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A Tribute to When It's Raining

Our Stream collection handles rain or shine just as beautifully, but those gloomy days tend to get stuck with a bad reputation. We had a talk with Erik Vallbo of Studio Vallbo about his artistry and seeing the beauty in a rainy day.

Above: Raindance.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

A: I’m trying to navigate the new life as an artist and what that brings. I recently started Studio Vallbo where I work with studio production, small scale series, limited editions and site-specific commissions. I’m trying to position myself and the studio somewhere in between art and design. Even though I’m educated in design, my heart lies with the arts. Many of the projects that I work with contain or revolve around movement, transformation or chance. Those forces are very important for me in my process.

Playfulness is also very important! I don’t like to paint myself into a corner and stay there, I always keep my mind and practice open for exciting collaborations and ideas. I want to be able to move freely into my interests, no matter what others may label it as. I’m currently working quite a lot with site specific artworks in the public space. It’s thrilling to be creating things that will be used and experienced by many. There are just many exciting things happening at the moment. Many of the things that I dreamt of doing are actually now turning into reality, I feel humble and grateful for being able to do what I do.

Above: Erik Vallbo next to Rainwaves (top), Raindance luminaires (bottom).

Q: How did you get started as an artist?

A: I studied industrial design at Konstfack, both bachelor and master. Once I started in art school I realized that it was exactly what I had been searching for. Learning how to express and give form to my ideas was a wonderful feeling. I also think that being able to find a vocabulary that gives meaning and depth to a project was essential for me.

My master degree project “A tribute to when it's raining” really brought me closer to working with public art. That project became a vessel that resonated with a lot of people, it opened up a lot of opportunities for me. The project was made in collaboration with the organization Rain Gothenburg. They work with art and design to create the world's best city when it rains, just that tagline got me excited. How can I use rain to create magic in the dull and gray November rain? The collaboration is still going strong and we have installed five Raindance luminaires at Seminarieparken in Gothenburg.

Q: We love your Rainwaves installation, where did that idea come from?

A: Thank you! I’m glad you like it. Rainwaves was part of the “A tribute to when it’s raining” project. Both Rainwaves and Raindance (the luminaire) builds on the idea to create objects that come to life when it rains. The idea was to use the rain as a trigger for an event, something that only happens when it rains. The sound of rain is an universal experience, something we all share in our dna. I wanted to use rain's unpredictability to create moments in time that will be unique. Rain never falls in the same way, the wind will always carry the droplets differently. Therefore nature will never play the same melody twice. I think that there is something very beautiful in that idea.

Above: Rainwaves.

Q: A lot of your pieces interact with nature, has nature always been an inspiration for you?

A: Yes, I have always been drawn to natural phenomenons. My works often originate from something that I’m trying to understand better, I look, feel and try to be very close to it. I was never good at physics in school but I always found it very fascinating.

For me, it's about learning how the world around me works. So I found my own way of exploring and interpreting it through experiments rather than learning the formula. My work then becomes my own interpretation of the things I learn. The outcome is often expressed through sound and light. I really like the idea of creating stuff that interacts with nature on its own terms. We have for too long treated nature as an infinite source that should please our needs. I wish to shift the attention with my works, to a future where we live in a more respectful relationship.

Q: What are some artists you look up to?

A: I try to keep an open mind towards many different creative fields, there are so many talented people out there. One project that was a big influence during the time when I created Rainwaves and Raindance was Studio Drift’s Fragile Future. A very beautiful and interesting light sculpture where nature and technology live in a futuristic coexistence. I think it hits a spot where we question our relationship with nature, I also see a darker future where we worship the natural beauty we once took for granted.

Another artist that I really admire is Zimoun, a very interesting artist that creates large scale installations with simple everyday materials. He builds architecturally minimalistic sound sculptures of many small modular creations that he stacks on eachother. Several hundred rotating dc motors bang on empty cardboard boxes and create a very immersive soundscape that can be seen as both chaotic and systematically organized.

Above: Sand Soundscape.

Q: What’s your next project?

A: I’m currently working on a permanent sound sculpture for the sound sculpture park Klankenbos in Pelt, Belgium. I have been invited by the organization Musica to do a collaborative project with 10 children from the area. As the sculpture will be situated in a playground, it felt natural to explore sand as a medium for sound. Their contribution has given the whole project direction and substance. The idea was to invite them early in the process so they get a sense of ownership of the sculpture. The intention is to have it ready in the beginning of June. We are also working on deep listening “sand soundscape” with the recordings the children made during the workshops, we will hopefully release it on vinyl.

Another project that I’m working on is Spår i rörelse (Traces in motion). My first Swedish commissioned project! It’s situated at Brånebacken in front of Tändsticksområdet in Jönköping. I have designed 80m of iron grates that will be lit up from underneath and spann diagonally over the square leading up to the old industrial area called Tändsticksområdet. My work is based on traces from the etiquettes of the match boxes that were made and exported in that area.

My intention has been to create rhythm and dynamic between the selected forms. The square forms are mixed with the floating, the imaginary meets the simple and repetitive to give intensity and space. The two parallel tracks that span over the square interact and invite the viewer to move forward, but freely and exploratively. There are also a few collaborations that are yet not confirmed. I guess we will have to see what they will become. But overall, I’m super happy with being able to create things that many hopefully will enjoy.