Mindcraft Project 2023: Preserving Material Wisdom

The Mindcraft Project launched its annual online exhibition focusing on experimental and explorative design projects from ten of Denmark’s most forward-thinking designers and makers. Each participant explored themes related to nature and  human connections to it. The preservation of material knowledge is the central focus, acknowledging its importance as we adapt to an uncertain future.

Mindcraft Project is an international award-winning platform for Danish design led by Copenhagen Design Agency (CDA). This autumn, the platform presents both a digital and physical exhibition for the first-time post-pandemic. This year, CDA selected Danish designer Sara Martinsen as curator for the Mindcraft Project for her research-driven work with natural fibres and materials.

“All the participants touch on themes of nature and our relationship to nature as humans, in a way where you can understand that all objects were made by a skilled and experienced pair of hands. I believe it is important to keep knowledge of materials alive. Our species needs to adapt now and into the future, possibly faster than we can imagine is is where an experienced set of hands becomes most relevant,” says Martinsen.

SCALE shines light on the work of six of the ten designers here:

Cabinet on Wheels

Anna Søgaard

Anna Søgaard’s imagination is reflected both within her approach to her practice, as well as the objects and products she creates. Deeply connected to her preferred medium of wood, Søgaard’s design approach is explorative and at times naive, allowing her mind to wander between experiments as constant iterations create a through line from one project to the next. Fascinated with the way in which people keep and interact with the objects of daily life, her output contains a strong focus on storage furniture.

“I like to rethink the way in which we surround ourselves with objects in our daily lives. What do we need and why? A goal for my practice is to design objects that people value for its appearance, its function and can see the beauty in them,” she says.

Cabinet on Wheels aims to reflect on how we interact with, and store our items of daily life. Deliberately paired back in aesthetic yet open in function, the cabinet has been constructed from a mixture of solid and laminated Douglas pine. Constructed from the outside in, the design provides a sense of safety for the contained items within – referencing storage containers and shipping crates.

Weight of Wood

Christian Hammer and Jade Chan

Christian Hammer and Jade Chan focus on materials and the process of extracting and shaping materials. The work of Copenhagen-based design duo is built around outcomes that deepen relationships between individuals, objects and the spaces they inhabit. Through production techniques and story telling, each project begins with research into the context of the material or object at hand – which in turn is translated into acute and nuanced forms and functions. Their differences in cultural backgrounds; Chan from Singapore and Hammer from Denmark, provide their studio with constant re-assessment and re-contextualisation – resulting in work that is both grounded in the now and looking ahead to the future.

“We believe that if people can see the materials and objects around them – not just as commodities to be consumed, but naturally sourced resources that have passed through many hands to get to where they are, we can start developing different relationships to them,” say the designers.

The duo have re-imagined three furniture archetypes – the rocking chair, rocking horse and seesaw, through variations in the weight and density of each component. Each piece of furniture utilises two species of wood; oak, Douglas, ash or pine – with various combinations expressing differences in texture and structure, alongside qualities imperceptible to the eye. The varying weight of each wood species breaks the pre-conceived notions of equilibrium within these archetypal forms, with the dense oak and ash disrupting the balance of each when combined with the lighter Douglas or pine. By expressing these intangible qualities, Weight of Wood highlights the individual characteristics of each species, demonstrating the living qualities of this widely used natural resource.

4 x 4

Henrik Tjærby

Danish designer Henrik Tjærby who is based in Spain, works across commissions and production pieces through an inquisitive sense of play. His paired back design language shines a light into the processes of each project, with a special importance placed on how materials are formed and combined through joints and connections. Utilising a mixture of cutting-edge technology and traditional techniques he tests the limits of materials and processes, with a particular focus on championing under-utilised timber species.

“This is what my career has always been about – playing and learning. Where are the boundaries for each material, what can I do with this tool, trying out new technology, which process is best depending on scale, time, budget, testing, pushing the limits. I think this comes across in my work,” says Tjærby.

A holistic approach to sustainability defines the 4 x 4 seating collection by Tjærby.  By presenting the chair in Spanish eucalyptus – a wood species local to Tjærby’s studio in the north-west of Spain, 4 x 4 demonstrates the importance of showcasing an underutilised wood traditionally used for paper pulp. Through minimal geometry and a simple three-piece component system of production, material waste has been kept to a minimum, whilst allowing the design language to re-configure and adapt to various functional and ergonomic considerations.

Pollination Plant Shelter

Marianne Eriksen Scott-Hansen

Surrounded by her work in progress, prototypes and samples, paper artist Marianne Eriksen Scott- has transformed a 19th century stables and carriage house in Frederiksberg into a studio exploding with colour, texture and form. From a former career within the fashion industry, a desire to work hands-on with materials and techniques that would fuel both her maximalist urges and responsibility for the environmental, Marianne was drawn to paper in all its forms – in particular the unique ability of tissue paper to be shaped and formed. Working intuitively with her chosen medium, her creations appear part flora, part fauna – references both real and imagined crosspollinating until her final forms are both familiar yet totally unique. Layer upon layer of coloured tissue is twisted and turned into over-scaled creations that defy the slight material that shaped them. Her work in larger-than-life scale is united with a richness and detail in colour, expressing the freedom and joy Scott-Hansen brings with her into every project.

“I work 100% intuitively, without templates or measurements or even sketches. I simply gather large amounts of tissue paper, mixing the multiple layers of coloured sheets until forms begin to take shape. Through free hand cutting and draping, twisting, turning and braiding, knotting, tying, squeezing, even hammering everything together in an approach that is experimental and organic,” says Scott-Hansen.

Transforming a seemingly fragile sheet of organic material into an installation resembling ropy roots, branches or vines, Pollination Plant Shelter stretches from floor to ceiling and across the canopy. Constructed as a continuously evolving organic shelter, thousands of sheets of coloured tissue paper have been twisted and bound. At first glance each hanging element appears as if it was plucked straight from the rainforest, with closer inspection revealing the intricate detail and texture of each sprouting leaf or twisted root. Due to the way in which the designer has formed each element by hand, the entire installation breaths as it moves in and out when in contact with the elements or the hands of passers-by.


Yukari Hotta

Working from a small storefront studio in the Copenhagen neighbourhood of Nordvest, Yukari  spends her time between the energy of city life and the quiet of the forests and oceans a bike ride away. Trained as a designer, her artistic practice sprouted a decade ago out of a desire to translate tactility and notions of nature into works produced by hand. Natural clays form the base of her practice, each presenting their own unique composition and colour within Hotta’s final forms. Without the use of glaze, her objects gain their unique characteristics when worked by hand – some are left raw, while others are sanded and smoothed, along with the various temperatures at which they are fired. Hotta views each piece as an individual character – often adding holes within her works so they can breath.

“My work is often based around the slow-moving wonders of nature and daily coincidences, but also the people around me.” says Hotta. “I enjoy studying old trees, stones and plants as well as the human body. The way nature grows is very fascinating to me, especially slowly over time”

Ikimono is a gathering of sculptural objects created from clay and stoneware. Each individual character has been formed by hand in a constantly evolving push and pull between Hotta’s direction and the clays own natural behaviours. Created without the use of glaze, unique tones and textures are produced through a mixture of hand-textured imprints, sanding and the clays own natural qualities – mixed with variations in kiln temperatures when fired.

Plain Weave

Sia Hurtigkarl

Working from a combination of cocooned private studio and open industrial workspace on Amager in Copenhagen’s south, the work of designer Sia Hurtigkarl oscillates between smaller human scaled works and larger installations. A strong focus within her outcomes is utilising her training as a designer and craftsperson across various mediums and scales, whilst challenging the meaning and breadth of what textile design and craft is and can be in the future. She combines strong notions of craft with a deep connection to storytelling – referencing the traditions of textiles to portray historical stories into contemporary narratives about culture, craft and locality.

“I like to also think about sustainability within a cultural context, with a focus on human relationships, craftsmanship and cultural heritage.” states Hurtigkarl. “I think of culture as a raw material, that if countries or communities explore it and treat it in the right way, it can contain a greater value.”

Plain Weave shifts both scale and medium to create a three-dimensional spatial object. The miniature warp and weft of standard textile production has been recontextualised using hand dyed and waxed paper strands reaching from floor to ceiling between a slender pine wood frame. A slowly shifting gradient effect from pink to the papers natural white has been meticulously created as a reflection of the laborious process of hand-dying fabric yarns within traditional textile manufacturing. Transparency and a textural volume transform a usually flat craft into an object that interacts with space and light, promoting diversity within textile techniques and outcomes.

All Images Courtesy Mindcraft Project