Helle Mardahl: The Organic & The Fragile
Helle Mardahl is an artist and designer whose work encompasses sculpture, installation, painting, fashion and interior design. Her work is marked by a sense of ornate lavishness, extravagance and flamboyance combined with eccentric deviance. Her art pieces have appeared on both Dezeen and Damn magazine. All of Helle’s work is produced by hand in limited quantities in Denmark.
Hi Helle! You're an artist and designer from Copenhagen. Tell us who you are and what your design practice consists of.
I’m educated in fashion design, and I’m an artist that has been exhibiting worldwide. I’m also a designer, and at the moment I am working a lot with glass.
You talk about "the contrast between organic shapes and hard materials": how do you incorporate your interests in your designs?
We can all relate to natural, organic shapes, and for me glass is just the most beautiful material. The combination wasn’t something I had to think about, it just came and then developed on its own once I started to work with glass.
You have worked within sculpture, painting and fashion: what is the media you feel most comfortable working with?
It changes all the time. Right now working with anything in 3 dimensions - sculpture and glass for example - is really what gets me going. I’m also really excited about moving from the art world, where only one piece is produced, into the design world where pieces can reach a broader section of people. But since my design pieces are still hand made and unique, it’s like crossing a bridge between the two worlds.
Fashion was your first choice when graduating at Central Saint Martins, London, back in 2001. What made you shift from clothing to furniture and object design?
Mostly answered above. But in general I am restless and like to experiment with new things all the time. I don’t really see fashion and art and design as being different from one another, it's all about aesthetics.
This year you are launching your new Candy Collection - lamps in beautiful egg-like shapes and made of the brightest coloured glass. Could you tell us more about how the project was born and how you went on to develop it?
In 2009 I made an installation out of glass where I worked with a glassblower, and I fell in love with the properties and possibilities of glass. Over the next few years I became increasingly inspired, and last year I launched my first glass collection “The Egg Collection”, featuring glass table lamps and objects with spotted patterns. The Candy Collection is a direct development of the Egg collection, using the same shapes but taking inspiration from a different place - the sweetshop. I have always loved sweetshops, the colours and shapes (and the taste!), and so I went full on with trying to create a candy universe. I also added pendant lamps, vases and bonbonnier to the collection.
Jason Svendsen helped you in the making process of the Candy lamps: had you worked with him beforehand and how did the collaboration developed?
Jason has produced all my glass. He really knows what he is doing with glass, and I work with him at his workshop to find the right colours and shapes for the collections. After I have decided what I want to do, Jason takes care of the production of the collections.
Our readers love to get an insight of an artist's daily routine. You're based in Copenhagen: do you have your own studio there and how does your typical day evolve when working in your own space?
I have a studio in Copenhagen, 5 minutes from where I live, and just round the corner from where my kids go to school. I share it with my husband who is a photographer, and he helps out with a lot of stuff. I normally come to the studio at about 9am and start with a coffee, and then there is very little routine to my day. I work on new designs, graphics, labels, and sometimes some boring stuff. I also have two interns that help me out, and I get out out of the studio quite a lot to have meetings with the glassblower, my agent, shops and others. I’m normally done by around 4pm when I have to go and get the kids.
The Candy Collection is the latest of your works - what are your hopes for the project and where would you like to see it going?
I’m working on ramping up production and keeping the production in Denmark, which is very important to me. At the moment I have a lot of control over the process and the quality, and that needs to stay the same. A new collection is in the works right now, so watch this space …
You can follow Helle @hellemardahl