Ceramic artist Anna Wallenius on her love for pastels and clouds
“I’ve never seen such fluffy clouds before,” says Anna Wallenius, smiling at me through the screen from her workshop in Hvalfjörður. Behind her are shelves of freshly made clay sculptures yet to be painted all shades of soft-hued marshmallowy colours. With her dog snoozing by her side, it seems Anna has found her zen. But it hasn’t always been this way.
Originally from Finland, Anna tried many jobs before finding her vocation in ceramic art. She studied business and design and lived in China and Japan before settling in Iceland’s countryside. “I was working in a design company in Helsinki. Everything was good, but I just really wanted to make something with my hands,” she says. “To get away from the computer and negotiation rooms.” After her first trip to Iceland, Anna was hooked—this was it. She applied to study ceramics at Reykjavík’s Myndlistaskólinn and moved to Iceland.
A lot of shapes in Anna’s sculptures, including her most famous project, ‘Rainbow Clouds,’ are inspired by just watching the view outside. “Hvalfjörður is magical,” Anna says. “There are wonderful misty valleys and mountain peaks with snow. It’s just really nice.”
“Most of my inspiration comes from nature because it is so strong here in Iceland,” she shares. “Every day, when I walk outside with our dog or drive a car, I am usually amazed.”
Softness of form
The Icelandic weather, however, often presents challenges for Anna’s process. “I like to sand all of my works outside before final firing,” she says. “Sometimes I’m sanding them in the rain and wind, sometimes in super nice sunshine.”
Getting a surface as smooth as possible is essential. “It’s about playing with the medium, the hard clay, and getting it as soft looking as possible. I feel accomplished when I see someone who wants to hold my sculpture.”
A pastel colour palette—baby pinks and blues, low saturation yellows—defines Anna’s style. She’s currently working on a new sculpture family, where the same colour palette will be preserved. “I haven’t yet revealed it, but I made the prototypes already,” says Anna. “It’s inspired by candies. Pastel glazed bright coloured candies.” She adds: “I’m going to glaze them, so they pop up a bit more. I’m also planning to use silver and gold to give them a spark.”
A chocolate eater herself, Anna agrees the new project was inspired not by a particular special candy but mostly by their peculiar shapes. “I work with shape. I was just playing around and noticed that this reminds me of candy,” she says, adding: “Also, I really wanted to do a piece that can be put on the wall.”
Bigger pieces underway
Anna believes her art is undergoing a transition at the moment. “I have started more with a concept,” she says. “I think this comes from my design background. I’ve been thinking of the concepts and building ideas. Now, I am going more into detail. I’m going more into finding the form first, like with the candy, and then thinking about the concept.” She pauses for a second: “Maybe art doesn’t always need a concept?”
At the moment, Anna’s works are on display at the Listval gallery at Harpa and The Ode To gallery in Stockholm. Some of her rainbow pieces are available for sale at the Gerðarsafn museum shop.
“I hope that in 10-20 years from now, I do not want to make these anymore,” Anna admits pointing at the rainbow sculptures. “I think I want to make bigger and bigger items. I started small, but I really want to make big things.”
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