Interview : Helena Perminger Of Sphæra

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I fell upon contemporary art and jewellery emporium Sphæra while browsing through the list of creatives attending the DRK MSS autumn market that took place in October in Stockholm. The attraction to Swedish artist Helena Perminger’s enigmatic jewellery was immediate and powerful. I knew that I had to talk to her, and hear the stories behind her ideas and influences.

What or whom inspired you to establish Sphæra, and have you seen your vision materialise in the way you envisaged it to?
What Sphæra stands for; the constant longing for creativity and search of new doors to open, has always been with me. I have been drawing, writing and used my hands all my life and the primary goal has always been to create what lies closest to my heart. I always find meaning in the strangest of materials and get the most passionate obsessions with ideas. So when I finally brought this infatuation with creating to another step and invented Sphæra, it all of a sudden seemed very natural and clear. I am very determined to keep my work close to my heart and try to work with ideas and goals separated from an economical objective. The flow easily changes when you turn the work of your heart into a necessity to survive. A negative aspect of working this way is that other things have to come first.

SPHAERA wildboardCan you please reveal the meaning behind the name Sphæra, and why you chose it?
Sphæra is latin for sphere and felt really suited for my creative path. I feel secure and free at the same time in my creative thoughts and feel that to be of the shape of an orb where I can move unconstrained. Sphæra will always be about the process, to move earth’s creations into something unconventional and new, and to study new ways of beauty.

Did you embark on any formal training in jewellery making, or are you entirely self-taught? Are you always experimenting, or do you take a more measured, careful approach with your work?
I am fully self-taught in what I do, but I have had around me many people that provide me with inspiration and indirect guidance. Many of my ideas have started in my head, carefully drawn down in detail and then experimented on, by trying out materials and asking expert opinions. Some ideas take more time while others just happen if you let your hands movement flow freely.

As an emerging contemporary artist, are there any other mediums which you enjoy exploring, or are there any which you can see yourself delving into in the near future?
I am looking into different ways of castings right now and will be trying out different methods in the near future. New imaginative methods are coming all the time and experimenting is a big slice of my lust for art.

You said your work ‘is embracing the unbalance created by nature’s imperfections.’ Would you mind revealing more about this statement, and how important it is for you to explore imperfections when creating your work?
One of the first big pieces I made with bone was from a fox skull I found in the woods. Animals had broken the skull in many places and more than half of its cranium was missing. I took it up and saw something completely different than a skull, a shape partially finished with the assistance of nature. The inside of the skull, now visible, and its imperfections was thrilling. I used these revealed secrets as details of the piece.

This took me forth into my fascination of bones as art, and I got determined to continue my search for materials that keep those imperfections.

I also feel it’s important to reuse materials and not let objects go to waste. Many of my pieces are made from reused materials, like reprocessed silk yarn, salvaged metals and of course bone. Things that other people find ugly, broken or simply changed by nature, like rusty things, intrigues me and it feels significant to reclaim those instead of just creating new.

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In my research, I read that the essence of Sphæra is the mysterious dark and the occult. Have you always felt an attraction to the dark and mysterious, or is it only in recent years that you have found yourself drawn to it?
The secrecies of nature and its visceral organs; flora and fauna, have always steadied me and brought forth all my ideas and visions. The serenity of the woodlands and its complete beauty and complexity holds me in a mysterious grasp.

The fascination of the occult is mainly out of an aesthetical point of view; deep layered meaning in details, geometrical shapes and the use of ritual symbols. Folklore, Wicca and alchemy are all sources of inspiration that push me forward.

The materials you use include animal remains, minerals and driftwood, an eclectic mix in my opinion. Why do you create using these materials, from where do you source them, and what is the preparation and creation process like? Is there a lot of cleaning involved?
I definitely use a lot of different materials. Searching for the world´s beautiful raw specimen is a big part of my work. I find pieces that bring me ideas everywhere.

For example my pursuit of drift wood takes me to the south of Sweden where the drift wood comes in with the waves, sometimes in big amounts with storms, and then lay drying in the sand. This long beach is part of a huge area where horses, sheep and cows all wander freely together in big fields. To pick these objects by hand, and collect their story in the making, gives me a strong feeling of unity with nature.

All of the animals I use parts from are finds; no animals are hunted and killed for my work. The animal remains I use are already mostly cleaned by nature itself, while others need a bit more work. The whole process of cleaning a cadaver can take up to a year depending on the Swedish weather.

Sphaera_new designOther materials that you embrace include intriguing things, like the teeth of a wild boar and the hipbone of a wild hare. From where do you source these more unusual objects, and is there anything in particular that you would like to work with in the future?
The bone and horn I work with are collected by me or from secure suppliers. I am always looking into new materials and would love to get my hands on more foreign resources in the future and would love to be able to gather them myself.

When you are not making art, what else do you fill your hours with?
I have a freelancing business as a photo editor. This is great since I get to plan my hours as I see fit and get the time to Spæra as well. That kind of work brings me close to my customers and neatly fills the need of being a part of a bigger production, as where Sphæra lets me be more of an odd ball.

Is there a music genre in particular which you find yourself gravitating to, and which inspires you on a daily basis? Who are you listening to at the moment, and would you say that music plays an important role in your everyday existence?
Music has been important for me since my childhood. I am a very moody music listener, so the music varies with my state of mind. I listen to a lot of acoustic and instrumental beats when I am working to keep my head focused. And also a lot of dark stoner rock like Asteroid, Siena Root and Colour Haze.

Do you always know what you are going to do when you set out to create a piece?
I usually work on a few pieces at the same time due to the long process of a piece. I always have my sketchbook with me so I can draw and write down ideas I get instantly.

Sometimes I just sit down with my material and sketches and just see what happens with my hands, and those creations often develops into the most loving new projects.

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Do you currently have your ideal working environment? If not, what would it be like?
I always had the need to create when I am alone and so I am both working from home and at a business workspace where I can work with bigger projects. I also have a cabin where I do most of my bone processing.

I discovered your art when I heard about the DRK MSS in Stockholm. (If I hadn’t been in Canada at the time I would have attended!) Can you describe your experience of being a part of such a special event?
It really was something I have never experienced before! I was contacted by Lisen the creator of “Nattskiftet”, who was hosting this event for the first time, and asked to join. We estimate that around 300-400 people came to the event and it really felt like people have been longing for something like this in Sweden. It was amazing to meet these people that I have such high respect for and what they do and to share your interests with. And of course meeting my customers and being able to share our mutual interests.

Having sold your work to people hand to hand, and also online, what would you say is the most effective method of passing on your work to new people?
I always prefer to meet the new owners of a piece if I can. The best is if I also get to see my work being appreciated, those moments help me get a better view of the community that is out there and help me continue.

Selling on the internet is tough, especially when people and their perceptions are so diverse, and talking to people trough a website easily gets less personal. But because of my pretty narrow clientele, internet is a big help when trying to reach out to like-minded people.

Every item you craft is a one-off. Can you explain the importance uniqueness has with Sphæra?
The uniqueness started more as a necessity than of an importance when it came to bones, it was impossible to create two identical pieces. This changed quickly into something where the exclusivity became central when the search and story of the process and collecting of material became more important to me. My interest in reprocessing materials is also why I want and have to keep my pieces unique, because of the limited supply.

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Photographer: Tony Ottosson Stylist & hair: Anna Lundberg Makeup: Jennifer Lisa Stylist: Helena Perminger

You have released a number of jewellery collections. Would you be able to talk us through them, and why it is important to you that each piece has a home and a story?
Because my work is continuous and experimental, and not formed after releases of new collections (as of yet), I have created three on-going collections, which are named Remnants, Ignea and Penumbras.

Remnants means that of something that has been left behind, after the bigger part has been removed or used, which felt like a natural name to my bone jewellery.
Ignea means flaming or ignited, and this seemed suitable for my gloomy more occultic inspired pieces.

Penumbras are those objects that are moved by the mystical and unknown, with crystals and natural driftwood as main details. Penumbra is the word for the area in the edges of a shadow, where light and dark meets.

What can we look forward to from Sphæra in 2015?
Sphæra will be launching a new website soon with new pieces. Prints and bigger art pieces will be a part of this in the near future as well. I am very excited for the future and what will come of Sphæra, I will continue exploring and keep my hunger for creating flowing!

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