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Out of town: Visiting Line Depping

With the goal of bringing a more human perspective and greater balance to their life, designer Line Depping and her husband, sculptor and designer Jakob Jørgensen, sought a creative haven in the middle of the Baltic Sea. In close interaction with nature, they have created a space dedicated to art and design.

Just under four years ago, Depping and Jørgensen decided to move out of the city, leaving behind the metropolis, their one-room flat and the urban noise, systems, structures and expectations in a search for complete freedom and a deeper sense of connectedness with themselves, their family and their work, which includes two independent practices as well as joint projects under the name Depping & Jørgensen.

Their choice fell on a smallholding from 1820 on the island of Bornholm; a geographic location where getting to and from Copenhagen involves crossing a bridge and taking a ferry. The property, which has two hectares of land, is surrounded by farmland and has a view of the sea on the horizon. In addition to the main house, there is a studio, which serves as the couple’s shared workplace, and a converted garage that contains Jørgensen’s larger sculptural projects.

On the land, Jørgensen is currently planting the last of 500 new trees, with an ambition of establishing a small wood. Initially, the couple looked at properties all over Denmark. Eventually, they chose Bornholm based on a conscious decision to embrace the adventure. Moving into nature, becoming part of an island community and experiencing the implications of the fact that there is no way off the island once the last ferry has sailed.

After showing us around the property among newly planted trees, tall grass and the odd sculpture here and there, the couple invite us in. Over freshly brewed coffee and homemade cinnamon buns, they talk about a trip to Texas and New Mexico a few years ago. The experience had a much more profound impact on them both than they anticipated. The couple had always dreamed of seeing the Donald Judd

Foundation and the Chinati Foundation, which together own Donald Judd’s homes, studios and a large number of art installations in Marfa, Texas, by Judd and other artists. In connection with a solo exhibition by Jørgensen in New York in 2022, they decided to extend their stay in the US and visit both the Judd sites and Abiquiú, New Mexico, where Georgia O’Keeffe spent much of her life.

‘You have to give Donald Judd credit for relocating to Marfa with open eyes. Fed up with New York, he moved to Texas with his children and spent the rest of his life there, with a vast amount of space at his disposal. He was completely committed and built the place from scratch,’ says Jørgensen. Depping adds,

‘Previously, we had traveled extensively in Japan, which had a profound influence on especially my work over the years. Now, I am beginning to acknowledge that the US may have impacted me more than I realized. It gets to you in a different way. The way Judd and O’Keeffe interacted with nature was very inspiring.’ Standing at the cooker, brewing a second pot of coffee, Jørgensen says, ‘Not to draw a direct comparison, but when we moved here, we had a similar goal of engaging with the landscape and having room to do stuff; basically the same motivation as Donald Judd and Georgia O’Keeffe.’ 

One of the reasons why the couple chose Bornholm was the rugged nature, which is very different from the rest of Denmark; the ever-roaring sea, the craggy rock formations and the windswept vegetation along most of the coast and the wavy fields and forests covering most of the island’s interior.

’I bring nature into my work by incorporating the human condition into my designs.’
— Line Depping

‘I love being in nature, and while I do draw inspiration from it, my goal is to create something that is completely clear-cut and simple, as a contrast and counterpoint to nature’s lavish diversity or chaos. I bring nature into my work by incorporating the human condition into my designs,’ says Depping, whose designs include the drawer system Tool Boxes, which is produced by A. Petersen.

Depping divides her time between creating unique objects that are sold by Galerie Maria Wettergren in Paris as well as product designs manufactured by companies in Denmark and abroad. Both categories are characterized by her poetic and simple expression combined with keen attention to details. Depping appreciates the interaction and contrast between the two disciplines.

’Not everything has to have an explanation. When you encounter an object that you are unable to decode, you have to examine it, open your senses, see, notice and take your time. That is what I hope to achieve in my work.’
— Line Depping

‘My dual practice of one-off objects and product design are not separate but merely two different ways of working. I like the interplay between free form, where my focus is on expression, form and material, and the commercial products, where I also need to consider the practicalities of manufacturing.

The objects emerge intuitively: a vague idea of form, some rapid sketches and an intuitive process where I work hands-on with the wood. It is a very direct and simple process, where I do everything myself, from start to finish. Design, on the other hand, is created in interaction with others and involves a longer idea process. I like both approaches and the transitions between them, and to some extent, I am able to transfer knowledge from one practice to the other. In both processes, I have a keen focus on proportions, and I take the sense of form I have developed to determine when a line is just right and supple in my objects and bring it into my designs.

’Part of Depping’s practice is a years-long collaboration with Jørgensen under the name Depping & Jørgensen, which has resulted in several exhibitions and in designs for commercial companies, including Hay and Takt. Their joint projects have a clear distribution of skills and tasks, as Jørgensen, according to Depping, has a wilder streak, while Depping’s approach is sparser and more systematic.

‘Jakob has the technical grasp and is more hands-on in the process, while I use small-scale models, sketching and the computer and have a stronger focus on details and tactile qualities. In combination, this enables a more complex approach.’

Depping describes her childhood home as ‘very proper’: a place where you have your things in order, your drawers are organized, and you are expected to behave as a decent person towards the world around you. When Depping met Jørgensen at the Danish Design School in 2002, he joked that she would have to learn to unleash her inner troll: let go, go wild, make some noise, make a mess, take up room. Over time,

Depping has gradually come to acknowledge these qualities as part of being human. ‘Care and logical thinking combined with a rebellious streak have made me the designer I am today. My childhood home was very proper. It was tidy, clean, the drawers were neatly organized, and you met your obligations and commitments. These are all good qualities, but the requirement to fit in can spark a subtle rebelliousness. I want to create objects that make room for people to just be human.’

Depping and Jørgensen’s home has a calm and contemplative feel. Most of the furniture is of their own design, the skylights in the high ceilings let in a diffuse natural light, and around the house, there are small collections of objects and tools brought home from their travels. In direct extension of the main house lies their shared studio, where sketches, prototypes and form experiments appear alongside Japanese hand saws and selected power tools. This is where Depping creates her unique objects, sawing and sanding her impressively large fan-like wooden objects. On the table, there are small samples of soil collected in New Mexico next to wooden elements painted in the colour shades of the soil. 

‘Georgia O’Keeffe’s place in New Mexico had a very different atmosphere from the starker, more arid Texas. New Mexico had traditional adobe houses, rounded and mud-built. The atmosphere here was warmer and more approachable. While we were there, I collected soil samples in a variety of colour shades from the different layers in the nearby mountains. Later, among other uses, I matched them to colours that I used for an exhibition at Sølvgade 19 in 2023. I have previously worked with colours, for example in Tool Boxes, but I would like to focus even more on colours in the objects I am currently working on.’

In the studio, boxes and drawers hold a wide selection of tools, objects and artefacts. Depping tells us about a stay in New York years ago, when she spotted a tiny object in the gutter that had clearly been part of a larger, industrial product but whose function she was unable to determine. She put it in her pocket, and that marked the start of what she describes as her ‘irrational collections’, reflecting her conflicted relationship with the systematic and the chaotic.

‘I really enjoy the intriguing quality of objects that don’t serve a practical purpose but which echo or simulate a function. That is what the objects in this collection are about. They are industrial products that I found in the street, but since I can no longer determine their function, they have become pure form. I do not draw inspiration from them directly, just as I don’t derive direct inspiration from nature, but the intriguing aspect of the forms informs my work.’ Depping has pulled out a drawer with objects carefully arranged in a mix of sizes and materials, like finds in an archaeological collection. 

‘My rule is that I have to find them. I can’t buy them. It’s a little like finding things as you walk along the beach. If I discover their function, my interest in them tends to fade.’ To Depping, the collections are a way to make room for the messy aspects of being human, combined with the careful and organized approach she takes with her from her upbringing. ‘With Tool Boxes, I addressed the practice of storing things. I have a lot of things that I collect and which are a source of joy. To me, they represent memories, forms, materialities; things that speak to my senses. They have no rational value, but they are valuable to me. It is a human trait to want to collect all sorts of – possibly useless but fascinating – objects.

I would like to make room for this sense of wonder. Not everything has to have an explanation. When you encounter an object that you can’t decode, you have to examine it, open your senses, see, notice and take your time. That is what I hope to achieve in my work.’ On the horizon, the house and the trees are casting long shadows in the setting spring sun. Time seems to pass more slowly on the island, and our senses are heightened by the smell of freshly ploughed fields, the buds on the newly planted trees, ready to burst, and the seagulls that have flown in directly from the sea.

After a few minutes’ silence, as we head back to the main house, Depping reflects, ‘Our decision to move to Bornholm was also a decision to move towards something more human.’

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