By Julie Guldbrandsen | Photo: Courtesy of Louise Campbell
Danish designer Louise Campbell fronts a new wave of young and talented Scandinavian designers, who challenge the tradition of ‘Scandinavian Modern’ and offer new visual experiences and perspectives on design. You might know her from her collaborations with Royal Copenhagen and Louis Poulsen, you might have seen her designs at MoMA, or read about her in Wallpaper. Starting up her own studio in the mid-90s, she has since become a critically-acclaimed designer with a strong, idealistic approach to her work.
Campbell is one of Scandinavia’s most progressive current designers, making furniture and lighting for a long list of renowned international design companies from Zanotta to Stelton. Campbell’s designs are always experimental, with an edge and a special charm to them. She loves playing around with the function and form of everyday objects, and challenges conventional materials and the manufacturing process.
Having a Danish father and a British mother, Campbell grew up and studied partly in Denmark, partly in England. Despite her dual nationality, the Dane in Campbell is her dominant half. “I’m more blunt and less patient than my gentler, more reflecting, far better mannered English counterpart. The two halves live in a constant battle with one another,” she explains. It seems that this relationship is also transferred to her aesthetic vision. We are definitely dealing with a designer who is not your average Scandinavian minimalist.
Campbell describes her journey to become a designer as very confused. She switched between art college and design school four times before finally settling on design. After achieving a degree from The London College of Furniture, she returned to Denmark to study at The Danish Design School, where everything suddenly fell into place, and she went from bewildered to very passionate. This gave her an incredible drive by which she still feels fuelled. In 1996, shortly after graduating from The Danish Design School, Campbell set up her own studio in Copenhagen, and her career as an independent designer gradually started to take form. Today, she can list major design brands like Royal Copenhagen, Holmegaard, Zanotta, Stelton, Muuto and HAY as her clients. Setting up her own business does not mean that she has become any sort of businesswoman though: “I am, and my work is, 100% emotion driven,” she makes clear.
Inspiration and form
There is a saying that a cobbler does not necessarily have good shoes. This somewhat holds true for Campbell when it comes to her own home. While Campbell dreams of simple and large open spaces, she cannot live with them in reality. She finds comfort in having her things, her memorabilia and interests, close to her, and describes this as the English side in her. Again the battle between “the English herbaceous border and the Scandinavian minimalist” is in play. Maybe this is part of the reason why she is so good at creating a characteristic Scandinavian aesthetic that still surprises.
To Campbell peace of mind is the primary dynamic when searching for inspiration. It is less about the things we surround ourselves with, and more about keeping an open mind. She adds that all change can inspire, such as travelling and meeting new people, but only if our minds are open to finding the potential in these encounters. The in-depth studying of a subject, whether it is of functional or existential nature will also open up to new experiences, she believes.
As a designer Campbell sees herself as someone who provides form. According to her, this can be very functional form and at other times close to completely useless form. Her job as a designer is all about sculpting her way through various challenges in three dimensions. Each object that Campbell designs has its own purpose. While her commercial works speak for themselves, her one-offs are more complex. This is where she gets the chance to experiment, because they do not necessarily have to have a purpose. When I ask Louise to describe her brand, she replies: “My brand is me. There is no difference. It means that it cannot be defined in a few words. It is as moody and unpredictable as I am. And as vulnerable.”
Being true to yourself
When building up her career, Campbell had to take on an array of projects for survival. Now being an established and recognized designer, she has the privilege of being far more selective when choosing her projects. Essentially what Campbell would like to achieve is to only make things that she finds it important to bring to life. When looking at her impressive portfolio of work, it is also those products that have been compromised least by commercial limitations which are her favourites. Campbell is working towards being able to design objects that are as close as possible to her own intentions. She is and wants to be true to herself.
For more information, please visit: www.louisecampbell.com