Interview with artist and designer Siri Skillgate of DUM KERAMIK

For the first ARYS Store interview we had a chat with Swedish artist and designer Siri Skillgate. Siri tells us how she got into pottery, her inspiration and why the term "sustainability" is a capitalistic trap.

Hello Siri, can you please tell us more about your work and life?

I recently moved back to Stockholm. Currently my life revolves around renovation projects. I am renovating a flat, an old wooden boat I inherited from my father and my new studio. So I don't get to ceramics as much as I would like at the moment. Moving a ceramics studio involves a lot of work and effort, and it's impossible to work without a proper studio.
Last summer I set up my grandmother's old loom in my summer cottage. In the fall I will bring out a capsule of wall hangings.

photography by Fanny Lundgren @fslundgren

 When and why did you get into the art of pottery? 

I am an industrial designer and have mainly worked with furniture design. A few years ago I started to question a lot of things in my life. After the closure of my design studio, I became very depressed and lost all motivation to work with design. As an attempt to find the joy of designing again, I started a ceramics course and was immediately hooked. It's kind of a new relationship, but I hope and believe that we will stay together forever, me and clay. Working with clay is fantastic and serves as a kind of therapy for me. It allows me to switch off my brain and let my hands do the work.

photography by Fanny Lundgren @fslundgren

Did something specific inspire your art/pottery style?

I grew tired of designing “perfect” and polished objects. That became the aesthetic starting point. The expression is also highly influenced by the production process.

photography by Fanny Lundgren @fslundgren

How is it working by yourself? Can you imagine having a team behind you?

Honestly, I LOVE working alone. Ceramics is a kind of therapy for me and I love being able to go completely inside myself when I work. I also love the freedom of not having to adapt to other people. I can choose when I want to work and when I don't.

But right now it's hard to find time to say yes to projects, so I've hired an assistant to work with me in the studio a few days a week. It's the perfect combination - Amanda brings a lot of new energy to my work, but I still have time to work myself.

photography by Fanny Lundgren @fslundgren

Can you tell us more about how to be sustainable as a brand? 

Sustainability is an expression I have complicated feelings about. In a way the whole concept of DUM KERAMIK builds on a sort of sustainable thinking - both from an ethical and economical perspective but it's not something I use as a reason to purchase my work. I think the term sustainability (especially environmentally) is a capitalistic trap. It's not sustainable to produce more stuff- regardless of if it's produced at a large scale in a factory on the other side of the globe or in small scale in my own studio. The problem is not what we are consuming but how we consume - and maybe even THAT we consume. I think this is a highly political question that needs to be adressed on a higher level and not put on the shoulders of the individuals. 

What I find most interesting to discuss in terms of a sustainable brand when working as a craftsman is the economical sustainability. It's hard to find customers if the prizes are too high but at the same time I never sell anything that I can't make a good profit on. This is my job and I think it's important to take responsibility to charge for your work. Both for my own sake but also for the sake of other makers. It's hard to get consumers to understand the amount of work and time put on each object. 

When I design my work, I always calculate the costs carefully, and if it becomes too expensive or I feel that the final price is too high due to cumbersome production methods, I start from scratch and rethink everything. 

photography by Fanny Lundgren @fslundgren

You used to be based in Malmö, a small seaside city. Did the city play a part in your creative work and expressing your creativity? How is the creative scene in Malmö like?

Malmö is a great city to be in as a creative person! And I would not have had the chance to really focus on developing my ceramics if it wasn’t for the reasonable costs to live and sustain there. Both housing, studio spaces and living is relatively affordable which makes it a city where people can take a chance to really focus on what they dream of doing. The creative community in Malmö is also fantastic. People are super nice and helpful - something that I think is quite unique in the creative world. Stockholm for an example is a much more competitive place to work as a creative. 

What advice would you give young creatives on their way of pursuing their art?

My number one advice would be to really giving it a chance. If you don’t try it fully you will never know if it will fly. Save up money and cut off all your unnecessary expenses. Then stop everything else that you are doing and focus fully on your creative practice. Decide for a time frame - like a year or so - and after that evaluate if you think you can really make it sustainable - both from an economical perspective and an emotional. It can be really hard and frustrating to do what you love - especially if people question it. Believe in yourself but don’t be too hard on yourself either if you find that in the end it's not what you want to do with your life.

photography by Fanny Lundgren @fslundgren

Do you have exciting projects in the future that you would like to share with us?

My main focus is to set up the studio and start producing again. But in a next step, I aspire to make larger and more space-specific objects. A dream would be to work on a public art project.

Thank you very much for your time.

Click here to find our selection of Dum Keramik homeware and decorations.