Stine Mikkelsen: “At a crossroad between art, craft and furniture design”

June 21st, 2021
Written by:
Nikolai Kotlarczyk

Stine Mikkelsen presented ‘In-Tangibles’ for The Mindcraft Project 2021. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Both sensuous and bold, mysterious and approachable. Danish artist and designer Stine Mikkelsen has been slowly building up – experiment after experiment, a diverse portfolio of materials and forms since her graduation from the Kolding School of Design in 2017. What unites her body of work is a tactility that invites the viewer to interact with her creations – getting to know each character, one by one.

Born and raised on the island of Ærø, it was Mikkelsen’s unique combination of educational experiences that has allowed her work to reach audiences outside of her native Denmark. Having studied textile design in Denmark, Mikkelsen searched further afield to bring new and unexpected expressions into her practice. A strong practical base in Denmark was coupled with more conceptual approaches to design, from London’s Royal College of Art and the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. For Mikkelsen, it is the diversity of her knowledge and experiences throughout her studies that has allowed her work to sit within multiple creative fields, as she explains;

“Since graduation, my work has been at a crossroad between art, craft and furniture design. When I start a design project, I do not know which of these three fields the finished product will approach the most – nor is this very relevant to me at this early stage. It is important to me that the person who experiences my work wonders about the function of the piece, or the material it is made from. It is this approach that I believe leads to a dialogue within my work.”

Materials and process for ‘In-Tangibles’ (2021). Photos: Benjamin Lund

Neither form nor function are the starting point for Mikkelsen’s projects, rather it is a constant exploration into materiality that is the real driver of her work. With her studio now based just outside of Aarhus on Denmark’s mainland, a dedication to locally sourced, natural or recycled materials is at the center of each project. Her recent projects have revolved heavily around a mixture of natural glue and stone to create durable and tactile materials. The natural pigment of the stone, along with its coarse texture have led to a series of objects that beg to be touched and held. Reaching these end results can be a long and laborious task however, as Mikkelsen highlights;

“It takes many tests to arrive at the right color and consistency in the material, and on occasion it has to be thrown away. For a recent project I had developed a material that only after several months began to form cracks. The development of this particular material had to be put on hold, as it will take many months, if not years, before I can be sure that I have found a composition that is perfect for that project.”

Tactile Monoliths by Stine Mikkelsen. Photo courtesy of Stine Mikkelsen.

Since her graduation in 2017, these material experiments have varied greatly. From Guilt.Less in 2017 – a series of lamps utilising waste from the fashion industry, right up to her latest group of objects, In-Tangibles for The Mindcraft Project 2021. The one consistent factor throughout her portfolio is the remnants of tactility from process through to the final piece. Her work never tries to hide the natural or recycled materials that are at their core. In fact, Mikkelsen uses their natural qualities to pull in her audience, presenting them in new ways creates a sense of mystique when viewed for the first time.

“It is important for my projects that the surface has a tactility that makes people want to touch it… I like it when the sense of sight does not tell the whole story – where the sense of touch has to be used to complete the picture. In order to trick the viewer into interacting with my work, I started to develop materials which, as they are interacting with and manipulated by the final form, make people wonder what it is they are looking at.”

Luminous Shapes by Stine Mikkelsen. Photo courtesy of Stine Mikkelsen.

As with so many within the design and art community at this time, our current global situation has forced Mikkelsen to extend projects and deadlines. Exhibitions in Paris and New York are finally on the horizon and provide her with the greatest opportunities yet to present years of hard work – painstaking experiments and trials, to a global audience. One thing is for certain, it has never been more important to get up close with design and art, to touch and feel the work in the flesh. Mikkelsen’s creations – as always, are up for the task.