Interview : Artist Sigrid Rødli

When I first encountered the art of Sigrid Rødli, my life was bleak. Very little could lift me out of my pit of despair…but Sigrid’s art managed.

Her artistic style lifted my mood and her experimentation with different mediums nurtured my own curious and creative spirit. I soon found myself prompted to embrace art again, as a tool of recovery and hope.

The more I uncovered about Sigrid and her creativity, the happier I became. You know when you come upon someone inspiring, and you immediately want to cheer them on with everything they do? That’s what it was like with Sigrid.

I feel so honoured that she’s agreed to this interview, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this peek into her world.

Hello Sigrid! I’m thrilled to have you here on Wyrd Words & Effigies. Would you mind telling our readers a little bit about yourself?

Hello! Thank you so much for having me!

I am from a small town in the north of Norway, but I am currently living in Telemark. I have a bachelor’s degree in illustration that I finished in England, where I have lived for a few years. I am currently doing another bachelor’s degree in Textile here in Telemark. I love making things and I love a lot of old, dark and mysterious things, like fairy tales, myths, legends and folklore in general. And horror.

While it was your illustrations that I first encountered, I quickly discovered – to my excitement – that you work in a variety of mediums, from ceramics to textiles to stop animation. Can you please talk about the drive you possess to express yourself through all these different forms? 

I can try! Some of the things I have done has been because I have had the opportunity. My mother does ceramics and I saw her do a technique that I thought could probably work with my drawings, so I wanted to try it. It is like that most of the time, I wonder what “my stuff” would look like if I did it with a new medium.

Also, I find it exciting to not be bound by the flatness of a sheet of paper, if that makes sense? Bringing something from the flat world in my drawings and out in to the real world is exciting.

While you’re from Norway, you spent some years living and studying in England. In what ways would you say the time away from your homeland impacted you and your artistic vision?

It has had a pretty big impact on me I think, although I didn’t realise until towards the end of my stay in England and then when I came home. I didn’t really appreciate Norway the way I do now until I lived abroad.

As I mentioned, I’m really interested in, and inspired by folklore and fairy tales and things like that, but I honestly used to think Norwegian ones were pretty boring. The same with the nature and the landscape. I was so sick of dark fir forests and now I find so much inspiration and I am so fascinated by them. I didn’t realise how “Norwegian” a lot of the stuff I made was, how influenced I was by the landscape and the culture until I was in a different environment and saw my work and myself in that light.

There is a lot of similarities between England and Norway but a lot of differences also. It looks completely different and I love the English landscape, like the hills and the lush forests. I think a lot of that stayed with me and I draw a lot of inspiration from that and the culture as well. I think it can sometimes be seen in drawings and paintings I do?

I’m quite obsessed – okay, very obsessed! – with the illustrations you created in 2018 for Inktober. What was your experience of Inktober and what do you feel you gained from the challenge? (I’m hoping to do something similar this year, but with poetry!)

Thank you so much! That would be awesome if you did that!

Inktober was amazing for me! I didn’t manage to do all the days, but it was a fantastic experience. It motivated me to do finished drawings and made me challenge myself both in terms of coming up with ideas but also the standards I hold myself to and the expectations I have of myself. Normally, I feel like I must do something big and extra special and interesting every time I make something and that sometimes ends up being a bit too much pressure and I get discouraged.

When I did Inktober I found that ended up just doing something and really enjoying it and some of it came out ok. And then I posted it and it was like, ok, not everything has to be perfect. I loved it.

Can you talk about your process when creating an illustration? 

It depends a little bit on the situation.

When I make something for a commission, I try to ask questions and figure out what they want, I sketch ideas, make changes if needed, probably what most people do.

When I am just drawing or painting for my own sake it is a bit different. I tend to get really hung up on certain ideas and I like drawing and painting the same thing over and over (like forests). I don’t sketch a lot. I just have an image in my head, usually like an object or a situation, then I start drawing and placing the elements where I want them and adding elements that I think will contribute to the mood I am trying to convey.

When I paint, I just paint over things I don’t feel like is working. I sort of like imperfections, I like things that are handmade in traditional mediums so if a line isn’t perfect, I am usually ok with that. I find that if I sketch, then start doing the art on a separate piece of paper or canvas, it loses something. It is like it becomes stiff and forced so I stopped doing that a few years ago.

I spend a lot of time reading about things I find interesting and looking up art that I find is inspiring.

I’ve been eying your exquisite embroidery and wondering about your beginnings with a needle and thread. How did embroidery first find its way into your life?

Well, my mother embroidered me and my sisters’ Norwegian folk costumes, called a bunad. I thought it looked interesting, but it looked so hard so I never considered it to be a thing I could do until these past few years.

A bit more than two years ago me and my husband moved to this part of the country for him to be able to take a one-year course of Norwegian language (he is from England) and I decided that I wanted to go back to school for the year as well. The university here has a one-year textile course and I thought it would be interesting to see if what I do on paper somehow could translate to textile and I really wanted to learn how to make my own clothes.

When I started, I wondered if we would be doing embroidery and I decided to try a little bit on a project because I figured it was a little bit like drawing but with needle and thread. After having tried it I just absolutely loved it and have tried to incorporate it in as many projects as I can.

You’ve published a beautiful children’s book called Coral and the Monster. Would you mind talking about how the book came about, your experience of making it and if you have any more books planned?

Thank you so much! It is self-published. The book wasn’t really meant to be much more than a personal project initially. A relative of my husband wanted to commission me to do a story for her grand-daughter and I said yes. She said I could do whatever I wanted, just something for a small child! I wrote really simple little story for it and made the pictures and when it was done and I had ordered a copy, I posted a picture on social media. A few people asked if they could purchase it, so I made the option available on the Blurb website.

It was a very fun and interesting experience, and I learnt a lot, but it was a lot of work! The story isn’t long and there aren’t that many pages, but there were so many things to think about, like where does text go, what should be illustrated etc. It was amazing though. I always try to tell stories with my pictures and when I was making a book, I could support the illustrations with the words and make the story clearer and more defined.

I have one or two ideas for books that I would really, really love to do! It takes a lot of time though and I’m not a writer at all, so I feel like I must somewhat work with that in mind. I have some very ambitious ideas in my head (and in some notebooks) but I am probably going to try to make a few simpler stories first.

I’m besotted with your work as a clothing designer. I’d wear all of your creations in a heartbeat! When did you first start your exploration with textiles and how did you become passionate about zero waste fashion?

Thank you so much! I am so new to it, I don’t really consider myself a designer, but I love making clothes! I talked a little bit about how I got started with textiles in the previous question, so that is the background for that.

My course is divided in to four modules and this year after Christmas we had one that is called “Redesign”. The module isn’t just focused on redesign but a more environmentally conscious approach to making clothes. Our brief was to make three pieces of clothing, like a little, tiny mini-collection, with a focus on sustainability and environmentally friendlier practices.

One of the suggestions was zero waste patter cutting and I was immediately drawn to the idea. There is a brilliant book, “Zero Waste Fashion Design”, written by two brilliant designers Timo Rissanen and Holly McQuillian, and that was my introduction to the concept. It is a different approach to creating patterns, and mine are quite simple, mostly based on rectangles, squares and triangles, but there are some amazing examples of complex and completely innovative patterns out there.

I had made clothes before this, both in my spare time and for projects, but I felt so much stronger about this project than anything else. It was “my own” way of making clothes and it felt much more meaningful, even though I was only making them for myself. I haven’t created anything with a traditional pattern since I did that project, it just feels wrong somehow. I try to make clothes that are versatile and timeless because I want them to be able to be worn for years and years.

Could you please talk about the role that the environment has on your development as an artist?

That is such a hard question, I am not sure how to answer!

My art isn’t about making statements, but nature plays a huge part in what I do. I think a lot about our, or my, connection to nature, how important it is for me, and what I feel about nature, how it smells and how it feels touching it. It makes me feel more alive than anything being outside and in contact with nature and I am so inspired by the role that the natural world has had in human’s life throughout the ages. Sometimes I feel disconnected, walking in the forest connects me again. I think it is important not to take those things for granted, I know this sounds cliched, but we only have one planet.

In more practical terms, I try to do research on materials and techniques I use, and obviously be aware of the waste I create to try to minimize it, or even better, make no waste. I want to make things that won’t be disposed of and things that can be used repeatedly for years and years. That is something that is always in the back of my head.

My fascination with the workspaces of artists is intense, and I’m ridiculously eager to know what yours is like! Can you talk about the space where you work, and if you have any little rituals that you do that benefit your creativity and productivity? 

That’s fun! I am not sure mine is very interesting though!

I currently work in two places. I have a small workspace at my university where I have all my sewing equipment and then when I am drawing or painting, I am usually at home in our flat. I have a small desk in my bedroom, but I sometimes use the table in the living room as well.

I am not sure that my workspace and rituals is interesting though! When I sit down to work, it is usually for the entire day, or at least quite a few hours. I am quite focused when I work and times flies by without me noticing so I will forget to eat and drink, so I like to have my meals ready and I almost always make a cup of tea or a cup of cocoa, usually tea. I like it to be tidy around me, and I need a lot of space to keep myself organized. I don’t listen to a lot of music, I know a lot of people who do, but I like putting on documentaries and podcasts that I can listen to. Sometimes it’s just true crime, but I have a few I like that have more to do with myths and legends and things like that. Or just mysteries in general.

Would you mind sharing the names of some creatives that inspire you on a day to day basis?

Absoluty! I love the Pre-Raphaelites. The paintings are just so lush and mysterious and romantic. Some important illustrators for me is Tove Janson, Maurice Sendak, Elsa Beskow, Kai Nilsen and Theodor Kittlesen. They all create very atmospheric and sometimes moody work I think.

Of more contemporary artists I would say Bill Crisafi, Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek of Tin Can Forest, Matthew Glover of Sin Eater Illustration, Jon MacNair, Mu Pan amongst others.

I follow a lot of creatives, mostly artists, illustrators and photographers on Instagram, there are so many amazing, creative people out there. It’s too many to list all of them but I appreciate everything they do so much, it inspires me to push myself and to create more.

I sometimes get really interested in a specific piece of art and currently it is “Oh What’s That in the Hollow” by Edward Robert Hughes.

I’m extremely excited to see what you create next! Are you able to reveal some details of what can be expected?

Right now I am doing a sort of pre-project to my bachelors’ project that I am doing after Christmas. I am working with print and embroidery to decorate very simple garments. After Christmas I hope to continue working on zero waste clothing and I want to incorporate elements of print and embroidery from this project into that. I am pretty exciting, but it is scary too!

I am also hoping to get into making books, perhaps this spring, as I said. There are so many things I want to do, but I can’t do them all at the same time no matter how much I want to! I sometimes find it a bit difficult to decide what I want to do. I am very invested in making clothing and working with textiles but I also love painting and doing illustrations and sometimes it feels like there just isn’t enough time.

Inktober has started and I haven’t been able to do anything, but I am going to try and join in now, perhaps I will do the rest of the month.

For anyone wishing to find out more about you, where are the best places to go?

My Instagram is really my only social media that I use, so sigridrodli on Instagram is probably the best! I want to make a proper website at one point, but for now Instagram sort of does the job!

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