Swedish artist and illustrator Siri Carlén’s graphics have appeared in children’s books, as window displays, pattern designs for clothing and art installations. She recently opened an exhibition at Swedish island Gotland, with a permanent outdoor installation of sculptures. We paid a visit to her family-run studio in Stockholm – a world full of colour and creativity.
TNE How would you describe your way of life?
SC Hard work and luck. Apart from my work as an artist, my life revolves around parenting, and the joys and challenges of having three kids. Without my children I wouldn’t be as driven. My private and professional lives merge and I rarely feel as if I have any time off. On the other hand, I’ve got total freedom – the freedom to plan my time the way I want.”
Jonna Dagliden Hunt
Siri Carlén works from an incredible studio in Aspudden, Stockholm, which she shares with her family.
TNE What are your main inspirations?
SC Craft. Hard work and conviction. Drive and passion. Materials and the tactile. For me, the textile tradition is a treasure that contains all of this. It’s usually incredibly underrated and neglected. Folklore and folk art contain all of these qualities as well.
TNE You work from an incredible studio in Aspudden, southwest Stockholm. What do you like most about it?
SC It’s really my dad’s studio but he can’t afford it on his own. So all of us are there – my mum, my brother, my sister-in-law and all the kids. Sharing a studio is both good and bad. I think I work best when I’m on my own, but at the same time I go crazy without company and someone to run things by with. It’s like a home away from home and we hang out here a lot. The kids are here as well when we’re not working. Maybe that’s why it’s working so well. For the first time in my life I’m going to a place of work daily without feeling reluctant. The kids have their own small room. I guess it’s a real bonus to share with people you really know – so that it’s alright to care for your child when they’re off sick and stuff like that without ruining it for anyone else.
”I often dream about financial security as it’s something I’ve never experienced. I fantasise about how my art would develop. It’s really crazy being constantly worried about one’s finances while, on the other hand, investing a 1,000 per cent in something so idiotic and uncertain. I often think about the enormous privilege of being born into a world where it’s a given to just go for it and follow your passion. And when I think about it like that, I realise I’m exactly where I want to be.”
Siri Carlén made the art work for issue one of The New Era magazine.
TNE What are your ambitions in life?
SC I often dream about financial security as it’s something I’ve never experienced. I fantasise about how my art would develop. It’s really crazy being constantly worried about one’s finances while, on the other hand, investing a 1,000 per cent in something so idiotic and uncertain. I often think about the enormous privilege of being born into a world where it’s a given to just go for it and follow your passion. And when I think about it like that, I realise I’m exactly where I want to be.
SIRI CARLÉN'S HIDDEN STOCKHOLM GEMS
Graffiti wall in Snösätra
"It’s hard to find things to do with big kids within Stockholm that are Covid-safe and that everyone finds fun. At Snösätra’s graffiti wall, you can go just to check it out, buy sausages and kick empty cans around, or you can take it more seriously, pack a picnic, meet up with friends and hang out all day."
"I think this is Stockholm’s best restaurant. It’s incredibly cosy, like a mini vacation for an evening. It has delicious food and drinks, and retain a feeling of being a small local pub."
"A dream come true after 12 years of parenthood – being able to sit and talk in a moody bar with your children. You can be a top parent who gives them fries and cola for dinner. It’s at the local pub that the cross section of the neighbourhood is drawn – locals are joined by young hippies, and a middle-aged mother with her children."
"In the suburb of Bredäng is Stockholm’s most beautiful place – a café right next to Lake Mälaren, in the middle of a mighty nature reserve. The building is 150 years old, with a striking tower and lounges with silk wallpaper. I love the cabbage pudding and traditional pastries. But the best thing about it is the view."
"For the first time in my life I have another hobby other than drawing. The climbing centre is somewhere to escape to when I get stuck or need a break. I have never before experienced such an anxiety-suppressing feeling of total recovery. Climbing is so much fun, and so hard that you have to put all other thoughts aside."