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Meet the maker – Johanna Törnqvist

Published August 1, 2017, by Stina Axelson

Tell us about yourself, who are you and what do you do?

I work with textile upcycling in a world between art, fashion and craft. For the past years, I´ve been working with Project Precious Trash, where I´ve collected garbage from different people and created garments. The project includes interviews, movies and photos with the participants. The project has resulted in an exhibition about clothes and consumption.

Johanna Törnqvist
Foto Tomas Björkdal

I am inspired by folklore from all over the world, the material I have access to and the pile of trash we humans create.

Foto: Fredrik Sederholm
Foto: Fredrik Sederholm

I have always been inspired by folklore from all over the world and how folklore from different countries resembles each other despite the distance. I believe that “Necessity is the mother of inventions” and I like to use what I have available at hand (in Swedish “Man tager vad man haver”)

Foto: Fredrik Sederholm
Foto: Fredrik Sederholm

What do you want to achieve with Project Precious Trash?

I want people to reflect on their consumption, especially of clothes.

What is it that gives us the right to buy new clothes all the time, at the expense of other people?

What happens when everything can be replaced and we don´t have a relation to what we own?

When we create with our own hands for our own needs, or for others, we create things with sentimental value, longevity and above all, we are likely to never throw it away.

Foto: Fredrik Sederholm
Foto: Fredrik Sederholm

How come ProjectPrecious Trash what´s the story behind?

Project Precious Trash started when I decided to give up shopping for supplies, and instead use the leftovers from people’s consumption. As an experiment, me and my family gathered two months of garbage to see how much junk we got rid of, I then took the challenge of creating a dress of that rubbish.

Foto: Fredrik Sederholm
Foto: Fredrik Sederholm

The dress was named Precious Trash and received a lot of attention. People around me now knew that I was collecting garbage and began to give me theirs. It gave me the idea to start the project and investigate what other people are throwing and their thoughts on consumption.

Foto Johanna Törnqvist
Foto Johanna Törnqvist

How do you get in the right ”creative mode”

To get the most out of the day, and get in the right mode, the day must be planned out in advance, so I know exactly what to begin with. I want to work all day without the disturbance of telephone, mail, etc.

What does your happy place look like?

At this moment, the floor is filled with fruit-nets and all the pieces of papers and plastic attached to the fruit-nets. Everything is sorted in different piles,  I am creating a patchwork quilt from rubbish. In another corner of the room is a pile of boxes filled with workshop stuff, and another part of the room is full of cartons packed for an upcoming.

If I would like to try crafting with trash, whats your advice?

Just start without overthinking and work with which ever colours and shapes gets you going. Experiment with putting them together in different ways, without fear of the result becoming ugly.

What’s good about working with trash and left-over material, is that there is loads of it, doesn’t cost anything and its ‘a never-ending resource.

Limit yourself! For example, only use a few kinds of materials or pieces. I find that too many choices make it harder to be creative. The challenge lies in limiting yourself. I photograph the whole creative process and record all the different steps. At the end of my working day, I write down my ideas and how I want to move on with them, so I don’t forget.

What do you have planned for the future?

I have now begun the further development of Precious Trash where I will work with garbage from hospitals. A piece of jewellery made of used blister strips packaging will be displayed at the 6th European Triennal of Contemporary Jewellery in Belgium.


Make sure to check out more of Johannas work on instagram and on her website

Thank you Johanna for this interview, and good luck on all your future endeavours.

/// Stina – Craft Space

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Stina Axelson

Stina Axelson

Always making and creating and fun to hang out with. She finds it hard to follow instructions and keeps a box of treasured papers.