also why you chose a residency in your own country, in Sweden?
Well..I’ve been living in Denmark now for five, six years. I think it was a bit like finding ground, returning to my roots. As a kid, I lived in an area of Sweden that is a bit like this, in the countryside with similar landscape to Rud. I’ve always been longing back for that place, so coming here is like coming home, like reconnecting to something that’s a part of me.
So coming here is like reconnecting to a place that is a part of you and by doing that you’re going back to yourself as a person, separate from the you as a fashion designer? Is that what you mean?
Yes. Taking myself away from the fashion world, both physically and mentally. To go back to myself as a person, separate from the person who is building the brand and working in the fashion industry. When you’re a fashion designer and you’re the face of your brand..it’s not like I go outside and people recognise me on the street or anything, but you do have to be ‘on’ all the time. You might meet someone who can mean something for you and your brand, like a press agent or a journalist, at any time when you live in Copenhagen. I’m not going to meet anyone like that here in Laxarby, and that means I can just be ‘off’ for a while and reconnect with myself.
The calmness and quietness of this place makes me more in balance, and without so many people around you learn to trust your own decisions again when you work. It’s like you come back to yourself. It’s good for everybody to be alone like this every once in a while and reconnect with who you really are and the decisions you make when it’s just you, without the influence of other people around.
Do you think you’ll do a residency again?
I think so, or at least find a way to relive this experience, to find a place like this again. At the moment, I don’t really dream of seeing lots of new places. That sounds kind of boring..
No, I understand, because you’re starting this big, new thing, so you’re already getting all of these new experiences in your work and your every day life. This time away should be something familiar in order for it to be an experience where you can reconnect with yourself.
Yes! I think if I’m continuing in fashion I would like either to have a countryside house of my own, or go back here or a similar area. I feel it’s very good for me.
You’re staying here for two and a half months. We’re about half way now, do you feel this is a good amount of time?
Yes, I feel if I had to leave now, I would feel it would be a bit short and abrupt. First, I was supposed to only stay one month but then I figured, it takes at least a month to settle in, adapt to new surroundings..
After one month so far, was everything exactly how you imagined it or did things happen that you didn’t expect? Creatively or personally?
I’ve been living alone for quite long, and I’m very used to have my own space. I expected I would interact with other people but I also expected that there would be time for me to be alone with my thoughts. I think if you don’t like to have that alone time you wouldn’t choose to go to a place like this. At the same time, you are living with other people in this space and when you live like this, you have to get along with other people. After all, it’s so remote and the only people you know are the people here. It would be hard if you would be having a conflict, because where are you going to go? You have to get along with the other people who live here!
Do you feel that being around other artists is also inspiring? People from different cultures, different kinds of art, does that add something to the experience?
Yes, of course. Also, I feel that artists are often quite similar in that they need that space for themselves, so it’s a good match in that way as well. It also gives you insight in how other people work and that is inspiring, it gives you new ideas and possibilities. It would be a bit much to be completely alone.
What do you hope will happen in the coming six weeks?
I hope I’ll have more time to do some more art and more creative work, but either way I feel that my brain has gotten space, some room to calm down. I think I need to think of a way that I can continue to be a fashion designer and have my own brand but also be able to do it mentally and take time to recharge. What to do after fashion week? How to come back to yourself? Being here, I feel like it has helped. Now, I’m looking forward to doing more creative work again! I’m going to do a lecture at the design school here, I want to work on web pages, sales book, do some graphic design, drawing and painting…all of that. Oh, and I hope to see more animals, I want to see an elk!
It seemed to me that, even after just one month in, being here gave Tove the space and time to come to new ideas for new creative work. I’d like to thank her for this interview, and if you want to see more of Tove’s amazing work, you can follow her at: