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Q&A: Harmony & Tactility – Naja Utzon Popov for Carl Hansen & Søn

Naja Utzon Popov has designed two exclusive rug collections to match her first WOODLINES Collection. Inspired by nature and fine materials, the new BOTANICA and OCEANIA designs complement the textures and organic colours of our most iconic pieces of furniture

You were brought up surrounded by family talent in both art and design. How do you combine both disciplines in your own work?

My approach, and the way I work, is very similar for both disciplines. I use clay as a large surface, onto which I can imprint various patterns and turn into large columns.

The rugs are essentially just a different type of surface to decorate. The imprint of the design on the rug is carved in, in a similar way to a sculpture. It adds the illusion of a three-dimensional element that gives depth and detail to the pattern. 

The iconic Danish designers such as Hans J. Wegner championed natural materials and explored many ways of enhancing their beauty and character. How does nature come into your own work?

Nature is an endless source of inspiration. A source of wonder. Even the seemingly simple or unobtrusive elements can have so many layers of detail; for example a nudibranch (type of fish) or a rock formation, or the surface of a leaf.

When you take time to look closely, more and more patterns, shapes and colours seem to present themselves. What’s incredible is that this inspiration is so readily and easily available: I just have to open my eyes and look.

Danish multiartist Naja Utzon Popov talks to us about her inspiration and influences for her series of rug designs for Carl Hansen & Søn.

Your first collection for Carl Hansen & Søn, WOODLINES, was a reflection on the natural characteristics and textures of wood. What was your inspiration for the new BOTANICA and OCEANIA designs?. 

I was hugely inspired by a trip to Japan – especially for BOTANICA. The incredible surroundings inspired a design loosely based on a leaf motif – not necessarily a particular plant but rather a nod to the natural surroundings of Japan as a whole.

OCEANIA is a study of surfaces: when you fly over the Australian desert you look down and see these amazing cracked surfaces where lakes and streams have dried up – ground that was once below the sea. It inspired the abstract lines of the OCEANIA design.

How does your own environment and the places you’ve travelled to affect your work and inspirations? Do you have a favourite place to work or think?   

I travel a lot and have family all over the world, so it’s less of a geographical location and more of a mental place where I feel balanced: any place where my family is. I do love visiting new countries or places where there is perhaps unusual locations or nature – something I haven’t experienced before.

What is your favourite piece (or pieces) by Carl Hansen & Søn?  

I think my two favourite pieces are Wegner’s Shell Chair and Poul Kjærholm’s PK chair. The Shell Chair is like a standalone sculpture in its own right – it is so beautiful to look at the angles. The Poul Kjærholm chair just speaks to me - I want to sit on it straightaway – I think it’s something about the combination of materials without constraint: I think it is so simple and beautiful. 

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When you choose a Carl Hansen & Søn product, you gain more than just a piece of furniture. You become part of a proud tradition of distinctive and beautiful craftsmanship, where nothing has been left to chance. The world’s largest manufacturer of furniture designed by Hans J. Wegner, we also produce works by renowned design masters such as Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen, Ole Wanscher, Kaare Klint, Poul Kjærholm, Mogens Koch, Bodil Kjær and Tadao Ando. Carl Hansen & Søn represents over 100 years of Danish design history and our furniture is sold all over the world.  

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