Studying at KHiO 2019: Art and Craft

Name: Thomas Iversen
Programme: MA in graphic art and drawing (medium and material based art), Art and Craft department
Age: 34

Tell us about your graduation project.

I spent one and a half years of my Master’s making a pencil. Since I don’t own a pencil factory, I had to find my own solutions. I travelled around to gather what I needed to make the pencil: graphite –not lead, as many people think – clay, wax, wood and glue. I found a graphite quarry in Vegårshei in Southern Norway that closed around a hundred years ago – the guy who owned the site was very positive and I was allowed to go down there and get some graphite. I collected clay from Skullerud here in Oslo when I went swimming there. I sawed down a tree. Kari Kolltveit [a co-student] gave me wax from her beehives. And I made glue myself from fish skin. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t get the glue sorted out. It had become really cold last autumn and I fished for four days without getting anything, but then suddenly, when the boat docked at Hovedøya, just about ready for the final departure of the day – that’s when I landed two saithe. I had to cut the head off the second one while the tourists on board the boat were watching, and I could feel the dead fish twitching about in my bag as I ran on board. I cooked the skin in order extract the protein, which then becomes a powder, which in turn makes for some excellent glue. Knut [the head of the ceramics workshop] helped me fire the pencil in a ceramic kiln – because that is how it’s made. It was a relief getting such good help. I have used all the knowledge I acquired during the process of making a pencil to make power pencils, which are meant for bodily or more physical drawing. I’m very interested in everything leading up to the moment I’m about to start drawing. Everything has a price – someone has made whatever it is we’re using, and they often don’t get much cred. If you change what lies behind a product, the outcome will also change. I like objects – that’s why I like hanging out at the Academy along with other nerds.

Why did you apply to the Academy?

I applied to the BA programme because I shared a studio with Eirik “Lillebror” Mikkelborg, the son of Bror [the head of the graphic art workshop]. He began at the graphic art programme and I thought it sounded really exciting. I arrived here and loved it – I sat and worked both in the evenings and during weekends. At the end of the BA I began to make paper by recycling art catalogues. Though I didn’t feel worthy, I went on to the MA programme . I saw that those who applied to the MA programme were very interested and talented. They were really dedicated and went in for a Master’s degree rather than take a gap year. And it was just great beginning at the Master’s programme. It was freedom – my supervisor, Jan Pettersson, showed confidence in me that I would get things done. There were new teachers and new courses. I wouldn’t mind another two years at the Master’s level – then I would choose ceramics. I like the focus on materials here at the Academy.

What is the most important thing you’re taking with you?

Various experiences. Before attending the school, I thought things might be hard to achieve, but most people greet you with open arms. They are interested. It was for example a very good experience when I contacted the guy who owned the quarry site – he was 100% positive. The range of tools here is incredible, it gives you so many opportunities. I’m going to miss that. The students and teachers I’ve collaborated with are important. The students here inspire each other with our mindsets and interests, and in addition we have teachers of various ages who challenge us. We’ve helped each other out – here I must especially thank Cathrine [Cathrine Alice Liberg], who has guided me throughout the MA. She knows how to keep time and writes down everything. Since we began at the BA programme, we are the only ones who have studied together for five years. It’s like having spent our childhood together. Every cohort should have a Cathrine. When you’re a nerd, it’s nice to hang out with other nerds. Then I can talk about art for three hours without someone changing the topic to football.

What happens now?

I’ve heard of quite a few students who go through a period of depression after the Academy. Everything is so far away , and you don’t have a sparring partner. I’ve moved into a studio in Groruddalen along with my two mates Eirik and Kjetil. All the students received a start-up stipend of 87,000 kroner, which is fabulous, so we have some graphic equipment. I’m travelling with the graphic art and drawing students to Finland and Sweden in order to exhibit there. And then I’m finally going on a vacation with my girlfriend. She’s eaten dinner with me at ten in the evening for three years now. I’m also a part of the Krause collective – there’ll probably be more exhibitions and fun there. And next year I’ll be exhibiting at Grenland Kunsthall along with three other former students from the medium- and material-based art section who also come from Grenland – Norway’s Miami.

I’ll continue to explore materials. Now that I’m done with the pencil project, I have begun to grow cotton. Cotton is not all at eco-friendly – the production requires so much water. If you use a tote bag – for example the thick one from Astrup Fearnley Museet – every day from when you’re 15, you must use it till you’re 70 for it to be eco-friendly. I have always been inventive, ever since I was a kid and had a catapult project in nursery, I spent so much time on that – so much, in fact, that the nursery contacted my parents because they were worried that maybe something was wrong with me. But I learned a lot about physics, about how the object’s arc depends on size, power and placement. Now I’m also a nursery teacher, so that worked out well!