1+1+1 + SWEET SALONE
1+1+1 + SWEET SALONE
AURORA FOUNDATION Aurora Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 2007, with the aim to encourage and support cultural and charity operations in Iceland and abroad. Over the last 11 years, Aurora has supported and implemented 36 projects in 8 countries, although the main focus has been on Sierra Leone and Iceland. The foundationÂ´s projects range from building schools and training teachers to providing microcredit loans to individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises. One of the newest project is the Sweet Salone project that was initiated by Aurora Foundation back in 2016, following its dream to link together Icelandic and Sierre Leonean designers and craft makers. But Aurora has supported Icelandic designers for several years through its Aurora Design Fund. Collaborating in the Sweet Salone project, apart from Aurora, are a large number of crafts people in Sierre Leone and three Nordic designers/ teams 1+1+1, As We Grow and Kron by KronKron. With Aurora projects, it seeks to build partnerships that maximize results and ensures the professional execution of their projects. Having a flexible approach and following through on projects with commitment, drive, and integrity is important to Aurora Foundation, and the emphasis is always on the success of one project, rather than the limited success of many.
SIERRA LEONE For the past ten years, the Aurora Foundation has been actively involved in various development projects in Sierra Leone. Situated on the west coast of Africa, the country has a population of just over 7 million. Despite Sierra Leone’s incredible beauty and rich resource base, it has one of the lowest per capital incomes in the world. While still recovering from a brutal, decade-long civil war that ended in 2002 – infamously known for mass physical mutilations and child soldiers – Sierra Leone was hit by the Ebola outbreak of 2014. Not only did the epidemic kill thousands of Sierra Leoneans but it scared off many NGOs and investors, as well as the small number of tourists that were just beginning to visit the country. Sierra Leone remains, however, a place ofbreath-taking natural beauty and charming close-knit communities where people of various religions live together in peace and harmony. The dignity of the people in the face of such adversity and their clear desire to better their own lives sparked the Aurora Foundation into action.
UNPREDICTABLE DESIGN COMBI NATIONS FROM 1 1 ICELAND, FINLAND 1 AND SWEDEN
An unpredictable design method 1+1+1 is an experimental collaboration between designers from three Nordic countries – Hugdetta from Iceland, Petra Lilja from Sweden and Aalto+Aalto from Finland. The project examines and reimagines objects by having each studio design an object consisting of three distinct parts and then mixing the parts up into unpredictable combinations. A set of rules is agreed upon but no information is shared during the process in order not to influence each others design work. 1+1+1 is a rare kind of collaboration with no compromises as each studio designs their objects according to their own philosophy.
Combining the different parts into new combinations is an almost brutally concrete form of cooperation.The project started when the participants decided to come together to exhibit at Design March in Reykjavik 2015. Each studio designed a floor lamp. The end-results, 27 different lamp compilations, were totally unpredictable, ranging from strange to exhilarating. Since then, six more types of objects have been mashed up by the Nordic design group 1+1+1. Mirrors, cabinets, candleholders, vases, wallpaper/ textile and candles. 1+1+1 products have been exhibited on a regular basis at the Nordic design weeks in Stockholm, Reykjavik and Helsinki as well as in Beirut, Malmรถ, Riga, London, Tallinn, Dubai, Gdynia and Fiskars village.
SURREALIST INSPIRATION The method of the 1+1+1 process is directly inspired by the so-called picture consequences game, played by children around the world. The first player draws the head of a body, folds it to conceal it and then passes it to the next player for a further contribution. This exercise is a game invented by André Breton and his fellow Surrealists back in 1925. Surrealist artists played this collaborative, chance-based parlor game, also called Cadavre Exquis or Exquisite Corpse. Taking turns adding onto each other’s writings or drawings resulted in fantastic composite texts, gures, collective drawings or collages by for example Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro and Max Morise. What could a three-dimensional exquisite corpse look like? This question sparked the idea for the project 1+1+1. Just like Exquisite Corpse was a perfect parlor game for the Surrealists, the participants in the 1+1+1 group enjoy a process involving elements of unpredictability, chance, unseen elements, and group collaboration—“all in service of disrupting the waking mind’s penchant for order” (MoMA,2017). The interpretation of this method to three-dimensional objects led to interesting discussions about the difference between unexpected results and mistakes? Do all designers share the same opinion on what parts are mistakes in the terms failed results? For example in the first lamp project, the designers obviously had different ideas on how high a floor lamp should be. This was revealed when everybody met in Reykjavik, unpacking and showing their designs to each other for the first time, and one of the lamps was double the size in height as the other two!
Unpredictable yes, but aesthetically pleasing? So after the first exhibition, the 1+1+1 group decided to set some rules, not to avoid crazy combinations but to agree on the definition of each object. The rules contain a minimal amount of information like minimum and maximum measurements to make sure for example that the weight is evenly distributed through out the objectsâ€™ three parts.
EXPLORING THE METHOD FURTHER As in the original Exquisite Corpse drawings, the first few 1+1+1 objects where made with the idea of stacking each part on top of the other. When deciding on the rules for the wallpaper design,the group explored multiple ways of joining the three parts. Stacking, layering and dividing the format of the print report into three fields. The final choice was the layering, which resulted in pattern designs applied on wallÂ paper and textile for fashion garments.
At one point the 1+1+1 group got a request from an interior store to make an object for them. As the group decided to design candles, the design process, that is normally individually executed, had to take another shape. Instead of revealing the design last minute before photo shoot and installing an exhibition, the group had to meet and show models of their designs, put the parts together in the 27 combinations and make minor alterations in order to make the designs fit for casting wax.
It’s really amazing how this seemingly simple method of unpredictability can be continuously explored. One last example of that is when the 1+1+1 group decided to approach Aalto University’s ADD LAB and make a series of 3D-printed vases. Each studio delivered a digital model of the original vase and the collaborator; Doctoral candidate Ashish Mohite, got the role of making the ‘unpredictable’ combinations by colliding the different forms with each other in the computer.
THE AMAZING EX PERIENCE IN SIERRA LEONE IS THE LATEST EXPLORATION FOR 1+1+1 THE GROUP, YET ANOTHER COM PLETELY DIFFERENT WAY OF WORKING AROUND THE SAME METHOD OF UNPRE DICTABILITY, AND HOPEFULLY, IT WILL NOT BE THE LAST. 24
THE TEAM 1+1+1
1+1+1 is a collaboration between the designers Róshildur Jónsdottir and Snæbjörn Stefánsson of studio Hugdetta from Iceland, Petra Lilja from Sweden and Klaus and Elina Aalto of studio Aalto+Aalto from Finland. The designers met by chance at the Al 13 exhibition during the Stockholm Design Fair in 2013 where Snæbjörn was exhibiting his cast aluminum joints and fittings. The Swede and the Finns were invited to exhibit in the Hugdetta studio a month later during Design March Reykjavik. The following year they met again but it was not until 2015 that the group 1+1+1 was formed. “We all met at Stockholm Furniture Fair where Petra was exhibiting at the fair and the others at a Finnish-icelendic event called “We Live Here”. We were hanging out when one of us asked if we had any plans to exhibit during Design March”. No one had any plans and after a moment of silence we kind of said in unison “lets do something together”, says Elina Aalto.
â€œI think it was Elina who came up with a project structure that was convenient enough to work on separately and that could be executed within a very short time frameâ€? recalls Petra Lilja. Said and done, 4 or 5 weeks later the designers met up in Reykjavik, approximately 48 hours before the opening of their first joint exhibition as 1+1+1. Now, the routine looks more or less always as follows: The designers present their original object made in three parts, to each other for the first time (nothing of the design process is shared before itâ€™s ready), a photo-shoot is scheduled to document all 27 combinations, the photos are sent to the graphic designer Tina Daamgard in Copenhagen who makes a stop-motion movie and updates the website, the objects are then installed and exhibited. Since 2015 and including the series of objects made most recently in Sierra Leone, 1+1+1 have designed 11 dierent series of unpredictable objects. Having different approaches to design, the designers complement each other well but the most important factors that formed 1+1+1 are friendship, creative driving force and of course, a great sense of humor!
THE SWEET SALONE DESIGN PROJECT Central to the designersâ€™ approach is sensitivity to the existing traditions of production methods in Sierra Leone, understanding of the current technical know-how and knowledge of the available materials, to ensure practical design-solutions. Working together with the local designers and craftspeople of Sierra Leone proved crucial for a successful design process. All products born from the project are produced under the label Sweet Salone, which is an affectionate term for Sierra Leone, frequently used among the locals. The products and ideas resulting from this bilateral design initiative have by far exceeded the expectations of all those involved. Together the collaborating teams have created new products in a traditional Salone manner, almost entirely from local materials that directly reflect their country of origin, yet are based on Nordic designs. The aim of the Sweet Salone project is to support the design and crafts industry in Sierra Leone, and help protect traditional craft-making skills and materials that might otherwise disappear. The project has already provided the Sierra Leonean craftspeople with new ideas and opportunities for their business, and simultaneously broadened the horizons of the Nordic designers. Last, but not least, beautiful and valuable objects are being created, from this sensitive and smart design initiative.
PERSPECTIVE ON SWEET SALONE 1+1+1
NORDIC DESIGN + SIERRA LEONEAN CRAFT = TRUE In the fall of 2017 the 1+1+1 group got an invitation from Aurora Foundation, to collaborate with local crafts people in Sierra Leone. The unpredictable method of the 1+1+1 group took a new direction when sharing the design process for the first time with other people. Even though the designers brought some ideas with them to Sierra Leone, the group was agreeing on the importance of not deciding everything beforehand but to learn as much as possible from the local collaborators. A fun and complex process took shape, where communication and finding ways to mutual understandings was core. The designers learned very much about materials and craft techniques from the collaborators and some initial ideas had to be dropped because various limitations made them impossible to implement. Getting introduced to and inspired by a number of crafts people with different areas of expertise in the day-time, they went back to the living quarters spending the evenings making new designs. This new situation made the designers go back to the analogue way of folded-drawing technique to create unpredictable combinations with pen and paper, on the spot.
REFLECTIONS FROM A TEXTILE MARKET As designers and travelers in general, we, the 1+1+1 design team were eager to experience the local markets and touch and feel the different artifacts and materials exclusive to this particular region of the world. I was very interested to know if there was a local textile industry and especially if I could find typical African prints. The area for the textile market was amazing with its large amounts of sale stands packed together on a narrow street and we were surrounded by perfectly packed stacks and rows of hanging fabric. We could find all patterns and colors imaginable in this inspiring place and I was particularly interested in finding a type of odd patterns that I had only seen pictures of online.
Patterns with different functional artifacts depicted, like fans, cameras or umbrellas that for me seems funny and a bit absurd to use as a decorative patterns. I asked around in a few stands about where the fabric was made, because of course I wanted authentic, traditional fabric made in Sierra Leone! The answers I got varied from yes to no or more specific like made in Ghana or China. China!? I then recalled coming home from Kenya, many years ago, where I had bought fabrics with different prints, just to find out that it said made in China in small letters on the edge of the fabric. It left me disappointed. I thought it was made in Africa. But just what did I mean by that? Just using the phrase made in Africa made me feel pretty ignorant to the fact that Africa is a very big place, a continent with many different countries, rich and poor and many cultures.
Coming back to the apartment that evening, I did some quick searches on the Internet and realized that the funny fabric patterns I was looking for, actually are the so called Dutch wax prints made in the Netherlands. Western designers commonly call these patterns ‘tribal’. Quoting anthropologist Nina Sylvanus, something that ”harks back to a sort of evolutionist, colonial perspective which attempts to freeze Africa as a place where ‘tradition’ is still happening.” She continues, it’s ”not how ’African’ or traditional they are, but that they are regarded by wearers in places like Togo, Ivory Coast, and Ghana as international and cosmopolitan. West Africans who buy bulks of the fabric, generally to be tailored into dresses and suits, are fully aware of the fabric’s complicated origins; they often pay a premium for European-made cloth, even though West African-made and, increasingly, Chinese-made iterations are available for considerably cheaper” (Julia Felsenthal, 2012, The Curious History of “Tribal” Prints, Slate.com). Reading more about the wax textiles made me realize that they are complex cultural hybrids (Dutch/ West African/Indonesian) and a good example of globalization. I got a well-learnt lesson to become more aware of how evolutionist, colonial history still affects thoughts and behaviors in myself.
BRAMA TOWN Brama Town is a small, beautiful village of 750 people, around 30km south of Freetown with an award winning womenâ€™s football team. It is home to a community of basket weavers who run a small stall by the main road. Samuel Walker Mansaray is the village chief and head of the Brama Basket Weavers group. Samuel was taught weaving by his brother-in-law and had the idea of bringing weaving to the community. Today, most of the youth participate in the industry which provides the community with its main source of income. Materials are all sourced locally and the work is shared amongst the people of the village. We will be happy to keep visiting, to absorb more of the aura that Brama Town exudes through its incredible community spirit.
BRAMA TOWN, SHARP SHARP! Brama town is a village about an hour drive from Freetown. A lot of nice memories linger from this calm place where the designers spent a lot of their time, working with basket weavers outdoors in the shade of a big tree. Samuel Mansaray, the village Chief and representative of the Limba tribe, was the main contact person but the designers got to know and work closely together with a lot of villagers. In fact the large amount of 1+1+1 combinations had very many people engaged in the production, both men and women of Brama town. The original idea was to make lampshades for standing table lamps and the designers brought scaled drawings to the first meeting with Samuel and his team.
The designers were shown the bamboo trees and how the branches are cut and sliced into desired thicknesses for weaving. In order to make more sense in communicating the designs with the basket weavers, the designers came back with full-scale, front view drawings of the shapes that later were developed further into cut-outs, making it possible for the weavers to use them as templates to check the accuracy during the manufacturing process. The accuracy or “perfection” in it self would not be the main aim for the designers, being open minded to the knowledge and styles of the weavers, if it wasn’t for the 1+1+1 concept. If the look of the three original 1+1+1 parts differs too much between the different combinations, the 1+1+1 concept gets lost and it will seem like a large amount of random shapes. This is an issue in any hand made production and maybe the reason why most of the previous 1+1+1 designs have either been made in one original only or made with industrial techniques. Intrigued by what qualities the hand made could bring to the 1+1+1 concept the designers had many long discussions about the shapes with the different collab orators in Sierra Leone.
Especially in Brama town, these discussions where filled with a sense of warm humor. Rósa (designer Róshildur Jónsdottir, Iceland) quickly got the nickname “Sharpsharp” after trying her best to verbalize the shape of the sharp edge-Icelandic design, when realizing that the metaphor “Chinese hat” was not a reference she shared with the basket weavers. There was of course the option to be pleased with the 1+1+1 standing lampshades and let the weavers keep practicing the many parts of the design combinations, but why settle so quickly? New designs for hanging lamps were delivered to the weavers and after a few rounds of iterations they were finding the most desirable sizes. The designers also came up with a new type of object, the “basket-tables”, a side table with handles and a wooden lid covering the storage compartment. The basket tables looked great at the first try and the most experienced basket weavers, Lamin, Mohamed and Joe had started to understand the type of form language used by the 1+1+1 team. After a week, the jeep was fully loaded with objects and the designers brought as many boxes with them back on the planes to Europe. By great assistance of Regina and Foday from Aurora Foundation, the production continued and the weavers in Brama town made a very impressive amount of the somewhat crazy 1+1+1 lamp combinations! The villagers of Brama town treated the design team with great hospitality, and the designers where happy to show their appreciation by donating school materials and footballs to the two local school with children between grades 1 to 9.
BRIMA THE CERAMIST Ceramist Brima worked as a caretaker in a housing compound hosting the Sierra Leone Adult Education Association (SLADEA) a local organization aiming to reduce adult illiteracy rate and promote the non-formal educational sector of Sierra Leone. In 2006, when a three-year training course in pottery making was kick-started by SLADEA in cooperation with a German institute, Brima became one of those offered the opportunity to participate.While most of his fellow trainees dropped out during the course, Brima, known for his calm focus and determination, has enjoyed pottery making from the beginning. After several years of hard work, he has made a name for himself as a skilled potter, producing rustic and durable houseware items from locally gathered clay on his potterâ€™s wheel. Brima currently runs the only pottery center in Sierra Leone. His goal is to earn enough to be able to support all his five children through higher education.
THE EMPTY CERAMIC SCHOOL On the way to Brama Town, the 1+1+1 team took a detour off the Chinese under-constructionhighway onto the red dirt road leading towards Campbell town, a detour that could take anything from 10 minutes up to an hour depending on if the road was flooded or if a truck was blocking the way or all kinds of other unpredictable events making the designers humbly aware of their own sense of time and efficiency. Finally arriving they met Brima Koroma and were welcomed into what was a very spacious building with lots of daylight coming through the glass windows. The main room was very inspiring with a row of potterâ€™s wheels and a large table in the center filled with bisque fired tableware.But as Brima was telling the story of how the school had no funding anymore and even in the past, how hard it was to attract young people to learn the craft skills of a ceramist, the traces of a lost dream started to unveil in the quiet emptiness of the place and in the layers of dust covering the works as they seemed to have been frozen in time and process.
A worn table of glaze samples was hanging on the wall. Brima had brought it to Sierra Leone after his graduation from a German craft school. The 1+1+1 designers immediately made the decision to come up with a design to support Brima and drew vases using the folded paper technique. Digging up the clay and processing it into the desired consistency for throwing obviously took some time and the designers paid a visit again on the last day of their stay to check on the then leather hard clay vases Brima had manage to make. The fact that the team asked Brima for nine 1+1+1 combinations at once, showed proof of the level of skills he possesses. Asking about what glazes to choose from, the designers quickly realized the scarcity of materials at the studio,
so they settled for the greyish-black glaze shown in a few of the existing objects in the studio. The scarcity was obvious also in the trials using thick lacquer paint on red objects, an experiment opening up for novelty both as function and aesthetic qualities in the eyes of the designers. The lack of pigments needed for the black glaze determined the outcome of the 1+1+1 vases and candle holders, a result that the designers are perhaps even more happy with in the end, because of itâ€™s narrative. Each object carries a bit of the story of Brima Koroma and the empty ceramic school in Sierra Leone. Please buy one or why not a set of many, to support hiscause! And by the way, transparent glaze is the new black!
COTTON WEAVING Ibrahimâ€™s grandfather taught him to weave as a child. While 12-year-old Ibrahim would have preferred to be digging in the garden or playing football, his grandfather insisted he weave alongside him every day after school. Today, at 32 years of age, Ibrahim is so grateful for his grandfatherâ€™s persistence. Unlike many of his peers, he has the means to earn an income. Always outstandingly dressed, it is a joy to watch Ibrahim rhythmically interlacing yarn in time with music alongside his fellow weavers, beneath a banana tree in a Freetown schoolyard.
IBRAHIMâ€™S LOOM AND GARDEN One of the many memorable moments in Sierra Leone was when Regina (Aurora Foundation) introduced the 1+1+1 designers to Ibrahim Kallon. It was another hot day and the 1+1+1 Aurora crew had been stuck in traffic doing different errands in the busy, buzzing and inspirationally chaotic every-day city life of central Freetown. Pulling off into the dirt road passing the Lumley Beach Market (another wonderful place where other collaborators have their market stalls) entering through a metal door, the contrast to the car ride couldnâ€™t be greater. The quiet, leafy, big space behind the high wall was a schoolyard without any kids at the time. Passing neat rows of various plants growing and an impressive green house, the designers found Ibrahim the weaver in the most serene corner of the garden.
His loom was like a piece of art in its simplicity and construction. With it, he makes long and narrow pieces of weaving that are sewn together to make blankets, bed spreads or hammocks sold in the markets. One example of limitations that came to restrict the 1+1+1 original ideas was the type of textile thread and colors available for the weaving designs. The team quickly realized that itâ€™s very difficult for the crafts people to get large amounts of materials from the town markets. Ibrahim could spend several hours a day, walking around searching the markets for yarn, trying to coÂ llect enough of the selected colors for a design.The designers went to a few markets themselves to look for materials and colors and realized it was not possible to find desirable colors in the desired quality and quantity during the period of time they spent in Freetown. This fact brought important insights regarding how used to unlimited supplies of materials the designers are in their home countries, but also how time and efficiency are defined differently.
FODAY THORONKA TAILOR Foday is married with two young sons and lives in Murray Town. Foday has one of those magical smiles that brighten your day. He is calm, patient and a skillful tailor. Regina, Aurora’s director based in Sierra Leone, is one of his greatest fans and best clients. She takes all her visitors to brave the scary-looking dogs and visit his home-based workshop consisting of a corrugated roof over a working table and sewing machine. Each dress sold represents another brick in Foday’s house. Thanks to all the dress commiss ions, the house is taking shape dress by dress.
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Lower photo Birta Ólafsdóttir Upper photo Olivia Acland Birta Ólafsdóttir Birta Ólafsdóttir Birta Ólafsdóttir Olivia Acland Olivia Acland Olivia Acland Olivia Acland Birta Ólafsdóttir Olivia Acland Birta Ólafsdóttir Olivia Acland Michael Duff Michael Duff Olivia Acland Olivia Acland
RITSTJÓRN/ EDITING Róshildur Jónsdóttir, Regína Bjarnadóttir HÖNNUN/ DESIGN Ármann Agnarsson, Helgi Páll Melsteð PRENTUN/ PRINTING Prentmet ÚTGEFANDI PUBLISHER 1+1+1 Aurora Foundation
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Olivia Acland Birta Ólafsdóttir Birta Ólafsdóttir Birta Ólafsdóttir Olivia Acland Birta Ólafsdóttir Birta Ólafsdóttir Birta Ólafsdóttir Birta Ólafsdóttir Olivia Acland Olivia Acland
OTHER PHOTOS BY Elena Aalto, Foday Balama, Klaus Aalto, Petra Lilja, Róshildur Jónsdóttir, Regína Bjarnadóttir and Snæbjörn Stefánsson
Online magazine on the collaboration between the 1+1+1 design team and the Aurora Foundation.