“Our objects are an expression of who we are and what we have experienced or experience right now in our lives. We take ownership of our inner voices and use our background as designers and psychotherapists as a tool to communicate what has shaped us. We feel an urge to share our view and stories because we believe they might be relevant for other people as well.”
– Pernille Iben & Morten Linde of studio YOLK
All images courtesy of studio YOLK
A family business is a wonderful occurrence; it is an indication of passion for a craft that has been passed down to one’s children, revealing a close familial bond. When these businesses deal with art and design, they arguably take on a deeper meaning, as art and design are so dependent on emotion and creativity, which can be difficult to convey, even among family members.
A collectible design studio that perfectly encapsulates this is studio YOLK. Founded by Pernille Iben and Morten Linde in late 2020, the Copenhagen-based studio also features contributions from two of their children, Amanda and Carl Otto Linde. The experience and background of each family member cover a strikingly wide variety of fields, which are expressed in their work. Pernille deals mostly with visual communication, Amanda in fashion design, Carl Otto in fine arts, and Morten in furniture and product design.
With these individual backgrounds and experiences informing and complementing each other, studio YOLK’s output features an array of objects just as unique as the minds that created them. The result is a collection of vibrant, distinctive, and thoughtful pieces. This dynamic is perhaps most present in the pieces that feature direct collaboration by multiple family members. For example, WHO AM I is a series featuring a wood base designed by Morten, bio-resin work conducted by Amanda, and colors selected by Pernille.
In addition to collaboration, psychotherapy is an especially important part of studio YOLK, as both Pernille and Morten use their experience in the subject as a way to inform and influence their creative processes. By finding something within oneself and grasping onto it, design can take on a therapeutic quality, allowing for the exploration and transformation of emotions into physical works of design.
What are the advantages of running a family-based studio?
You can literally say we have the same DNA and we have known each other for a very, very long time and as a parent, it is a great and challenging way to spend time with your (adult) children. We all have to be, or at least act, smiling, very democratic, and trustworthy.
studio YOLK was established for many reasons and suddenly the time was right to join forces. We really just grabbed the opportunity without too many thoughts. Pernille, Amanda, and I are from the Royal Danish Academy of Design in Copenhagen [and] Carl Otto is from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, fine arts in Amsterdam. We hope our youngest daughter will join us too.
Our professional disciplines range from product and furniture design, visual communication, fashion, and art. We work individually, interdisciplinary. The crossover in the creative disciplines is essential for studio YOLK and it has a huge impact on the objects and art we create.
Are there any disadvantages?
Well, we talk a lot about our work. We are very emotionally involved in what we do, and we really ARE studio YOLK and self-employed. There is not a moment where studio YOLK is asleep. It means [there is a] focus on saying NO and STOP to YOLK matters and subjects. The lines between family, roles, and colleagues are kind of difficult. Being private and professional is certainly something we have to practice and keep an eye on at all times.
How often do you collaborate with each other? When working on an individual piece, do you get a lot of feedback from the others or do you prefer to work on it yourself?
At studio YOLK, collaborating is a very organic process, we flow in and out of it. Because we cover different creative disciplines, it often comes naturally who does what. In general, there is a lot of respect for the professional competencies between us. We are aware that it is a sensitive process to work as designers and artists, creating physical objects that have an emotional value and come from the inside. We put a lot of feelings, experiences, thoughts, and energy into each piece. We touch everything by hand and we hope that our recipients are able to feel this as well. Our objects are not perfect because everything is handcrafted. Instead, they have a human touch, which is important to us.
And really there are no rules for the process in studio YOLK. We want to keep the creativity vivid, pure, clear, and as free as possible and it is up to the individual to invite other YOLKS if collaborating is a part and interest of the object.
Both Morton and Pernille have backgrounds in psychotherapy. What impact does this have on your pieces and your approach to design?
It has an impact for sure. The starting point for an object often starts from something that has taken or takes place in us. It can be anything and come from anywhere. An experience, a dream, a feeling, something undefined, a smell, something sensual, a frustration, humor, or fear. We analyze and process, which is similar to a therapeutic process. We talk about it, look at it from different angles – it is a creative and visual process. We materialize it if the gut feeling is there.
Our objects are an expression of who we are and what we have experienced or experience right now in our lives. We take ownership of our inner voices and use our background as designers and psychotherapists as a tool to communicate what has shaped us. We feel an urge to share our views and stories because we believe they might be relevant for other people as well.
We can tell you the story of the MOMO’s, for example. We made them in 2020 at a point where there was a lot of communication based on fear, uncertainty, and frustration everywhere. We used humor as a way to dissociate from reality.
If everything goes wrong and I could only bring one thing with me when I escape into my small boat to sail out to a desert island – I would for sure grab a MOMO. I could stand on it when I picked coconuts. Place my little talisman in the square space, sit on it by the fire, hide behind it when I get scared stiff, and cling myself to it as I try to swim ashore on another possible desert island to happily be reunited with the rest of my family. We have made five of them, so there is one for each family member. It is named after our dog, who unfortunately has to stay at home because she doesn’t like water.
So, this was the starting point for the MOMO object, but it can be something completely different. The objects need to be able to stand for themselves without the story and if you are interested, you can dive into the story. Hopefully, the story can change your relationship and feel to the objects.
All studio YOLK pieces are one of a kind, but there are some pieces that are connected to each other, forming a series. What about those pieces makes you want to expand them into a series?
It kind of comes with the story or feeling of each object. Some work best in a series, others solo. Take Pernille’s LOLLY SPOT, for example, which is an ongoing series about LOVE served in vintage plates. Some days you just need a lot of love and at other times one portion is enough. Using the plate is a simple metaphor. [Another would be] the LOLO’s, which [are] about diversification. They are a family of objects that are alike, but different just like you and me.
We like the idea of creating a larger installation and then letting them go and spread love and value somewhere in the world.
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studio YOLK art and design.
At studio YOLK, everything we create is ONE-OFF and handcrafted. We are a family-based studio. Pernille and Morten have lived together for 35 years and two of our three adult children are involved in studio YOLK. Pernille, Amanda, and Morten are from the Royal Danish Academy of Design in Copenhagen. Carl Otto is from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, fine arts in Amsterdam.
Our professional disciplines range from product and furniture design, visual communication, fashion, and art. We work individually, interdisciplinary and we work closely with skilled craftsmen.
There is a story and thought within each object, something that has taken or takes place from the inner depths. Both Pernille Iben and Morten are psychotherapists in addition to their design backgrounds. We use our voice as artists and designers to express and explore external and internal conditions that unfold in the present and that create a relevant debate across societies, genders, and cultures.