Maria Foerlev

say hi to_ Maria Foerlev

I found a cluster of some of my favorite forward thinking contemporary furniture designers around the same time and they all seemed to have one thing, or person, in common - Maria Foerlev of Etage Projects design gallery in Copenhagen. Little did I know that she would not only become my ultimate design girl crush but have such a fascinating story and design family heritage to back it up.

Extremely intelligent, undoubtedly beautiful, a literally perfected sense for spotting the 'next big thing' in design and the courage and entrepreneurial spirit to follow the beat of her own drum and find success in all that she does. Maria is a truly inspirational and classy woman. We got to chat to Maria about the story behind Etage Projects, life as a design curator, navigating the exciting and some of the less fun aspects of the gallery business and how she finds the design stars she showcases in her gallery.

 

date
December 3, 2015

length of read
5 minutes

say hi to_ Maria

 

Introduction

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Please Introduce yourself, for instance: If you just met a stranger in a bar from a different industry all together, how would you briefly explain to them what you do?

I am a design gallerist based in Copenhagen, Denmark. I am interested in work that places itself in the grey area between art/design and architecture. My background is in Design and Art History. I started the gallery 3 years ago with a partner but am now solo. In connection to the gallery, I have a gallery shop - kind of like a museum shop.


Could you introduce your gallery, Etage Projects, to us?

For the younger crowd, I find that the young designers have so much on their hearts - like critical design. The have opinions that exceeds function. So in a way, they tap into the methods used by artists. Artists want to use the intimacy that designers have with their 'audience' - that's why I find that the grey area I work with is blurring the lines between art and design

There is a need for design for its functional utilitarian purpose. There is a need for art for its poetic psychology. There is a need for them together. (just summing up my vision:)

I couldn’t agree more! That’s why your gallery REALLY stuck out for me from the crowd. I think you tapped a niche that isn’t being represented and not only that, but your taste is definitely in line with our own. We’ve found some of our favorite contemporary artists/designers via your gallery (online as we haven’t been to Copenhagen in person in a long time!)

 
 

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Are you mostly working with younger designers?

No, young is definitely not the criteria- but as the younger are more visible on social platforms, it makes it easier to get in touch.

What is a typical day at work for you?

Two days never look the same, which is the thrill of it. It might be a studio visit, installation of new exhibition, talking to clients, explaining to people what I do and why.. Denmark is a design nation - focusing on function - and then I go and mix things up. I need to explain myself quite a lot but that’s no problem - I am a missionary at heart ;)

I also try to talk to as many new people and see as much new stuff as possible! Therefore I love speaking to young artists and designers. I try to do that everyday!

That sounds very exciting to have very different things to work on all the time. I imagine researching for your gallery is half of the fun.

 
 
 

The Beginning

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What did your parents do as jobs when you were growing up? How big of a role did that play in your life? Did it influence you in one way or another? What about another family member?

Well, I am related to architect and designer, Arne Jacobsen (my fathers uncle) and grew up in one of his houses. My grandfather also grew up in an apartment in Copenhagen now belonging to the National Museum, where it stands unaltered - as a perfect example of 'Historicism’. He commissioned designers and artists to decorate it and even went to Crystal Palce in London 1851 to buy his bedroom interior. So I like to think the passion is in the blood! My father is a doctor, but has a strong passion for inventing and architecture. My mother is a teacher and a passionate art lover. I have been dragged to exhibitions from when I was very little..

My childhood home is filled with all kinds of design and art - from antiques to neon art.

I would love to have a look at your grandfathers apartment, that must have been really exciting to be surrounded with so much great design growing up.

WOW design does run in your blood! I actually just bought a new set of Arne's 'Drop Chair'  for my dining room, I love his work.

 
Maria's Uncle, Arne Jacobsen and his famous Egg Chair

Maria's Uncle, Arne Jacobsen and his famous Egg Chair

Arne's Drop Chair

Arne's Drop Chair

 
 

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"I am impulsive, but also I rely and trust on my intuition - if I can feel something is right, I act on it."

Did you study? If so did you study a subject that is related to what you are doing now?

Yes, I studied at Sotheby's in London. Great for what I am doing now as it was both theoretical and practical/hands on.


What did you do before starting Etage Projects?

Well, after I studied in London I studied at the Royal Academy of Architecture in Copenhagen for a year and when I had my daughter I opened a shop dealing with anthroposophical things for children. I was worried about all the plastic shit (sorry!) available for kids to play with. Batteries everywhere - toys doing all the playing for the children. Rudolph Steiner toys are made from natural materials and lets children use their imagination, it also lets them immerse themselves instead of constantly zapping to the next thing when bored. I think it can have grave consequences if you get bored to quickly. After that I moved to Johannesburg for two years, visited INDABA (heard a Bruce Mau lecture) and then knew I needed to work with design again - moved back, started Etage Projects.


It’s very brave to branch out on your own endeavor. We read about your toy shop - did you take a lot of time to plan things or did you have the idea and jump in right away?

I am impulsive, but also I rely and trust on my intuition - if I can feel something is right, I act on it. I do think there is a red thread in what I have done - the things we surround ourselves with has an impact, on ourselves and our surroundings.

Yes I definitely agree with you. I think its important to follow your instinct and your gut.

 
 

The Business

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How did you learn to estimate prices, deal with artists and all of the organizational work that is necessary to run a gallery? Did you learn it while in school, through experience, did you have a mentor?


For pricing, I need to now what is going on in the market - where else has the artist/designer exhibited? edition volume etc- so many things to consider.. I really strive to have an open dialogue and a relaxed relationship with the designers. They need to trust me and I them. For all the practical sides to running a gallery, I have spent hours at my accountant’s office getting to know the tricky danish tax laws. I am learning all the time - it never stops!

I have learned the laws by now - important to add!

I find the capacity to evolve is very elastic, you rise to the challenge..

Learning the laws to owning a business can be daunting, especially when you want to focus on the creative side of your work.

Yes! the most important thing to do when you are self-employed is to focus on what you do best. Rule no one: Get a good accountant!


How do you find your artists that you work with?

I am always on the look out - maybe I am not conscious about it, but I always am. If someones work stays in my mind, I get in contact. In order to rely on my gut, I have to read and look and have all antennas out all the time.


Once you decide to contact a creative, do they come to you with pieces they have been working on or do you brainstorm with them? Do you give them direction on what you are looking for in the gallery or do they come to you with the ideas?

I prefer it to be a dance..It also depends if its a solo exhibition or a group show. I really like to be a part of the project and curation, but also I place a lot of trust on the designer/artist - its not my show!


For someone who has no insight to the industry, is it the gallery who funds the initial creation of the artwork for the shows?

It varies.. Etage Projects is venturing into commissioning pieces. The gallery has to do this, otherwise it would just be acting as a showroom which is not really good business.

I think the gallery is mature enough to have its own babies :)


Do you also represent some of the artists that you have had shows for in your gallery?

Well, In the beginning I tried out working with several artist/designers - you find out if the chemistry is there and if yes, we agree to continue doing exhibitions. These artists/designers I ask exclusivity for in Denmark. This means I do Public Relations for their work and contact in case of client commissions.

Also the gallery is on Artsy and has a website, which means we show work that is not only shown in an exhibition.


What was the hardest lesson you had to learn starting your own business?

If you do not find accounting interesting, don’t do it! I tried, shouldn’t have..Ended up using too much time on something I found really boring. Luckily I found out that some people actually do this for a living. Respect!


Was there a moment when something really encouraged you not to give up?

Overtime I get some new and great into the gallery space! I could never imagine doing anything else, than what I do. So really, quitting is not an option..

 
 
 

The Gallery

 

Etage Projects
Borgergade 15 E
Copenhagen 1300, DK
Tel: +45 26233240

 
 

Thank You Maria!

www_  http://www.etageprojects.com/
insta_ Maria Foerlev
            Etage Projects
            Etage Projects Shop

 
 

Copenhagen

What is the DNA of Copenhagen?
Old & new, quality & equality, conservatism & entrepreneurial spirit- all with a touch of becoming irrational. In love with this city!

Best coffee?
In the Botanical gardens. Just next to the beautiful greenhouse is a mobile café in an old Citroen. Great coffee, calm city spot and beautiful view of all sort of exotic plants and trees.

Best place to get a drink?
Geist on Kgs Nytorv if you are on high heels, Brass Monkey on Enghavevej, if you you are letting loose..

Hotel you would stay in if you weren’t from Copenhagen?
The smallest hotel in the world - Central Hotel. One double room and great service. Tullinsgade 1, 1618 Cph V

Best unknown shop?
Stelling - Copenhagen artistssuply. A great selection of paints, spray cans and other supplies for creative output. Very central but located on 1st floor and not easy to spot. Amagertorv 9

Up and coming Danish talent?
So many! I will recommend to visit The Royal Art Academies for Art, Design and Architecture. They often have exhibitions by studenst.

Best place to take clients to?
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Design Museum Denmark. A walk along the harbourside.

 
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