Vera Kleppe and Åshild Kyte met during their studies at Bergen Academy of Art and Design and have been working together ever since their graduation in 2012. Under their alias Vera & Kyte, they have built an international reputation for their playful approach to furniture and product design.
Based in Bergen on Norway’s western coast, Vera & Kyte has become one of the country’s most compelling design studios. Its founders bring their shared enthusiasm for new materials, methods and aesthetics to their work on furniture, product design, jewellery and interior architecture. At this year’s London Design Fair, they presented the Epilogue collection – a collaboration with Norwegian stone producer Lundhs. While in London, Vera and Åshild made time to talk to Norwegian Arts about teamwork, sustainability and their fascination for everyday objects.
As two individuals who form one design studio, how did you forge a common approach?
During our studies, we did many projects together, both in and outside the school context. The more we worked together, the closer our cooperation became – and we found it more exciting to work together than separately. We develop organically. The dynamics of collaboration are thrilling. We are sparring partners, and this approach drives the entire design process forward.
It has become well established to work within design in an interdisciplinary way. Yet, we never look at a problem the same way or see the same solutions. Because of this, we constantly surprise each other and trigger something unpredictable in one another.
How do you keep the playfulness in your partnership?
We spar with each other all the time – both of us have an open and experimental approach to what it means to be a designer and how we can use our knowledge. New projects, assignments, opportunities and challenges are constantly coming. This has set us in contact with many different craftsmen; jewelers, stonecutters, glass blowers – to mention a few – have let us into their workshops. We also dare to enter collaborations with people from fields in which we are inexperienced – stone, for example.
Where did your urge to create things originate?
The fascination for our surroundings – that is where it all originates. Those objects you use in your everyday life – everything from architecture down to your local shop, your furniture or your cutlery – these are the objects that shape your entire being. For us, it is easy to be fascinated by such objects and by working with how to make them better. One thing is the functional value the object can have as a used object – another thing is the extraction of the material and utilization of the surplus material. We want to make products of this surplus material.
What is so fascinating about the objects we surround ourselves with in our everyday lives?
As a designer, you become concerned with how the things you surround yourself with are influencing your choices. It is part of our profession and competence to reflect on the material’s specific function and its affiliation to the object. The great thing about the Epilogue collection we have made with Lundhs, is the material. Stone is an imaginatively durable material. In addition, we have also utilized the resource by using surplus material from stone productions. All the surfaces are made of pieces that are carefully picked out and polished.
You have exhibited at the London Design Festival before and received a lot of publicity in the British press. What makes you return to London?
The London Design Festival is a great arena. The festival has so many exciting, experimental and investigative projects on display. An especially nice part about London is how easy it is to get in touch with people. There are many independent venues and exhibitions all over the city with a huge breadth of work.
In our experience, the British press is fantastic. A lot of British design journalists are very up to date – and genuinely interested. The UK has a large design movement and long tradition behind design and handcrafts.
You do most of your work from your home base in Bergen. How have you managed to stand out in the international arenas?
A great part of this profession is how international it is – you can practically be based anywhere in the world. Globalization makes it possible for us to work from a relatively small city on the west coast of Norway.
Has Norwegian design evolved over the years you have been working?
The design field has reached a great level. There are huge investments in exhibitions abroad. The ‘100% Norway’ exhibition, presented in London for over 10 years, served as a solid marker for Norwegian design. Through the ‘Norwegian Presence’ DOGA exhibition in Milan, Norway has made its mark on the international design scene. The diversity within Norwegian manufacturers has grown – and many young and newly established designers are starting new design companies. The industry is small, but it is growing.
Has Norwegian cultural heritage influenced your work in any way?
Yes, both consciously and unconsciously. We are educated within a Scandinavian design tradition, which has a fairly clear formal language with an approach to design that is focused on awareness of the use of materials, about honesty and rationality of the value of products. We are proud and happy to carry these values forward – especially in a time when sustainability and the environment is increasingly important.
Vera & Kyte’s Epilogue Collection, a collaboration with Lundhs, is available in the UK
Top photo: Åshild Kyte and Vera Kleppe (Lundhs AS / Bent René Synnevåg)