"What I hope to do with my work is to spread a message of self-love, awareness and wellness. These are concepts which I am consistently working on within myself and wish to spread", says American Swedish glass artist Jo Andersson. A grad of Konstfack, Jo Andersson earlier in spring presented what was a distinctive and boundary-pushing exhibition with Galleri Duerr in Stockholm.
Jo Andersson, Light Vessel Minis, Galleri Duerr. Photo: Serinyà
C-P: Growing up in the US and having studied there prior to Konstfack; was there anything that surprised you about the way of things in art here? J.A: Absolutely! I can really only answer in terms of my experience within the glass community because most of my experience prior to moving to Sweden involved glass exhibitions and galleries, and not so much contemporary art. One of the first things I noticed was how much support/opportunities there are here in the form of grants and scholarships for artists and craftspeople to pursue their practice. I found this to be amazing as this was not my experience in the States. Another thing I noticed is that in the States it is a bit more uncommon for artists to hire craftspeople to make their work. I am sure it happens but is not the “norm”. Where I was taught and the glass group which I associated with, it was expected that you make your own work. To have an idea, learn the craft and execute it yourself. The amount of teamwork in the glass world is also something I found to be a rather large difference between Sweden and the States. In the US it is more common to help one another and blow glass together, whereas in Sweden I noticed that artists worked primarily alone. I found this to be very hard when I moved over here because I think you can make better work when you help each other. You learn more and are able to achieve more when you work together and help each other in a balanced way.
Jo Andersson. Photo: Sarah Maria Yasdani
C-P: What was your actual experience pursuing a MA degree at Konstfack like?
J.A: I loved it. I loved it so much. I loved my instructors, I loved the way the curriculum was set up, I loved how much glass I could blow and had access to. I grew so much and I think that is thanks to the extremely positive environment which I experienced while I was there.
Something which I loved most about Konstfack was the “freeness” of it. It is really a space where an individual is encouraged to push boundaries and create new work. This aspect was so important in my growth as an artist. The work I make now and the work I made before I went to grad school is completely different and I know this can be attributed to my time at Konstfack.
Jo Andersson, Light Vessel 5. Photo: Sarah Maria Yasdani
C-P: Glass in contemporary art is having a moment as of the last couple of years, further dissolving "boundaries" between craft and contemporary art but there is still certainly some way to go in terms of mindsets and attitudes. What are your thoughts?
J.A: I think there have definitely been improvements, but I agree there is still some way to go. And I think this goes back to the history of glass and craft in Europe. I mean look at the glass factories, most of which are shut down today. While they were in full production there were so many craftspeople creating work for designers and artists. These people seldom got recognition for any of their skills or hard work and I think this perception of glass, glassblowers and craft for that matter remains within the collective. That somehow the “making” of the work or the object is considered “less than” the idea or design of the object. Perhaps it also has to do with the fact that glass has primarily filled a functional role and was seldom used in the art context. The old mentality of the way things used to be still exists and I think it will take more time before the boundary between craft and art completely fades away.
Jo Andersson, Being, installaton view, Galleri Duerr. Photo: Serinyà.
C-P: You are residing down south, closer to the hubs of Swedish glass factories but away from the bustle of Stockholm as an epicenter of art. What were the considerations leaving Stockholm? J.A: I wanted to grow. Growth is extremely important to me and I realized that it would take 3x as long to achieve my goals if I were to stay in Stockholm. I needed space, fresh air and quiet from the hustle and bustle of the city. I also knew that I wanted to build my own hot shop one day and if I needed glassblowers it would be much easier to find them in Småland.
C-P: You are in the process of starting up your own business for glass art and as such your practice will inform both original art as an exhibiting artist and larger-scale production towards consumer. Should be a bit of a puzzle and juggle, one would think?
J.A: In the beginning it can be…but my goal is to create a movement and the wide range of objects I create are intended to reach as many people as possible. What I hope to do with my work is to spread a message of self-love, awareness and wellness. These are concepts which I am consistently working on within myself and wish to spread through my brand. The products are made to inform, inspire or help an individual and the installation or experiential work is also made to do so. So in essence everything is connected and everyone can benefit regardless of their economic situation. I want to reach as many people as possible because I believe we are all one, no person is greater or better than another and this message is here to serve the collective in our healing process.
Jo Andersson, Messages in the Water, i am worthy. Photo: Kimberly Hero
C-P: Your exhibition Being this spring at Galleri Duerr made for an evocative display of impressive sculptures weighing on interactivity/performativity, light and movement, in a designed ”safe space” intended for the individual to engage and feel the present moment. We spoke during my visit about dance which is a realm the exhibition alluded to while informing it already in the process of creating in the studio, as I remember being told. I think the exhibition must be telling of where your core interests an exhibiting artist in relation to an audience lies?
J.A: Thank you! Yes, I think so. I mean Being is really about the viewer’s experience. I wanted to use the meditative qualities of the work to help others "get lost" in the moment. To be engulfed by the dancing light patterns that they themselves were creating. I was just the vehicle. The work is the individual and the experience they have with themselves in that space. So I guess you could say that I want my work (at least the installation work) to be focused upon the viewer and their experience.
C-P: Finally, what lies ahead for you in the second half of 2021? J.A: In a few weeks I will be moving farther out into the forest and begin building my hot shop! I hope to have it completed by spring of 2022. In August I will be co-teaching a neon workshop with Tommy Gustafsschiold at The Glass Factory in Boda and in October I will be participating in Craft Week with a group that I started along with some colleagues called Poppi Pop Up. So that is the plan; mainly working on myself, building my business and adjusting to country-living.
To learn more about Jo Andersson: