One of the biggest inspirations since the day one for our project Club has been, without a doubt, the works of Tropical Scandinavia, among others.
From Sweden they have created an amazing universe of of shapes and figures dyed in wonderful colors, working in different formats such as riso and digital prints, original art and textiles like beautiful berber rugs, cushion covers or different apparel.
In the imagination of the self-styled "protectors of fun" we can clearly see how unity is strength, and in this case Tropical Scandinavia is the union of the minds (and hands) of the artists Johanna and Emil.
We contacted them to get some of their prints (and by the way we ended up bringing a couple of rugs) for our store, since we love them! And the truth is that our relationship is reduced to emails and Instagram messages... Although we know that soon we will be able to cross paths in the real world and share together, since we have felt an immense connection both with his project and with his personality.
We like to share with you this interview we did to them to get more into their ideas and projects:
Tell us a bit about your project Tropical Scandinavia. As we know, you are two people, Johanna and Emil, but the family is growing… Where do you come from and where do you want to arrive?
Exactly - we where never totally sure we’d have kids but here we are ten years later with two of them, Viggo 3 years old and Tyra 4 months old:) Geographically speaking, we’re both from the south part of Sweden. Spiritually, I guess we are and always have been what you’d call seekers - striving to reach our full potential and joy through mediation, reading, yoga, surf and so on. We started Tropical Scandinavia a couple years ago as a way to incorporate our thoughts about life, our art and mostly a whole lot of fun into a concept that could be shared around the world, with empowering products for people and homes. Our designs are modern totems, inspired by magic symbols, found all over the world, that over centuries have reminded humanity to strive for our greatest potential or support us through tough times. Even if you don’t believe that a wool blanket itself will bring you balance, it can be used as a reminder to give yourself what you need in life to feel a bit more balanced. Since we first met, we’ve been going to warmer places to surf each winter. These trips have always given perspective & time to reflect, leaving us grateful for both the experience and what we have at home. It was during one of those trips that Tropical Scandinavia was born, as we where sitting and drawing together, passing sketches back and forth between us. This is still how we work on our designs (minus the palm trees..) Now we live in a big house in Hammenhög, Österlen, in the very south of Sweden, where we also have our showroom which is open during summer and by appointment.
And regarding arriving.. we think that the good old quote ”the journey is the destination” pretty much sums up how we try to perceive life with all its ups and downs. With that said though - we hope that we can inspire others to live their lives to the fullest and, as we like to say, protect the fun! There is so much good in this world, we just have to remember to see it. And strive joyfully as we travel the path.
Countries in Scandinavia feel very cold from our perspective in the south of the continent, but we know there’s really warm people, and also a wonderful summer (and a beautiful white winter, of course). How tropical you really think Scandinavia can be?
Good question!:) Especially this time of year when we have at least three more months of dark and cold until spring haha! But actually, the name Tropical Scandinavia was born when we reflected on how every year as we get close to summer, a tropical trend kicks in. But we love color and the tropical theme always! Bringing bright colors and a tropical theme to a Scandinavian setting is our way of making something that will last for a longer time. And I guess where we live in the very south (with many surf breaks around!) is the closest we’ll get to tropical in Sweden:) But as you say with warm people, we think it’s more of a mindset, and an idea of how the things in our home environment can affect us. If we surround ourselves with bright and colourful objects, designed with good intentions, this will (if we allow it) help us feel bright and colourful on the inside too.
Have you ever been in our island of Mallorca? What did you like the most?
We haven’t! But we’d love to! Mostly in our travel life, surf breaks have decided where we should go.. But we have definitely heard lots of great things about Mallorca and we’re sure we’ll visit one day!
In your art we can see a big crossover of influences with a very personal style. Can you explain us what inspires you the most?
A little bit corny perhaps but probably; each other! Our process often starts with one of us having an idea (probably from a weird mix of travel inspiration, old handicrafts and folk art, Pinterest, and self development books, quotes etc… and nature of course. And dogs! And other animals:) and then we make a rough sketch which we pass on to the other who redraws it, and then we go back and forth like that until we’re happy about it.
We know there’s a big relationship in between Tropical Scandinavia and Moroccan wool crafts and weaving in your collections. We would like to know a bit more about this! Have you been travelling often to this country? Could you describe some interesting story of these trips?
We have, although it’s been a while now since Covid and small kids happened. As with many of our products, it started out during a surf trip. We came across these amazing hand knotted wool carpets in Morocco, and saw the possibility of combining this old craft together with our quirky designs. After many try outs, we found some lovely people to work with, and we started understanding how we have to adjust our designs for hand knotting. It’s a passion project, not always easy but always fun! It’s really a cooperation between us and the women making the carpets, for example sometimes they think a motif would look better mirrored, and then they make it that way. It’s definitely not like ordering something from a factory, but that’s also what we love about it, we never know exactly how the carpets turn out. And we only make one of each so they’re really like art objects. When one of the women first saw our designs she said ”it’s strange and crazy but we love it!!” With so much handicraft disappearing in the world due to big factories taking over, we love that we can be a small part of keeping such a great old handicraft alive.
In your works of art there is a very recognizable iconography: of all your icons, such as the tiger or the eyes, going through a funny dog with a Nike-style smile or the tropical palm trees, to give a few examples: with which do you feel most identified? And is there one of which you would like to highlight its meaning in particular?
Hard to say - in a way we identify with all of them, they’re kind of like a set of tools with different meanings where you could choose which one you need most for the day. The TRP Protector (the dog/cat figure with six eyes) does of course have a special place in our hearts though, maybe since it was one of the first designs we made for Tropical Scandinavia. It’s inspired by ancient masks, which could be found in many different cultures, initially made to scare off bad spirits. But for us, the symbol is not only made to scare off the bad (which will always be around whether we like it or not), but it also stands for protecting the good which we believe is in all of us. The six eyes also reminds us of how we can choose to perceive things - simply put - is the glass half empty or half full?