Norwegian Ceramics Studio in an Old Ski Factory
In 2012, Norwegian sisters Ingvild and Sidsel Forr Hemma learned that a defunct factory in Lillehammer—once the world's oldest manufacturer of skis—was up for sale. That settled things. After years of talk, they decided to merge their talents and form MENT, a small but remarkable of producer porcelain, ceramics, and other interior objects.
As you approach, the old ski factory looks as forbidding as a Scandinavian January, but up a narrow flight of stairs you suddenly find yourself immersed in a serene riot of color and light. Here, Ingvild contributes her long experience as an interior stylist, while Sidsel serves as chief product designer. Together, they are committed to countering raw consumerism by offering lovingly crafted objects.
Mostly minimalist and monochromatic, their work also incorporates playful takes on Norway's mid-century heritage, as well as a more ancient pastoral crafts heritage. Their objects—ranging from cups and bowls to lamps and pitchers—are all handmade (some in Lillehammer, some in Portugal) and fired three times under intense hear to create their distinctive stoneware finish.
Your use of color is special and distinct. What inspires your palette? And how to you create these shades for your work?
Ingvild: When we plan our palettes, we always look at them all together and create a range that we believe works well together. Our choices are not always mainstream, but both of us have the same approach to the usage of colors. We don´t look at trends, but develop our palette from our own taste and desires – often shady colors with a tint of black.
In our studio we create our own colors, which we then blend into the liquid porcelain. When the colors are mixed with the white porcelain, they gain softer tints. At the same time, the shiny glaze used in the late stage of production gives a nice contrast between the matte, raw porcelain and the glazed parts of the product.
Tell me about the special green that is inspired by the color of the Laagen River that runs right past your studio?
Ingvild: The color Laagen Green is inspired by the different nuances of green and blue in the river that run past our workshop. The color changes in every season, like when it fills with the ice-cold water that melts off the mountains during spring and summer. The colors are breathtaking!
Is there anything peculiarly Norwegian in your designs?
Ingvild: Of our seven product lines, the Beite collection, which translates as "Graze," is definitely most inspired by Norway, specifically the image of cows grazing in summer pastures on mountain farms. This is a Norwegian tradition that will soon vanish as food production becomes more industrialized. All these products are made with high-quality porcelain in a white, milky color.
What natural or man-made forms inspire you in your designs?
Ingvild: We are inspired by great designs and shapes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, as well as old, familiar objects that we transform into new materials and with new functions. Shapes in the woods and mountains of Norway are breathtaking. These things are located right outside our window and effect everything we do. Finally, Sidsel's background as a florist has also influenced some of our organic shapes.
Your business has grown a lot recently. Can you please tell us about that growth? Where? Why? How?
Ingvild: A year after opening our workshop and showroom here, we began to work with two factories in Portugal who produce our design in ceramics and white porcelain. This has helps us serve a great deal of retailers all over Norway, including approximately 100 interior and lifestyle shops. And now we are beginning to expand outside Norway.
We believe the success comes from hard work, idealism and our love of what we do. And it seems like people enjoy our design and our take on colors.
Tell us your idea of an ideal home interior. What elements must it have?
Ingvild: Living plants and flowers! Light coming in from big windows and furniture and elements that mean something to you. We are both "collectors" – falling in love with objects because of shape and color. These kinds of things give a personal touch to a home. A home should reflect what you do and what you love, instead of being "trendy."