An international perspective

Henrietta Thompson is based in London, a noted design expert and curator of the 100% Norway Exhibition for the past several years. Norway Exports had the opportunity to have a few words with her concerning Norwegian design.

Henrietta Thompson in action.
© Charlotte Wiig

Q: Henrietta, how would you describe the reception these exhibitions have experienced?
A: The response we’ve received to the exhibitions has been beyond all expectations, which is very encouraging. The British design press, consumer and lifestyle press and international media have all been very receptive to the designs on show, and we’ve had a lot of coverage internationally too – from Australian Vogue to specialist design magazines in Canada. It’s wonderful that the Norwegian Royal family has given the show their support too, and it also seems to really strike a chord with the British design-buying public.

Q: Can you describe the essence of Norwegian Design?
A: There’s a risk that when people do this they just generalize and reinforce cliches, but there are a few things I think it’s probably safe to say. Firstly, I see Norwegian design as having all the strengths and positive traits that are associated with Scandinavian design – pure, paired down timeless forms, warm, natural, appropriate materials and colours, etc – but also a distinct voice of its own. It does not defer to Scandinavian great masters but forges an innovative path forward – there is a new, contemporary, international aesthetic and a strong personality behind a large number of the designs.

Q: One strength of Norwegian design seems to be the creativity of the new generation of young designers. Do you have any observations concerning this?
A: It’s very clear that each successive generation of Norwegian designers coming out of the art and design schools are influenced, inspired and encouraged by the success of those before them – and it’s fantastic to see the Nordic design scene snowballing in this way. Norway Says, Frost Produkt , and the likes – who in my view have kick-started this new wave – are exceptional designers and have set an important benchmark. Further to this they are also very supportive of young up and coming designers themselves – taking a collaborative approach rather than competing.

Q. There are many who say that Norwegian Design is in many ways rooted in nature. Do you think this is true, and if so, can you describe this link?
A: Yes it’s true – but I would say that of design all around the rest of the world too. I suppose Norway is exceptional in this regard because it has some pretty exceptional nature...

Q: Do you have elements of Norwegian Design in your own home?
A: I do, yes. It would be impossible not to, doing my job!

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