Imitating nature – the marbelous works of Pernille Snedker Hansen

Many people find their work, at least occasionally, quite boring and repetitive. Danish designer Pernille Snedker Hansen isn’t one of those people. Her workdays are full of surprises due to the special technique she uses.

Pernille specialises in the traditional craft of marbling and creates handcrafted surfaces, such as parquet floors and art prints, at her Copenhagen-based design studio, Snedker Studio. She has come a long way experimenting, exploring and developing the technique, but the end result of her work is still a fascinating combination of calculation and chance. “For me that’s what still makes it exciting: I can’t know exactly what I’m going to get out of it. But, at the same time, when there’s a tight project deadline and you know what you would like to do, it can be really frustrating as well, because there are many factors that can make things go wrong,” Pernille tells us over Skype. There are two major traditions in the craft of marbling: Japanese Suminagashi and Turkish Ebru. According to Pernille the materials she uses are more from the Turkish tradition, but her approach is more Japanese.

Watching Pernille working is very interesting and oddly meditative. To create her designs she needs water, paint in different colors and paper or wood. She carefully drips small drops of paint one after another on the water surface. It’s fascinating to see how the pattern slowly starts to develop, and how the various color drops affect each other. “It’s really about how I lay the drops of paint. I have to make sure that the paint doesn’t sink into the water or spread too much – that depends on each paint and on how you mix them. Traditionally you would comb through the paint and make patterns that can be seen in old book covers, but I’m steering away from that. I let the paints work more organically and naturally. For me it’s all about the evolvement of the paint and how it reflects natural processes.” Pernille then moves the pattern on wood or paper by dipping them into the water. The patterns often resemble tree growth rings, cross-section of a rock or other natural phenomenons. Pernille sees nature as a source of inspiration.

The projects I did earlier were all about how to incorporate nature into the built environment and how to live with nature in our very constructed world. That’s how it kind of grew, and it’s still an inspiration to me. But it’s not like I sit there and look at the flowers. It’s more about the idea of understanding the natural processes and things that are ever changing.” Pernille tells us that the color palette she chooses depends on the mood she wants to create, but the nature of the technique has its effect on the colors, as well. For example, colors often become pastel because she wants to keep them transparent and let the wood shine through the paint. How does Pernille see her role as a designer? What does she want to create, achieve, or give to the audience? “This is one those questions that it would be nice to have an answer for,” Pernille laughs. “It’s a big one! I am an aesthetician, and for me it’s important to make something that people find enjoyable. And it would be nice if people would connect with the story that is underlying and actually get a feeling of what drives me instead of just liking the colors and patterns. But it’s a fast world, and people don’t always get that. I wish I could say that it was about sustainability… Or I guess I could say that, because it’s a slow process, and that’s something people value a lot – my works are not quick-fast-throw-away products. So in that sense it’s sustainable, and I’m trying to use sustainable materials as far as I can.” Working with coincidences, chances and surprises continues, as Pernille expands to new areas. Now Pernille Snedker Hansen also creating furniture and wallpapers and doing more product collaborations, in addition to commissioned artwork.

Photo credits: Pernille Snedker Hansen, Snedker Studio

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