“…life is like music and you are supposed to dance to it, rather than rushing to the end..” This is a beautiful quote from Soso in this moving and fascinating interview with the talented artist and maker of magical beings. She is bringing a whole enchanted world to life in her creations. Be sure to catch her exhibition in Glastonbury if you’re in the area in December – read on for more information….
Please tell me an overview of your business – what do you do?
That’s a really good question and I find it always difficult to answer. I could say I am sculpting, which is true, but it only covers a small part of my art. A friend of mine just told me yesterday, she tried to describe what I am doing to an acquaintance of hers and couldn’t find the proper words for it.
For me there are two different ways of looking at it, a technical one and let’s say a more “magical” one:
From a technical point of view, I sculpt, paint and write stories about magical beings from what I call the Alderworlds. The Alder is according to old celtic myths a fairy tree and my last name means something like “Alderplace”.
In a more magical perspective, I could say I give beings from the Alderworlds, a magical realm just a breath away from the realm of humans, a physical form in our reality, a voice and a platform so they can connect with us.
How did you start?
In a way, I already started when I was a little girl. I built my first puppet – it was a string puppet – with my mother when I was about 5 or 6 and it was a dragon. Ever since then I was kind of sold into puppets and magical beings. Maybe it was the other way around, and I was so into them, I wanted to make them visible already then, who knows…
As a teenager I had plans to go to art school and had been working for many months on my portfolio, when at age 18 an accident at school damaged my right hand
badly and the doctors gave it a very bad prognosis. At some point they wanted to stiffen up three of the fingers to give me some pain relief, but fortunately I didn’t want that. In 2005 I was really lucky and happened to come across an amazing occupational therapists specialised on hands. By the time she was done with her treatment, my hand worked again and I am usually totally pain free now. However, since I had endeavoured on an academic career in language and communication in the meantime, it still took several years before I made the jump into art. I did the occasional marzipan dragon though, which some of my friends ended up being gifted.
In 2011 several things happened, I lost my pet in a rather traumatic way and a friend of mine had to give in to cancer. In addition there was the bombing of Oslo and the shooting of the teenagers on Utøya Island which traumatized about everyone in Norway. At some point I suddenly found myself sculpting my first proper art doll and crying throughout the whole process. I cannot even say if they were tears of grief over what I had lost or relief over finding my artistic voice again. After that doll was done, I just could not stop. So I made another one and another one and a year later I started to sell some of them.
How has your business grown and what are your plans for the future?
I have only been working with it part time since the end of 2012, but I have had some dedicated followers from the very beginning and it never ceases to amaze me and I am grateful for their support. In many ways it is easier to get your art out there than ever before, but it is also a lot of time consuming work, making it sometimes hard to find the time to actually do my art. I still do it part time, beside a “normal job”, mainly because it is difficult to rely on the income from it alone, but also because I love my other job too, which makes me really lucky. It doesn’t help that I never can decide if I want to do more proper puppets or more “artsy” work, so I end up doing both.
Being an artist sounds romantic, but in the modern world it entails a lot more than most people reckon. As many artists I am my own accountant, website designer, photographer, advert manager, social media consultant etc.
Currently I am trying to get that balance right, and also finish a long time coming book I have been working together with a photographer and an illustrator. This is project is close my heart and I cannot wait for having finally having time to finish it. December this year looks good so far.
What is your favourite thing about your work?
There are several, actually. One is definitely the process of an Alderworlder coming into life, telling me his or her story, while slowly coming out of the clay and becoming visible. When they look at you for the time and you see them as they are, it is always very special. Another thing is when I see someone connect to them. I have been blessed to see it several times happen and it can be very touching. In the end it is all about a connection between me, my art and my audience and I am lucky to have an amazing audience that inspires me to keep going.
What inspires you?
Nature, legends, mythology, life. Feelings, vision, hope, optimism and above all the connections I have made.
Do you have a favourite crafter or artist you admire, and why?
There are several out there I deeply admire. One of them is Heather Henson, the daughter of Jim Henson. I was lucky enough to meet her a few years ago and she is so down to earth, passionate about what she does and at the same time brilliant. What I really admire about her work with her own puppet company (Ibex puppetry), is the combination of puppetry and art with a higher purpose. She works a lot for environmental awareness, for example with her puppet show for the endangered cranes.
What she is doing is what I believe art is about, making an impact, raising awareness, spreading hope, beauty and optimism.
Then there are others, whose work have touched me one way or the other. I admire Forest Rogers’ sculptures, they are just incredible, and Anya Boz’ work for the way her room guardians are all so full of soul and life. I could go on and on. My taste is rather varied, but I always fall for combination of good technique, soulfulness and some sprinkles of magic.
Have you had any challenges to overcome?
Don’t we all? I cannot imagine any artist or anyone in general for that matter who didn’t have challenges on their way to wherever they are now. So, yes, I did have challenges. As mentioned above to become an artist at all I had to fix my hand, but challenges are not necessarily a bad thing. More than anything they make you who you are and probably many of us become better artists because of them. And the challenges can turn into vision. Sometimes you find yourself in a state where the challenges take all the focus, but when you get out of that state and look up to the stars and realise this life is like music and you are supposed to dance to it, rather than rushing to the end, all you see is visions, inspiration and the smell of possibilities and that makes always all the challenges worthwhile.
Any stories to tell? Funny moments?
How much time/space do you have? Working – and living – with the Alderworlders means being part of a one big story, unfolding as a myriad of tiny ones. Sometimes I feel like being in the middle of a fantasy novel. But if I have to decide on only one story, it would probably this one, because it was so magical and very personal too:
I will never forget how I discovered that my little house elf Caruso (an energy I had been feeling I my house for years) had followed me all the way to an ancient castle in France to be sculpted in a masterclass with Wendy Froud. It sounds probably delusional, but I was not the only one who felt him. Heidi, the owner of the castle, was up with me in the big Tower room to fetch a second set of keys. We went down the spiral stone staircase and at the bottom she had only one set off keys in her hand, although we could both remembered clearly how she picked up the second one. The keys turned up again a little while later in a rather unexpected place, as they always do, but my house elf did some other stuff until Heidi asked me to do something about it. So I struck a bargain with him: I sculpt him and he stops causing trouble. And it worked.
Any advice for anyone wanting to become a doll maker?
Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself. Find your own thing. Let yourself be inspired by others work, but do what YOU want. Don’t think about what others want or what they see. You are the only one who can do what YOU can do.
Any advice for anyone wanting to start a craft business generally?
Oh well, I really don’t think, I should give any advice on that topic. Most of the time I hardly make any money, so I reckon my best advice would be: if you want to be rich, don’t follow my lead.
Where can we find you in person? Future craft fairs or markets?
I moved this year from Oslo, Norway, to Glastonbury, England. I am on several markets there (like the Tuesday indoor market and the Fairy Fayre). I have a solo-exhibition of all December (starting at the 3rd of December) at the Blue Cedar Print in Glastonbury, so people can see my work there and maybe also meet me.
Where can we find you online?
Best way to find my latest work is currently facebook (the Alderworlds), and my shop on Etsy, but I do also have a website and I am on Twitter and Pinterest as well as deviant art. Unfortunately I have not often time to update much else than facebook, but you find the basic information about me and a link to my shop here:
(All photos in this article belong to Soso.)