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How often do you get a chance to look into the future? To see things that are pushing boundaries and shaping the world? Sustain Able Voices, which is running at House of Sweden from now until June 28, celebrates the futuristic visions of upcoming Swedish designers. Featuring objected pulled from that have won the Young Swedish Design award, it’s a fascinating look at a future you definitely want to live in.

While you have plenty of time to head to the House of Sweden and check out out these incredible designs, designers Jan Klingler and Tonje Halvorsen are both in D.C. tonight for what is sure to be an excellent talk about their art. So we sent over some questions about their design inspirations, how they like to work and more. Scroll down to soak up that knowledge, and catch them at the House of Sweden, if you can.

How did you both meet? How did Sustain Able Voices come to be?

Jan: Tonje and I met as winners of the Young Swedish Design award 2019. Apart from the many other amazing things that have happened since then, meeting other designers from different fields is what I am most grateful for. It is so easy to just stay isolated in one’s own field, even in a quite small country such as Sweden. Thanks to Svensk Form (Swedish society of crafts and design), I have met many designers and artists of different backgrounds and work fields who I now call my friends and can hopefully even collaborate with in the future.

When did you both realize you wanted to be designers? Why?

Jan: As I was about to finish high school, I thought it was so strange and disturbing that I should decide to do one thing for the rest of my life. I had discovered interests in so many fields and I wanted to be free to explore and learn more. That is why I felt that design was the perfect fit for me as I can work interdisciplinary and cross-boundary, helping me to both grow professionally as well as a person.

Tonje: I realized very early that I wanted to study design, although I have no education in fashion or art. I’m a graphic designer working mostly digitally with websites and apps. Obsession has been a side project of mine that I started with because I had a desire to create more with my hands.

Your design talk this week specifically deals with sustainability, what kind of changes would you both like to see in the design industry?

Jan: I think that we as designers are becoming more and more aware of our impact on how people consume. This is especially important as the value of design in companies is rising, giving us a stronger voice and an active part in decision processes which we shall use wisely. Sustainability is often directly connected to environmental issues – as it should be – but it is a much larger context including sustainable work environments and hours for both fabrication as well as creation. It is important to always be aware and alert and not to be afraid to speak one’s mind.

Tonje: I would like to see less mass production and that we switch our focus to owning and creating more timeless products.

Who do you both think is doing a good job at being sustainable in the design world?

Jan: There are many companies that actively work on being more and more sustainable in every sense. Recently I have been very impressed by the work of the Dutch design studio PMS that explores fashion design in the digital world. In times of fast fashion, I think their approach and idea of digitalization of runway shows and producing products only to order makes a lot of sense.

I think we need to find a good middle way between the tactile and the digital to work more sustainably. The creative process can be very wasteful, so I think it is always good to test things also in a digital manner, when applicable.

Tonje: There’s a Swedish company called Norrfolks who creates jewelry made from recycled gold and lab grown diamonds. I think that’s the way to head going into the future.

To go off of that, which designers inspire you? Who do you look up to?

Jan: I am constantly inspired by other designers, both the ones who stand close to me in the physical world as well as in the digital. I very much look up to explorative and interdisciplinary creatives as well as the ones giving platform to them. I look up to Neri Oxman and her interdisciplinary team that conducts research at the intersection of computational design, digital fabrication, materials science and synthetic biology.

Tonje: My role model is the talented Bea Szenfeld, and I’m so very happy I get to meet her for the first time here in Washington D.C. She inspires me with her dedication and passion for crafts. She has so much respect for the material she uses and allows the creative process to take time. She has also made it into a business, which inspires me to do the same.

What are your creative processes like? How do you like to work?

Jan: I like to work very explorative and to find inspiration in the most unexpected places. As a creative, I never stop being curious, questioning things in my head and out loud, documenting objects and behaviors in my sketchbook or through images in my phone. Most often these pieces fall together like a puzzle at some point leading me to work on a new project that can be either physical or digital.

Tonje: I don’t sketch at all, I just start and see where it takes me. Usually I have an idea in my head, but it can change along the way. Since I don’t have a background in fashion or clothing construction, I usually sculpture my clothing in a more mathematical way, counting safety pins, using the safety pins’ natural angle to create different shapes, look at the proportions and the weight. I also want to challenge myself to use different techniques, so I experiment a lot with the safety pin to make the textures versatile. Sometimes I open the needle and put beads or sequins on it to make the garment switch color, sometimes I leave the needle bare and hang it on to a net. Sometimes I create a weave with it.

What are your favorite type of design projects to work on?

Jan: This is a very hard question for me to answer. I think I always need to find my personal justification on why I should create and take on a project. Once that is given, I love design briefs that are very open to let me fully explore the underlying potential.

As an example of one of my favorite projects, I love being part of a research team at the department for clinical microbiology at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm. Working on solutions on how to detect and treat infectious diseases faster and more efficiently in an interdisciplinary context is a dream to me.

Tonje: I love working on big pieces, I find it very affecting and it takes me through different stages of the process. It takes a lot of time, approximately 500 hours to make one outfit. That’s the charm with this project. It wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t craft everything by hand and allowed it to take time.

If you both could collaborate with any brand, person, artist, who would you choose? What would you do?

Jan: What a nice question! Here is my wish list that I now send out into the universe:
If I could work with any brand I would love to collaborate with Swatch as it is one of the most influential and memorable brands of my childhood. Who wouldn’t love a limited-edition bacteria watch? Also, it is a dream of mine to have my bacteria works being part of Louis Vuitton Objet Nomades. The collection inspired by travel would be a perfect home for the microbiological fingerprints from all over the world.

If I could work together with any person, I would of course love to meet Neri Oxman as an interdisciplinary designer and architect. Furthermore, I am a big fan of Theresa van Dongen’s work with live bacteria and I am sure we would have many interesting conversations.

If I could work together with any artist, I would love for it to be Lady Gaga. I very much appreciate her explorative creativity, crossing boundaries and playing with norms and societal rules. She makes us think, and even more importantly re-think what is normal in very integrative and inclusive ways.

Tonje: Since I’m a big fan of Bea Szenfeld, I would love to collaborate with her on a piece where metal meets paper. Another dream come true would be to make a stage outfit for Lady Gaga.

What do you both like to listen to while you work? Music, podcasts, silence? Why?

Jan: Ever since I remember I have never really appreciated complete silence. Even when I must concentrate to write, I usually turn on white noise. When working more hands on, I usually listen to music in the background. Spotify is definitely aware of my love for 80’s hits.

Tonje: I usually have a TV show on in the background because it makes me feel like I’m not working.