What happens if you get rid of EVERYTHING and make what you really need? That’s exactly what Kristina Schultz did, for 100 days.
At Dutch Design Week, in a hall filled with mostly commercial design, Kristina Schultz’ work immediately caught my eye. As she talked about her project, I got drawn in by her enthusiasm and perfect imperfect products. She laughed and said that most of her peers thought she was crazy taking on something like this. After all, it had nothing to do with sleek product design? After DDW I emailed Kristina to find out more:
Starting with your past: were you raised with a lot of things around you and did they hold value for you?
Without exaggeration I can say that in material terms, I had it all. I grew up in the 1980’s in a wealthy suburb of Stockholm. My dad past away when I was three and since then my mom has been on her own with me and to quote her, she earns enough to live on her own. All my life I have been rewarded with buying something. I’m not saying she did something wrong in this sense (she really is the best), it is only very clear to me that we have totally different interpretations in terms of buying, owning and rewarding through possessions (she has to be excused by being brought up just after the war in times of shortage).
On the other hand my mother’s open mind towards buying whatever she stumbled over also meant that I could have any tools or material I ever thought I wanted and her total free mind in terms of not devoting rooms of the house after activities meant that all kinds of building projects in any mixed technique where allowed to take place everywhere all the time.
When I left home it was important to me to have a certain spot to every specific thing and that my apartment was clean (as in not dirty). Some years later I started in preparatory art schools and the living room more or less also became an atelier and all the material just started piling up. Then Johan moved in, both keeping the greater amount of all our possessions, just squeezing it in together. And then Liss came (still in the same apartment). He got the bedroom, we moved into the dining room and the dining table moved into the living room, still just squeezing more stuff in. Every Christmas, birthday or any other regular day of the week when we just found some must-have on the flea market, new stuff just kept squeezing in until our place only could be described in one word: full.
Of course the project is a direct reaction to being part of an era of consuming to the bitter end. Although we bought principally everything secondhand it became very clear to me that this was just another way to keep on consumerism (which maybe also can be said for this project), waking up to the fact that secondhand is not the answer and with the growing feeling of losing hope in the fact that nothing seems to be changing quickly enough?! So with the project I wanted to explore how changing your lifestyle works. And what happens if we start by solving the question that most people today agree on, that we have too much stuff. If we instead have nothing, where do we go from there?
There are so many articles and books about ‘decluttering and ‘simplifying your life’ but not a lot of people start by getting rid of everything first. You really looked at the bare human needs and not only found that of course we don’t need so much ’stuff’, but also that we need products to ‘feed the soul’ as well. Not just the essentials.
The project is not about minimalism or decluttering, although in some sense that became an effect of the project. I guess minimalism seems to have formulated a solution, to me this project touched many thoughts/solutions, but if someone else would do this they would also find something else in this way of life. Therefore I prefer to say that it is about minimum and/or basics, making room (both physical and mental) to create a place for life. I never say that we have achieved any answers, we have tried to visualize the lived experiences from the project.
I see a gap between implementing the knowledge of scientific research (social, political, environmental and so on) and how european societies in general have evolved during a recent time period. My daily question to what I read in the papers is why do we keep on acting like this? The driving factor behind this project has been to explore the ability to change and how change can work.
Your son proved that a child’s creativity really sparks when they don’t have so much toys. But then they do need more attention. Interesting topic in our busy society.
When it comes to raising Liss and being a parent today, I believe that one of the key factors is that both me and Johan have a consequent line in what we want Liss to be trained for in life. Of course there are times when we let him have the the tablet, but we only do that for our own sake, not for his. To give ourselves time and keep him pacified.
I also find the (few) toys made with in the project rather shameful. During the whole time Liss never asked for a single toy and he was busy playing all the time anyway, just not with predefined playing concepts. He asked for a buddy once and then I made the the pig, but the three small dogs and miniature bricks were more or less made for us grownups, to give us grownup space and not having to involve him in everything we do.
How do the people around you feel about the project and has it had an effect on the way they look at their home/life?
I live in an area of Stockholm where predefined images of the home as a manifestation of identity has been taken to its extreme. So few people reflect over what they want their homes to be, instead they let constructed norms define their life. And therefore I wanted to explore how material culture is used to define norms in relation to how we live our lives in our own homes.
Today everyday rituals have been rationalised away or reduced to pushing buttons. Like brewing Nespresso coffee, a so called time efficient and unskilled way to brewing your own barista coffee, directly dismissing craftsmanship and presence in this everyday life activity. In relation to this example I find it important that designers reflect over how we want to live our lives in bigger cultural terms. Do we really want to be to busy brewing coffee in the morning?
My impression from the people around me and visitors at different exhibitions is that it has a spreading effect (not that I so far know of anyone else who went home and emptied everything, which again was not the idea in comparison with minimalism and highly defined concepts). The project raises thoughts related to how we live and consume and seems to work as a reflection point for observers to think over their own lives and consumer patterns. So a successful project from my view point.
What happened exactly when you wanted to graduate?
Konstfack, or rather my tutor and the head of the department of industrial design at Konstfack (so really the two people with power in this case), did not find the project very successful or interesting and very near to deadline they told me that I principally had failed on every bit of the course plan. I had support from teachers in other departments and also some other teachers (like Cheryl who really had to put up with a lot because she defended my work), but the fact that people with the final say in valuing the project where not convinced led to a lot of extra work and took a lot of energy and focus from other important work.
In the end it is clear to me that we simply have different views on design. They keep saying ‘how can this be design’? And I keep answering that designers must take a more holistic responsibility to the problem areas created within the field.
What are your future plans?
Right now there is a lot happening related to the project, interviews, speeches and exhibitions. The fact that the project and the questions I want to raise with it is engaging others makes me truly glad and I now have many hours on the train ahed of me going back and forth to Stockholm, Sweden (with Liss as my company).
After Christmas (still sticking to the original plan, though I will also participate in two other exhibitions in Stockholm) we move to Milan together with our close friend and coworker, who we met during our studies at the design academy, to build up new work to show at the furniture fair. To show a project in Milan has always been something Johan and I wanted to do, but is hard to arrange from Stockholm.
I guess in one sense our family really lives in the moment and catches the opportunities we get. The reason why we are in Eindhoven right now is actually because I exhibited in London during the design festival in September, so we thought that I might just as well try to make a late application to DDW. And when that became confirmed, we decided that we could also just move to Eindhoven for a while. So three weeks after the confirmation on DDW, we left Stockholm. Literary one thing led to another.
Some photos Mario made at Dutch Design Week:
Kristina and I discussing her project:
Thanks so much Kristina!
Visit her website for more information, work process and photos: www.kristinaschultz.se
Images at Dutch Design Week: © Mario Aspeslagh. Other images: © Kristina Schultz.