Valebjørg Design: Design at the intersection between art and function
By Alyssa Nilsen | Photos: Valebjørg Design
A renovated family farm in Fyresdal, Norway, is home to design brand Valebjørg Design. Working within a wide range of art and design, Valebjørg Design aims to counterbalance the modern culture of fast, discardable fashion and design.
A family affair, Valebjørg Design consists of artists and brothers Andreas and Stian Valebjørg, as well as their dad, Jarl. Having started out in other professions, working as a carpenter and a 3D animator respectively, the brothers decided in 2013 to pursue their passion for arts and crafts and founded Valebjørg Design.
Andreas works as a craftsman building furniture, toys, sculptures and art installations. Stian is responsible for visualising and designing the items before they’re built. He is also a fine arts artist, making prints, drawings and oil paintings. Together, their blend of artistic vision and expressions, and a keen eye for detail and function, makes for one-of-a-kind items designed to last generations.
“Stian draws and realises the customers’ ideas, whereas my talent is bringing the drawings and sketches to life through building and construction,” says CEO Andreas Valebjørg. “We make a good team.”
Functional art that excites and inspires
The brothers have spent years building experience and a portfolio, and the results of their collaboration speak for themselves. How about a handmade 1900s-style picnic suitcase made from oak and leather? Complete with porcelain tableware, crystal glasses and space for a wine bottle and food, each compartment is carefully designed and crafted. The leather details are hand-cut and stitched. Every exquisite detail is immaculately measured, crafted and executed. The suitcase is for sale but can also be rented to provide that added touch for a photoshoot or the perfect picnic.
Among the more decorative pieces are marionettes, parts of a dream of making a larger puppet theatre, as well as Valebjørg Design’s popular wooden Lego butlers. Crafted from 1947 English oak and ash trees and decorated with gold leaves, the handcrafted figurines are captured in various poses and situations. Some carry tea and scones, while others offer a bouquet of flowers or play cheekily with a slingshot.
Another Lego-style item is a lunchbox, handcrafted from wood and with an internal mechanism locking the lid in place when one of the knobs is turned. The lunchbox is not only a beautifully made piece of furniture, but also reminiscent of a time prior to the plastic era, when items were made from quality materials and built to withstand time and use.
The vast majority of Valebjørg Design’s work exists in the intersection between art and function. The line between the two is blurred and fluid, and intentionally so. “I’m very fond of art that can be useful,” says Andreas. “It’s always difficult explaining to people what we are and do. Stian is a fine arts and conceptual designer, whereas I’m a functional arts and crafts designer.”
High-quality items made to last
The idea of long-lasting design is essential to the Valebjørg brothers. The current trend of fast, cheap and expendable fashion and design is not only unsustainable from a financial and ecological point of view. It also disregards the value of handicrafts, of putting time, thought and effort into the creative processes, and studying, perfecting and honing skills developed and passed down through centuries of experience.
Rather than cheap materials, quick fixes and mass-production, the brothers want to focus their efforts on exclusivity, legacy and handcrafted quality. “We’d rather sell fewer items at a higher price and quality than mass produce cheaper-quality items,” Andreas explains. “There’s no such thing as 3D printers or other shortcuts in our workshop. We find joy in the work itself, not in pressing buttons in an otherwise automated process.”
In addition to the toys and smaller items, Valebjørg Design also designs and constructs larger pieces of furniture. Tailored bookshelves, day lounges, cupboards and coffee tables are among the items they’ve built on commission. They’ve even constructed furniture for a church in the Norwegian town of Skien, and have also designed and constructed pieces of art displayed in various locations around Norway.
Their latest pieces can be found in a brand-new activity park in Fyresdal, Hamaren Aktivitetspark, and are designed to explore, intrigue and inspire. One is a bear made from 350 metres of ten-millimetre stainless steel wire, bent by hand with only simple tools. Inspired by The Jungle Book’s Baloo, the bear is hollow and meant for children to climb into. Inside, you’ll find a bench to sit on and an epoxy heart with colours, figurines and light, all intended to spark the imagination.
Another brand new sculpure is Seljeblad, a stainless-steel wire construction shaped like a leaf and non-invasively attached to a tree, making for a comfortable hammock-like place to rest and think.
And maybe, along the way, Valebjørg Design’s creative and imaginative work might help turn the tide of fast and disposable design in favour of a more sustainable, quality-based wave.
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