BIRGITTE DUE MADSEN
7115: We’d love to hear more about your journey into the world of art and design. Were you always interested in the work you’re doing today?
Birgitte: I have always had my eye on the artworld and been drawn to tactile surfaces, the body of a sculpture, huge colorful canvases, and the abstraction that lies in all of this, since I was a child. I remember the first art piece that took my breath away; it was Yves Klein at Louisiana in Humlebæk, Denmark. I was 8 years old and I remember the feeling of absolute blessing, disappearing into these huge monochrome canvases of cobalt blue and abysmal gold. I have never been particularly drawn to figurations, much more towards lines, curves, geometry, harmony, mathematics and balance, but in an abstract sense. Which translates in my work today, where I primarily work with classic geometries, regardless if I'm working on a sculpture or a piece of furniture. I work very intuitively but at the same time very methodically.If one goes into the basic principles of geometry the possibilities of form are endless. I believe that people resonate well with the inherent appeal of basic forms and value recognizability.
Tucked in a cozy road along the scenic lawns and symmetrical storefront of Frederiksberg, Birgitte’s Due Madsen’s studio is a kaleidoscopic menagerie of shapes. The shelves running along the walls are lined with oblong blocks that will one day be transformed into prisms and her workspace is strewn with curves and lines ready to be molded into new and striking silhouettes. But just as focusing in on each brushstroke gives new appreciation for a beautiful painting, you can feel the geometric precision and complex textures as you walk closer to every sculpture and design.
Today, we’re sharing a wonderful discussion with our friend Birgitte Due Madsen about her creative origins and how it colors her approach to art. A multi-dimensional artist and designer based in Copenhagen, Birgitte’s work covers everything from furniture to ceramics and sculptures. Across all these mediums, the common thread that runs through her work is a devotion to her process and a sharp instinct when it comes to the small details. From the sourcing of the material to the ideating of the design, her work reflects on classical references as a starting point. The result is an aesthetic that is timeless and balanced, drawing from history and modernity to create something singular to her vision.
Although we could’ve spent hours on each piece in her portfolio, what will stick with us most about our time with Birgitte was her warmth and openness. You can feel her thoughtfulness radiate from her art and that her thoughtfulness is born from her love of the craft. Her devotion resonated deeply with us at 7115, and we’re so excited to share her story with you.
7115: Stepping into your studio, there's a unique balance of refinement and warmth that resonated with us. Can you share how this translates into your creations?
Birgitte: It's very important for me to be surrounded with my work which means that my studio and desks are filled with pieces, material samples, prototypes, books, tools, abstract artifacts and everything that inspires me and I think that creates the warmth you mention. I don’t organize my samples in boxes as I need to be able to see them since my following work naturally is an extension of my former work. Every time I have the opportunity I want to expand my material range. I often translate the same piece into different materials. I evolve when experimenting with new materials and I think it's very healthy to challenge yourself every once in a while, to be able to progress as a creative mind.
7115: What does a typical day in the studio look like?
Birgitte: There is no such thing as a typical day, I'm afraid. I manage everything myself and actually work more as an artist, than a designer. Instead of having a gallerist, I also promote and sell the pieces myself. A day in my studio typically starts with having some kind of a plan, with multiple post-its in front of me, only to be rearranged into a whole new agenda after having opened my inbox. I try to get a couple of exhibitions a year, so there is a lot of writing back and forth about this, and managing the studio in general. While I’m working in the studio, it’s always open to guests, offering the opportunity to view, feel, and experience the works. It is these personal interactions that truly illuminate the essence of the pieces. I find great significance in personally meeting and understanding customers, especially since I also provide bespoke design, with the possibility of adjusting a design to suit their preferences. The other part of my work is when I'm in production mode, working towards an exhibition or developing new prototypes at my favorite residency Statens Værksteder for Kunst, where I'm lucky enough to have a new stay spring 2024.
7115: Going hand in hand with materials, there seems to be a lot of intention to the shapes and designs you create and they all work together cohesively and interplay with light. Could you share your process of finding inspiration for your next design or shape? Is it an intuitive journey for you and where do you draw inspiration from?
Birgitte: It is very much an intuitive journey, I draw a lot of inspiration from cultural and historical references in my work, such as sport and fashion as a tribute to the preceding. Fashion is clearly the form of communication that stands stronger than any other cultural phenomenon. Rights, emancipation and social changes are directly linked to the development of the way we dress, and this moves against the background of economics and politics, the view of gender, class, sexuality and age. Fashion always moves faster than both art and politics. It is at the forefront of trends, celebrating minorities and the autonomous.A museum that particularly captivates me is the Museum of Hunting and Nature in Paris, where I immerse myself in its unique exhibits for hours, always gathering inspiration for a future project.One of my main interests and often my focal point is light, which serves a both functional aspect and a conceptual exploration of the interplay between light and shadow within shapes. I approach my work holistically with each piece generating new ideas and setting the tone for the next journey. At the same time, I hold a deep respect for craftsmanship, striving to keep traditional methods relevant, a principle that guides my choices in future projects.
7115: The importance of material is a significant part of your work and you certainly have a diverse range of them, from wood, resin, to your signature gypsum. How do you approach the process of learning and mastering them? Have there been any memorable materials that left a lasting impression?
Birgitte: I especially love working with resin and natural stones. This has been my primary focus the past 8 years. I remember when I first started working with resin, it was completely breathtaking, alluring and highly seductive. I went from a mainly white portfolio, almost without colors at all, as my focus was in designing light up till then. Now standing in front of a world of colors, with different degrees of opacity and transparency, the possibilities in resin really blew my mind. It was a long process, starting with learning to focus on how to enhance the inherent qualities of the material instead of being predestined on an idea of specific design. It's really all about the material and being submissive towards it. The most memorable moment so far, in terms of materials, was when I visited my stone supplier, with whom I have several collaborations, for the first time. Together, we selected stones for a special project we did for the Danish Embassy in Rome, launching a bespoke collection of furniture with 12 different types of stones crafted in one piece of furniture. This project led to an exhibition at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology in Milan, during the Milan design week in 2021. That was it for me, working with ancient materials, millions of years old, really makes you feel like a parenthesis in life and you have to be very submissive towards the material, in hope of understanding and underlining the inherent and natural beauty of the material. I have never seen beauty like this and it still makes me very proud thinking of this project, being allowed to work with such rare and exquisite materials.
7115: Crafting everything by hand without the use of molds and featuring your deliberate personal touch is a distinctive aspect of your work, especially in this digital age. Can you share your insights from this approach? What does intention mean to you?
Birgitte: My approach has consistently been grounded in an analogue method, where I work with materials by hand, sculpting and experimenting to refine the designs. I initiate my process by shaping directly in the material without sketching first. This approach allows me to assess dimensions physically, enabling me to move around the work and evaluate its proportions. I analyze the work quite practically; for instance, I may sit in a chair to feel the proper tilt of the back or the depth of the seat. It is essential to make tests with my own body in a 1:1 scale as it allows me to make adjustments directly. It’s only after I’ve created a design that I start drawing with a technical purpose to define measurements and angles or to visualize cutting plans. I have a very limited use of technical programs, as I find that working physically provides a more real assessment of how the piece interacts within a spatial context, as I create designs that are intended to relate to a space both physically and aesthetically. Even though we live in a very digital age I find it more important than ever to retain the craftsmanship and the memory of a physical presence in my body of work. That’s why I work with so many skilled craftsmen, to obtain my goals, in materials I do not master myself. Building on long relations, where I don’t shuffle for prices but value loyalty reciprocally, they allow me to be as much part of the production as possible.
7115: Denmark is a renowned hub for its arts and design scene. How has being based in Copenhagen influenced your work in both of these areas?
Birgitte: I am very proud to be living and working in Copenhagen but I take a lot of inspiration from artists around the world, especially Roni Horn, Rachel Whiteread, Dahn Vo, and Sophie Calle. Denmark is a quite small country however we have a society built on trust and social mobility that enables us to travel and study abroad, build connections, and hence formed by other cultures. With that said I think Denmark has influenced me in my minimalistic approach to construction and the fascination of lines, curves and geometry. As an example my most recent furniture series, H-series, features a highly minimalistic, geometrical and graphic construction allowing the solid oak and textile of the cushion to be prominent. Light has always been a huge inspiration and I think it stems from living in a northern country where it’s dark half of the year. Light is crucial to me and is the function I keep returning to. That you can study or observe the material as both active and passive, on and off, adds 50% more possibilities in the perception of the material as well as expression.
7115: Is there one project or piece that holds a special place in your heart?
Birgitte: A piece called ‘Time’ is dear to my heart and very special in my portfolio as it is the only piece with movement. It is an embodiment of time as a concept and it surprises and attracts with its soft surface and deep reflections of light and shadow. The piece originated in gypsum, and with my material approach in general, I had to translate the piece into other materials to further study the concept. It was then made in resin and marble, which both support the piece naturally well. Next, I plan to incorporate wood, as I believe the softness of the material will compliment the piece, providing a striking contrast to the current harder materials.
7115: When someone comes across your work, what do you hope they experience or take away from it?
Birgitte: I hope people feel the great admiration of materials that I hold when experiencing my work. Craftsmanship and materials are the very core of my work and dictate the process when developing my designs and art. I hope people take away the value of bespoke design and caring for the things they surround themselves with. In my design philosophy, I strive to design things with so much beauty and fine craftsmanship that you will never depart from it. Objects of desire you might say. Objects you care for and during the years wish to repair. While it may take more time, and incur additional costs, the endeavor is about constructing a perspective and altering the narrative for creations that endure.