I recently visited the Portobello Bride Boutique Wedding Market with two of my about-to-be-wed friends and was  enraptured with the work of SKAPA BILDA. Who knew you could create such gorgeousness with paper! Todays’ HOT Chat is with Benjamin Roberts, one of the principals of SKAPA BILDA. Thanks Benjamin!

Benjamin, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your business SKAPA BILDA?

I have a degree in Painting from the National Art School in Sydney went there straight out of a country high school. I have worked as a props maker and spent time in the retail industry.

My partner, Kristina Sundstrom, and I started the business a couple of years ago while Kristina was completing a BA in Printmaking. Our business growth has been a wonderful organic process. There has been a blurring of the boundaries between design and art for quite awhile now, we definitely feel we have a foot in both camps. Within the design process we provide an artists perspective, which allows for a unique approach to design parameters and construction techniques.

We have been lucky enough to collaborate with other creatives in the design and art fields on a variety of projects, from a bespoke envelope to large scale installation. A big thank you to Christian Wagstaff for being the first to pluck us from obscurity!

What’s the story behind the business’ name?

Our business name is inspired by Kristina’s Swedish heritage. A rough translation is skapa = create and bilda = form. That’s what we do…..

You do some really creative things with paper. What is it about that material that draws you work with it?

Paper as an everyday object is fantastic, totally underrated. We draw on it, fold it, store information on it. I love collage and have always used paper in my art. Kristina has a strong affinity with paper ever since her childhood xmas card sweatshop days. Yes, she blames you mum and dad!

SKAPA BILDA utilises a variety of different papers from tissue, found and recycled, newspapers as well as the highest quality cotton rag papers from Japan and Germany (which will literally out last us!).

Paper carries the association of being fragile and ephemeral, however it is such a versatile medium. It is very malleable and has great structural properties and this allows us to push it into different applications. From embossing text to kilometres of hand spun paper thread, paper flowers, cardboard houses, to using old wallpapers and found lists/letters to create different layers and textures.

Why your focus on environmentally sustainable design? How does it constrain or enhance the design process for you?

To be environmentally and socially aware is a responsibility of everyone whatever field you are in. We try to support this notion through our daily work practice and as parameters for  design .

Every part of the design process we try to make accountable.

We do short runs, most of our work is made to order. Jobs are site specific enabling bespoke  problem solving ( less waste).

Because we do things in a small scale we try to source product and labour locally. We choose to do most of the work ourselves to provide for our clients a unique, high quality handcrafted object, made to last rather than a mass produced throw away item.

Environmental considerations are also inherent in our design and construction process. Finding the beauty in, and potential for off cuts, deleted lines, found objects is a regular starting point for many projects. Our lines of quilts, cushions and rope jewellery are all made of upcycled industry remnants. ‘not blowing strongly nor falling heavily’ recently exhibited at aRtECYCLE at the Incinerator Arts Complex is also an example.

Where can we find your work?

Our quilts are stocked at Mark Tuckey and online through Estralia. We also have a sculpture at Format Furniture.

We do a large variety of projects you may have seen a little piece of SKAPA BILDA in your home, at the office, in the post, at the races, on a bed, as a necklace. We also try to do two art exhibitions a year.

We also do lots of weddings, private and corporate functions… anything!

What websites, magazines, books and/or people do you turn to for design inspiration?

We’re going to list them:

Robert Rauschenberg and his combines.

Kurt Schwitters and Piet Mondrian – I admire how they lived their artistic lives and the beautiful way Mondrian’s work crossed over to design.

Bauhaus– how they merged art, industry and design.

Yayoi Kusama – she’s mad!

Eva Hesse – poetic

Rachel Whiteread – she cast a whole house out of cement!

Concrete and bricks in general…

Katie Marx- installation artist, nature lover

Georgie Kay and the team from Georgeous –  events extraordinaire.

Carmen Reid – Melbourne based installation artist

Lauren Brown –  conceptual artist based in Melbourne and Berlin.

Krista Mcrae – contemporary jeweller.

What advice would you give to people wanting to start their own business?

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, give up your day job and try not to work all the time

What are your next plans for SKAPA BILDA?

Focussing more on our retail ventures is main goal for us, promoting our quilts and exploring lines of jewellery and bags. We also look forward to future collaborations.

Finally, what are your tips for HOT places you like in and around Melbourne?

We’re currently building a studio and house in Malmsbury so most of our spare time is spent in the beautiful Macedon Shire. So head up the Calder and check out some favs:

A paddle of beer from Holgate Brewhouse.

Awarding winning vanilla slice from Bourkies Bakehouse in Woodend.

Piper Street is our new local in Kyneton.

The Sequoias in Malmsbury’s Botanical Gardens, designed by Dr Ferdinand von Mueller. (He also designed the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne)

When in Melbourne:

One of my favourite paintings which is usually on permanent display at the NGV ‘Moonrise’ by David Davies , oil on canvas, 1894.

The Bell Jar (656 Smith St, Collingwood +61 410 336 019), was a beacon of sanity we discovered last year while we did a three month job nearby. Great coffee and food, they are mean table tennis players as well.

Gills Diner (rear 360 Little Collins St, Melbourne +61 3 9670 7214) uses local produce and has an amazing interior.