Heymat & Kristine Five Melvær

Written by: Julia Kahrs/Norway Designs

Sonja Djønne, CEO of Heymat, and Kristine Five Melvær have different outlooks as a producer and a designer respectively, but are united in their fascination of the opportunities presented by textiles and their desire to produce sustainable products. Both women also enjoy nature, and with the Foliage mat that they have designed for the exhibition ‘8 Avtrykk’, they hope to bring a little of mother earth into the city.

Kristine Five Melvær designs tableware, textile objects, furniture and lighting and is also a graphic designer, and some of her earliest memories are of art and creating things.

“Creating things was something I enjoyed hugely as a child. Both because you could create what you wanted out of things you had to hand, and because of the feeling I got, where I just got carried away and lost track of time. I had a very creative dad, who I often made things with, for example, costumes, boats and furniture.”– Kristine Five Melvær

When was it that you first discovered this field of work? What led you there?
I attended a Steiner school as a young child, where arts and crafts, materials and colours are an integral part of the educational process. When I moved to state school, I took this approach with me, even though I took a general studies programme. When it came to choosing a career path, I very much wanted to work with something that gave me the same feeling I’d had as a child. Of the hours flying by, rather than waiting for the working day to be over. I also liked how, as a designer, I could work freely and creatively, but still employ logical problem-solving skills. It suited me down to the ground.

What is the best advice you have been given?
The best advice I’ve been given is probably that it is as important to say no as it is to say yes. There comes a point when you’re establishing a one-man business when requests exceed capacity and you quickly end up prioritising the jobs in your inbox that shout the loudest. It is particularly important to have time to design new products because that’s how I make my living. So you may as well be selective about, for example, participating in exhibitions and media enquiries.

What is your relationship with the various materials that you work with?
Kristine Five Melvær: I enjoy working with most materials, but glass and textiles are the materials I work most with, so I have a particularly good relationship with them. I like the freedom that comes from working with glass, as well as the scope for working with graphic elements and colours that textiles provide.
Sonja Djønne: We work with mats and are passionate about the quality of the materials we use. These have to be durable and able to attract dirt and water, but they should also dry easily. We also strive to identify recycled materials that can be used in production. We want to raise the profile of doormats, and our aim is to produce functional, durable and beautiful products.

“We want to raise the profile of doormats, and our aim is to produce functional, durable and beautiful products.”– Sonja Djønne

Could you tell us a little bit about your workplace?
KFM: I’m based in a creative community, working alongside a great group of women, in Grünerløkka. ByHands is an agency that represents some of Norway’s most talented illustrators; Ingrid is one half of Darling Clementine, Marianne runs All Pine Press, and Nora writes and illustrates children’s books. It is both professionally and socially rewarding to share a space like that. We have such great lunches that they often go on a bit too long.
SD: We are five women who have created a pleasant workplace in Mo i Rana, a town just outside the Arctic Circle. Our age range is pretty broad, but we respect one another and believe that everyone has an important part to play in the continued development of Heymat. The company has developed rapidly so far, meaning everyone has to be open to change and willing to learn if we are to continue expanding.

What is the most challenging aspect of being your own boss?
KFM: I suppose it’s having as many roles as you can juggle. It’s about watching your step and prioritising what’s important at all times, and that is not necessarily the job that shouts the loudest. Having said that, I have a great deal of freedom, something that I have come to realise more and more as I have become more established.
SD: The most challenging thing is having overall responsibility and knowing that the incomes of a lot of families depend on the company being successful. Otherwise, I think it’s very enjoyable being my own boss, as I’m a person who likes to get things done and create things. As the boss, you can set the tempo. That’s difficult when you work for someone else.

What motivates you?
KFM: I have a great desire to help ensure that we hang on to products, rather than buy and discard items at a furious pace. It motivates me to work with producers who deliver on quality, and follow that up with a good design that stands the test of time and products that people will hopefully love and care for. I am also motivated by the joy of creating and that process of getting carried away by something that I mentioned earlier.
SD: I am motivated by wanting to achieve objectives. I’m a bit like a tortoise, always plodding on. When I see the finish line, I don’t give up until I’ve reached it.

Do you have any tricks or techniques that never fail if you need inspiration or get a bit stuck?
KFM: The best trick I know is getting away from the screen and getting hands on instead. Preferably somewhere other than my normal workplace; for example, I might go for a walk or head to the library. It is important not to do things in the same way each time, but to ask yourself what feels right for this particular project.
SD: Going for a walk, preferably on the peaks along the Helgeland coast, where, if you are lucky, you can see all the way to Lofotveggen (the Lofoten wall). That never fails to inspire.

Tell us a little about the objects featured in this year’s exhibition.
KFM: The Foliage doormat is a collaboration with Heymat. Foliage brings a little piece of nature into the home, at a time when many of us live in grey towns and cities. The exhibition itself has been inspired by mother earth, a personification that compares nature’s ability and the ability of women to provide life and sustenance.

How did this collaboration come about?
KFM: We have worked together since 2015, when we collaborated on Heymat’s first collection. I like establishing long-term relationships with producers. Once you develop a rapport, you tend to take bigger chances together, which often produces more exciting results. And that is a wonderful thing.
SD: We have worked with Kristine since 2015, when we began developing our first collection. It has proved to be a very productive partnership. We have a clear division of work and great respect for one another’s skills and opinions. We also frequently like the same things, so choosing a direction to take during the process is never difficult.

Kristine, what sort of impression or personal stamp would you say you have left on the works for this exhibition?
The motif is, first and foremost, inspired by the theme for the exhibition. But the interpretation of that theme, mother earth, probably struck more of a chord with me, as I have been pregnant with my second child during the process. Plus, I love getting out into nature and feel strongly about bringing a little bit of nature into the city.

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