Stockholm-based illustrator Ingela P Arrhenius tells us what inspires her work, where she’d like to go in a time machine, and how an invasion of shampoo bottle and yoghurt pot people are slowly taking over her studio with no sign of a retreat…
1. What’s the first piece of art you can remember making?
We had a big cupboard in my kitchen filled with fun artistic materials when I was kid. I remember making a lot of different characters in clay; rock artist, priest, cowboy etc. It is fun when I think of it because I still like that theme, I have done several “character products”, like my 3D Character puzzle, Mix and Match game. And of course my own projects like all the wood block figures and painted bottles.
2. Who would play you in the movie of your life?
I said this question out loud, sitting by the kitchen table and my 16 year old son is sitting here aswell doing his homework, and he immediately said Partricia Arquette.
Good choice, I’ll take that.
3. Do you have time for personal projects, if so, what are you making right now?
Yes I do. Even though I have a lot to do, I often have a personal project alongside the assignments. My latest one was painting a lot of empty packages for an exhibition in Brooklyn, NY. Right now I feel I want to make things in clay, just simple clay that I can work with at home. And I feel like painting again, big paintings. To get a contrast to my strict graphic computer style.
4. When are you happiest?
I have different things that make me happy, in different ways. Sitting on the sofa with my whole family (husband, two teenage boys and my dog) makes me very happy and peaceful. Running on a treadmill will loud music through the headphones makes me so happy I want to dance and run at the same time. Sitting by the kitchen table, painting on a used yoghurt bottle, listening to the radio with the dog on my feet makes me happy and inspired.
5. The 50s and 60s clearly influence your work. What is it about the past that captures your imagination?
Well it is just that I think the aestethics are genius; the colours, shapes, graphic design, playfulness etc. It’s like it doesn’t get any better than that.
6. What 5 things can’t you live without?
If we skip family and pet here (because I guess they are not Things :)) it is:
Reading glasses (boring but very true)
My running shoes
7. We love your hand painted recycled packaging, tell us more about them, do you plan to do anything with your growing collection?
It started as a project for an exhibition. An illustrator friend and I went to Brooklyn for an exhibition. I wanted to bring something handmade, something more than just work and printed material so I started to paint on used bottles, both because I think recycling is a good theme and also because I love painting characters. I continued after the exhibition because when I see a fun shape I can’t hold myself back. But now they are taking over my studio so I have to stop! Maybe I will have a small exhibition and sell them in my studio.
8. If you had a time machine that could take you anywhere, where would you go and what would you do?
I would go back to the turn of the century and hang around with Picasso, Giacometti and other painters and writers at Cafe de Flore in Paris. It is so cool to think that so many people sat there at the same time, people that would have such an impact on art and literature history. Saturdays we would spend in Gertrude Steins apartment discussing art and drinking wine.
9. You’ve said that children’s books are an inspiration to you. What was your favourite children’s book growing up?
The one I remember the most is What Do People Do All Day by Richard Scarry. I loved all the details, animals, professions, houses etc.
10. Your designs have been applied to many different mediums – Homeware, toys, stationery, children’s clothing, books. What’s next for you and what’s your ideal project?
Right now I am working on tableware, posters and several children’s books for the French market. An ideal project is where I get a brief with a theme but with lots of freedom.
I would love to work more with ceramic pieces; vases, figurines etc, that is still a field to explore.
Ingela P Arrhenuis