Sara Martinsen appointed as curator for The Mindcraft Project 2023

August 29th, 2023
Written by:
Nikolai Kotlarczyk

Designer and curator Sara Martinsen. Photography credit: Benjamin Lund.

This year’s Mindcraft Project marks both a look back over the first fifteen years of Mindcraft, whilst firmly placing the issues of today and our collective future front and centre. Much like the foundation years of Mindcraft in Milan, The Mindcraft Project 2023 will feature dedicated curation from a single practitioner, Danish multi-disciplinary designer Sara Martinsen. Her experience and knowledge within the Danish design field over the past twenty five years, her intimate knowledge of materials and processes, and her respect and admiration for craft traditions and innovations makes her the perfect custodian for a new generation of creatives who firmly have our environment front of mind. We chatted with Sara about her own processes, and what we can expect from this year’s edition.

From her Copenhagen studio, you will often find Sara Martinsen working hands-on with whatever material holds her focus on a particular day. Her body of work moves across various natural fibres and materials – wood veneers and plant fibres, soil, clay, maize, grass, natural gelatins and resins – each material is approached through its inherent values and qualities. A key visual marker of Martinsen’s work across these materials is a repetitive weave or a coming together of components, with simple elements combined and repeated, resulting in engaging and approachable forms. These forms also allude to another important aspect within Martinsen’s work, that of time. Both within her practice and her physical outcomes, reflection and introspection replace any singular functional value or traditional notion of necessity – rather providing a deeper purpose through space and time for the mind to wander.

“Most of us move fast from morning to evening and this leaves us in a state where it can be difficult to sense yourself or anything else. The sense of ‘RO’ [Danish word for calmness] combined with a tactile and detailed piece of work will demand a certain pause or calmness. I do believe it is relevant to create these small gaps where your brain and body will find a calm rhythm for a while.”

Sara Martinsen’s solo exhibition ELEMENT_ÆRE, Norske Hus, Sophienholm Kunsthal, 2022. Photography credit: Kristian Holm.
Sara Martinsen and Frans Drewniak’s contribution to Reset Materials – Towards Sustainable Architecture, Copenhagen Contemporary 2023.

While intensely personal and intimate in practice, Martinsen’s work is also in touch with a larger context surrounding contemporary approaches to sustainability. “Reset Materials – Towards Sustainable Architecture” – a group exhibition on display at Copenhagen Contemporary until September 28th, paired Martinsen with Frans Drewniak to explore the potential of implementing native plants and fibres into new and existing homes. Whilst another exhibition in 2023 – a collaboration with cabinet-makers Garde Hvalsøe during 3 Days of Design – displayed Martinsen’s scope of material explorations within the predominantly wooden interior of their Copenhagen showroom. Martinsen is taking these curatorial experiences, alongside many more including being a participant in last years edition, into The Mindcraft Project 2023 – a combination of her intimate, introspective look into materials and processes, alongside a collective expression and display – as she details;

“Through my exhibition at Garde Hvalsøe, I wanted everything from space to bespoke interior and art pieces to showcase how valuable raw materials are, how they are connected when growing in nature and the history and time they hold. For both my own exhibition and for The Mindcraft Project 2023, I am interested in the strong relations between all the elements. In my opinion, it is this relationship that makes an exhibition convincing and relevant.”

Sara Martinsen’s collaborative exhibition with Garde Hvalsøe, The Origin of Things, 2023. Photography credit: Maja Karen Hansen.
Sara Martinsen’s collaborative exhibition with Garde Hvalsøe, The Origin of Things, 2023. Photography credit: Michael Rygaard.

The contemporary relevance of the ten exhibiting participants in The Mindcraft Project 2023 is displayed through a cross-section of materials and approaches to design and craft. While some are finding new expressions for ancient materials and techniques – the re-contextualisation of textiles, highlighting the imperceptible qualities of wood, or organic expressions in stoneware – others are working with processes and technologies only developed in contemporary times such as biopolymers and digital outcomes. What brings all of their work together is a knowledge and expertise in their chosen field – with Martinsen reflecting on the time needed by each studio to reach this point in their individual journey.

“Being a craftsperson gives you the power to pursue an idea and execute it. It takes years of practice, hard work, failures and successes before you reach a point where you are ready to showcase your work for the world to see it. Mindcraft has always honored this, and so it will again this year. You will sense the high level of both effort and talent from each of the ten exhibitors.”

Red Oak Circuit by Sara Martinsen. Made in collaboration with AHEC in American red oak. Contribution to The Mindcraft Project 2022. Photography credit: Benjamin Lund.

Alongside the in-depth and explorative digital exhibition that has become an important aspect of The Mindcraft Project since the pandemic, this year’s edition will also feature a physical launch event. Martinsen and the organizers of The Mindcraft Project noted the importance of bringing back this physical component – for the designers and those involved, for the inter-relationship of the works presented, but to also allow the audience to learn from the stories and knowledge on show by each participant.

“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. This is where an experienced set of hands becomes most relevant.”