Norwegian design - abundant & individual

As a design writer and curator for the best part of the last decade, one of the most enjoyable and inspiring roles I have had the pleasure of being employed in is that of curator for 100% Norway – which I’ve been doing for the last five years. 100% Norway is an exhibition established to showcase and promote Norwegian design to an international audience. It is organized by the Norwegian Embassy in London, The Norwegian Design Council in Oslo, and Innovation Norway, and it has taken place annually since 2003 during the London Design Festival every September. The idea is to improve trade links, swap best practice, generate new business and a warm fuzzy glow of pride among the Norwegian creative industries – all good economy boosting stuff.

My job, primarily, is to pick the best pieces to show. It involves travelling the length and breadth of one of the most beautiful countries in the world with my co-curator Benedicte Sunde, meeting Norwegian designers and manufacturers, seeing their studios, facilities and assessing their newest and up coming projects.

I am not Norwegian – I pretend to be sometimes, but I am, according to my mother at any rate, pretty much decidedly English. Because of this I have an independent view and, crucially, knowledge of what works in the UK market – what the international design media wants to see, and by extension what non-Norwegian consumers and retailers, are likely to like.

Over the years the exhibition has attracted a fair bit of attention, which is nice, and we now are lucky enough to receive high quality applications and submissions for entry where in the early days it was a question of going out and finding the work ourselves. There’s always been a certain amount of politics involved in the selection process, and I’m generally well shielded from any pressure from the various interested parties to include things, but it has still been beneficial to refine the process to keep things as fair as possible, and to make sure we are fulfilling the original goals of the exhibition at the same time.

What I’ve noticed in the last five years is that it is getting considerably easier to put on a good show. This fact is simply because compared to five years ago there is a huge amount more to choose from – the state of Norwegian design is very markedly different. We’re at a stage this year where we have to reject a huge amount of great stuff simply because even with a vast space there is not room for all of it.

That’s a very good position to be in. And really, this year is the first time that’s happened. So what’s going on?

Henrietta Thompson
Curator 100% Norway

© Charlotte Wiig

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