Interview with Thorning Astrup / AARHUS

Interview with Thorning Astrup / AARHUS

Maja Thorning Kristensen and Niels Astrup formed Danish jewellery design studio Thorning Astrup / Aarhus in 2014. Maja holds a masters degree in architecture from Aarhus School of Architecture, 2013 and Niels holds a masters in Digital Design from Aarhus University, 2012. 

Nordique had the pleasure of interviewing Niels, and getting to know more about Thorning Astrup / Aarhus:

Tell us more about Thorning Astrup / aarhus - how did your great collaboration start?

"Maja has previously been working as an exhibition architect and product designer and I was working as a product- interaction and lighting designer. We are a couple both professionally and privately and we live and breathe product design. I guess you can say we are pretty nerdy and love to play with all kinds of materials from textiles to electronics to paper."

"We met during a shared semester at Aarhus School of Architecture but didn’t actually speak much until the end of the semester where things just clicked - and we haven’t really parted since. I had been doing some art stuff for a couple of years whereas Maja were fully focused on design. And I think this combination is what keeps things moving. With one eye in the art world, one on design and then a shared third eye on the tech world, we try to keep up to date with the elements that interest us."

"We share a love for materials, patterns and textures, both physical and digital and I guess we see it as our duty to challenge design in general and combine the materials in unexpected compositions. Maja is the structured mind and makes lists of production, stock and customers and she is also the patient one and into details. She also has an eye for the aesthetics making sure everything is perfect aligned whereas I tend to work with a lot of things at the same time having a hard time finishing things and getting the detail right. Having said that, we share all the work tasks including new designs, craftsmanship, marketing etc. so you can say our workflow is fluent even though we each do what we do best."

"I also think that is why we support each other brilliantly and are good at taking breaks and not getting too stressed up. And it is when we take time or maybe more importantly make time to stop up and take a break, where our real value lies. Because this is where we find new inspiration and create a surplus of energy to come up with ideas."

How would you describe your designs and where do you find your inspiration?

"We often design with a constructivist approach and find inspiration for new products through specific materials while working with existing products. That might be a variation of a product, a constraint or a different way to produce the item that leads to a new idea."

"We are careful that what we do in T/A is not just art but make sure to keep a commercial eye on the final product. But having said that we often find ourselves in the gap between art and design and vice versa and we often talk about artworks that we would love to make."

"We sometimes hear that designing for the minimal is just about erasing details, but the fact is that it is an artform in itself deciding which details to actually erase and which ones to keep. In T/A we have a mantra saying that each of our designs only holds ONE defining detail, like the texture of the Snakeskin Bracelet or the concrete cube in the Acorn necklace."


What does a typical week look like for Thorning Astrup/ aarhus?

"We work a lot and since we are still the only two employees of our company we also wear a lot of different ‘hats’ everyday. So I don’t think there is something like a typical workweek. Some weeks are straight up production and others are marketing or sales weeks and most of the time it is everything at the same time. But that also means that it never gets boring and it is fun to go to work every day. Moreover we try to deviate from our daily routines to keep edgy. Though I’m not sure if this works as we both like the homely and safe at the same time."

What does Nordic design mean to you – and why do you think Nordic design is so popular around the world? 

"Nordic design often combines tightly constructed lines and shapes, a clear attitude towards colours but still appear as laid back designs. This strong tradition and culture is a privilege and a pleasure to contribute and carry on, especially during these years where so much is happening in developing the next generation of nordic designers. This new generation are good at rethinking and innovating and at the same time keeping a classical and timeless designline that you never get tired of looking at. The combination of high tech materials like aluminium and leather in Cecilie Manz’ design for Bang & Olufsen or the innovative modular bicycles from Trio Bike are good examples that clearly show classical elements evolving into new timeless products that make use of Scandinavian traditions."


Finally, what is a “must-do” if you are visiting Denmark?

"You must come to our city of Aarhus! The last decade and especially during these last years the city has exploded with creativity and small businesses. Aarhus is fairly small so everybody kind of knows each other or knows somebody who does. That means that networking is relatively easy and you’ll find great meetups amongst artists, musicians, designers, carpenters, bakers, bicycle repairmen, etc. The city is also booming with the second wave of Nordic Cuisine and it seems like a new restaurant, wine bar or food market is opening every week which makes going out a treat."


Nordique features an exciting range of Thorning Astrup / Aarhus jewellery in our shop

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