I spotted the lovely Slovenian brand Oblique about a year ago when I was just regularly browsing through my Facebook feed and sippin' on my morning coffee. After a few more clicks I realized it's a contemporary ceramics company, consisting of three artists: Katarina, Anja and Katja. These three talented girls make a whole spectrum of different products - from home accessories to lighting and everyday objects. They describe their work as functional in origin whilst still being playful and thoughtful. What I personally look for in ceramic products are those beautiful minimalistic shapes with a hint of character and unusual quirky elements, which you can definitely find in the Oblique products. Hopefully, these ladies will spark something inside you too and give you a fair dose of inspiration.
Hey Katarina, Anja, Katja! Wassup, how are you doing?
|Photo: Ciril Jazbec|
We just survived an "ice age" here in Slovenia. Still alive, yay :)! Doing great, thanks.
Studio Oblique consists of three artistic souls. How did you meet and decide to work together?
We met in 2009 during our studies at the Academy of fine arts and design in Ljubljana. We were the very first generation of students at the Department of applied arts / Glass and ceramics, which was established that year. We soon became friends and started to function as a team at faculty and exhibitions that we organized ourselves. We were spending lots of time together and also worked on common projects during that time. We were all enthusiastic and willing to share our ideas and knowledge, had discussions and helped each other out, so basically everyone benefited from it. We were all hard workers (still are), so we spent lots of nights working together. Having fun while working with your colleagues is even now one of the most important parts of our studio practice. When we got out degrees, we had to decide how to continue this kind of work and the best idea was to stay together and just do things. Then we got an opportunity to be presented at the first Pop Up-Dom in Ljubljana. We only had one month to organize all the necessary things and that was the start of Oblique.
When and how did you discover your passion for ceramics? What made you choose ceramics as a way of expressing yourself?
Anja: I think we all played with clay as kids in kindergarten, or maybe later on. I didn't like clay and I never thought that I'll be working with it one day. But after high school, when I had to decide and figure out what to study, my dearest friend Ana Kerin (from Atelier Kana) suggested that I should try ceramics. I found it challenging to deal with something that I didn't know much about.
Katarina: My way of getting involved with ceramics is similar to Anja's. When I left high school I went straight to the Academy, where an entrance examination for Visual communication design hadn't gone as smoothly as I expected. At that time I also discovered a brand new Department for industrial design and applied arts, which I thought would suit me even more. So I tried again, did a little project with clay and successfully passed the exam.
Katja: I have been working with ceramics for quite a long time. After building the first ceramic form I felt very close to this material and numerous possibilities to create something with it. I was lucky to meet mag. Iztok Maroh at the very beginning of my studies at Famul Stuart School of Applied Arts Ljubljana, who was also our mentor at the Academy. I really admire his work! He is one of the best mentors to work with. I find his role and influence on my way of working with ceramics very important.
Do you work together on new designs or do you develop them individually?
When we started with Oblique we selected some of our individual pieces and designs that were made at the Academy. Later on we started working on new projects together. We don't always start or develop a concept together, but we sometimes work in pairs. However, an idea takes a long way before it reaches a formal shape. We are all present during the making of one's design and that is the reason we all have some influence on the final product.
Tell us more about your creative process. Where do you get your inspiration and how does your journey towards the final product look like? Do you already have a certain image in your minds or do you improvise during the process?
We use many creative techniques to get to the final design. There are lots of tests and experimental methods involved during the making. Trying to develop the concept into a marketable product is a hard job. We often find and upgrade ideas during our studio work. We make products that we need or use in our everyday life, which are sometimes just an improvement of already existing objects. Working in a team involves more ideas and solutions. If one of us has an idea and a certain image of the final ceramic piece, it surely won't be realized in a way only one imagines it, because two or three different images are combined and we have to find a common solution. We don't always agree and it can be difficult to harmonize. We don't mind the disagreements because they can make a product better.
Which aspect of your products is most important to you? Functionality, design, a fresh perspective on everyday objects?
We want to combine all of the aspects you mentioned. Our objects can be functional products for everyday purpose or just aesthetic or decorative pieces in someone's ambient. However, we think that Oblique ceramics shouldn't find their place in a display case, because they are meant for daily use.
Do you remember the first ceramic piece that you all created together? Any special memories?
Anja: Our first pieces were made at the Academy. They were individual projects, but at the same time we started to learn from each other. Everyone of us had a different approach, style and techniques that we used while working with the material. And all of this significantly impacted our work practice.
Katja: The series "Leggs" in one of the Oblique's first projects that was developed by all of us. It was based on Anja's principle of taking shapes of discarded packaging, so I got an idea to use the cellulose packaging for eggs and used it for the legs of the object. Afterwards the form of vases appeared spontaneously. Katarina was the one who suggested colors, so we all helped to finalize the project.
You've been together for almost two years - how do you feel about your evolution as a studio at this point of your careers?
At this time we set a stable ground on which Oblique can work on. There are still a lot of things we have to deal with, especially the business aspects and how to make a living out of it. We truly believe that collaborations with other artists helped us to achieve better quality in presenting our work. They sure helped us to create our brand.
I can see that neutral and subtle colors are very important to you. How do you perceive the synergy between color and form of a certain product?
Our forms are organic and soft, so we usually select such colors to match the form. Color range probably has something to do with the feminine atmosphere in the studio.
How would you describe the contemporary ceramic art scene in Slovenia? Are you in a close relationship with other artists?
We believe that the contemporary ceramic art scene in Slovenia is still quite fresh, but growing and developing. We know some artists and designers, but we are not really in close relationships with them, although we follow their work. There isn't a contemporary ceramic center or an institution that would bring us all together. Ceramics in Slovenia are more or less known from the view of traditional craft and industrial design, in context of its use and decoration. It's not greatly appreciated as an art medium. Maybe one of the reasons ceramics didn't develop as much as it could, is that there were no faculty departments that specialized in ceramic design before 2009 in Slovenia. We know a few artists working in the field of contemporary ceramics who went abroad to get more knowledge and education.
Why should one consider ceramics as the right medium for expressing ideas? What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist and what advice has influenced you the most in your career?
Anja: My mentor taught me that the idea always comes first and that technique should adapt to the concept and form.
Katja: Clay is a natural building material which allows many approaches to work with. It seems like everyone can find their own ways of dealing with it. Once you know the basic principles, the creative process can begin. Despite all the difficulties which come along with being a ceramic artist, this kind of work brings me true satisfaction. Although it's hard sometimes to make a living out of it, I balanced that with hard work, passion, dedication and happiness when working. I decided a long time ago that I want to live this life, not just to survive it :).
Katarina: Ceramic is a diverse medium that includes a range of possibilities from handmade functional objects to bigger production sets. It's an extraordinarily compact and useful material, which is nowadays accessible to everyone in any shape. Viewed from an artistic point of view, combining clay with multiple techniques and materials from different branches is also quite cool. Don't stay static when doing the thing you know you're already good at.
What are you working on now? What are your future plans?
We are setting up a new working place in Ljubljana at Kreativna cona Šiška and still run a studio in Križe. We are working on a new collection which will be presented later on in the Spring of 2014.
Thank you so much ladies, I totally appreciate it and wish you all the best in the future!
Tell me guys, do you also want every single ceramic piece from those brilliant girls?! I think they push the pottery and everything ceramic to a whole new and fresher level. My Slovenian readers can find some of Oblique's amazing pieces in the Pop-up Dom and SiTi Art Store in Ljubljana, and in Alora shop in Piran. Foreign readers can easily get in contact with the girls via their web page and arrange an order there.