Last summer, I met Silje Forbes during a Midsommar celebration hosted by my lovely friend Charlotte, who is also a splendid photographer and an amazing cook. A few months later, I got invited to Siljes amazing Fika, This Scandinavian Life event. The fact that I saw Silje on two Scandinavian occasions is no coincidence. Born in Norway, this lovely ice-blonde girl studies at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Of course she has multiple interests, but nowadays her focus in life is to be healthy, explore the world and be active for her school projects.
I think she is doing very well, when getting inspired for her Master’s project by doing research on Nordic food and how people’s different traditions are related to that. On her event, she served us paleo gluten-free banana bread, homemade rye bread with different fresh toppings, filter coffee, tea and many other little treats. She also handed out questionnaires which asked the visitor what their childhood memory was related to food or what they would take with them for a hitchhike. It was a very interesting lifestyle project I would say. She laid everything on a square table, placed in the centre of a white gallery space and covered it with flowers, autumn vegetables and all the little Scandinavian treats. It was lovely to see how people with different habits and backgrounds stood around the table and started to enjoy each other’s conversations while tasting bits from the north. The focus wasn’t just a buffet or culinary experiment: it was social. That is what I find interesting about Silje, who is taking art, food and social experience to the next level.
SCANDINAVIAN LIFE: EXPLORING INTUITION AND IDENTITY
Silje was brought up in a typical Northern way. But what is that specificity which is so attractive and typical for the Scandinavian countries? I started from the very basis by asking about her childhood. Growing up as a child in Norway is as you would picture it. For gym class, kids go ice- skating, slaying or ski-ing in the idyllic white landscape. It is a pretty active life for a child, not only schoolwise. Contrary to what you would think, She told me that people from the north are particularly keen on spending their days outdoors as much as possible. The winters are bitter and cold, so every opportunity whereby they are not stuck inside because of the weather, they’ll grab with both hands.
However, when being a teenager, the urge to see the world outside the lakes, snow and ice starts to emerge. With the influence of American and European tv-shows, teenagers try to explore other things and even drinking is part of that identity-quest. But, they remain true to their Northern balance and find a way to explore all the directions of the compass, without loosing the way home. There is this balance in the desire to be different without becoming a social outcast. That attitude is clear in Silje’s culinary choices as well.
She tries to be independent in her choices, and that is what I really respect. You can have your own principles and preferences without being a social outcast, but without eating to please others too. In every way there needs to be a balance in having your own identity and exploring others. This is a principle that could stand for many aspects and not just food of course. When Silje cooks, she tries out different things which make your body feel good. But still, that activity remains intuitive. She tries out suggestions, but always turns them into something personal or replaces sugar by agave syrup and grains by nuts. I can share that preference with Silje, as it is a nice way to make people love healthy recipes as much as the ready-made supermarket stuff. In the kitchen and in her art work, Silje works without a plan. She is intuitive while merely keeping her focus in mind, all the rest evolves from feeling rather than thinking.
Silje wants to emphasize the fact that she is merely doing research now for the actual final master project. The final project would not necessary deal with Scandinavia. It is merely a starting point that should trigger to find her cultural food-identity. From there on every option remains open “in terms of execution”.
THE ART OF LIVING EVERYWHERE
She is still young and passionate about her work, but I got interested in whether or not Silje would raise her children the same way she was brought up. Silje told me that her heart is travels through different places all over the globe.
She has spent South African, where she has spent a lot of time the past year and a half for an internship and for love in South-Africa. That makes me truely believe that she is in love with that absolute South too. It really serves well as an example of what she mentioned about the overall Scandinavian desire to explore the world. But still, she has been living in the Netherlands for a while as and she already feels at home there right now. I can tell you her Dutch accent sounds lovely. So to answer the question, she would preferably take bits and pieces of memories and influences from all the places she loves and teach her children to be “blessed travellers with an open mind, regardless of where they would live”. How amazing is that, a girl from the absolute north with the most incredible sense of wanderlust. The key in life is to be open-minded, she says. To encourage her children or people in general, to find their own passion is so very important to be happy.
CHAPTERS ON HAPPINESS AND SIMPLICITY
It wasn’t my intention at first to write about a Scandinavian childhood or teen dream, but somehow this subject plays in an important role in shaping a designer, artist or whoever. There is just a difference in how much each person incorporates their youth in their later life. Silje is influenced by all the chapters in her life; travels, good and hard times, “trials and errors”. You need it all to have an honest product. “I occasionally get comments that I have a ‘Scandinavian touch in my designs, but I don’t really know what that means” she says. I guess this refers to this auratic quality of Scandinavian art or the lifestyle which you can’t truly understand until you’ve lived it yourself. However, having homes in different places all over the world and being a dedicated traveller, Silje admits that exactly that wanderlust- quality has shaped her personality and work.
Filled with dedication and imagination, Silje does remain a pure person by heart. By that I mean that her happiness derives from the simplest things: “morning coffee, a text from my boyfriend, biking in the wind until I get tears in my eyes, bus drivers that salute each other when they pass on their routes, the Turkish guy at the market who keeps feeding me falafel tasters, spotting an amazing colour, the smell of grass in my summer house back in Norway, going to bed in fresh linens…”
I can conclude that Silje, with a lust for life and seeing the world, doesn’t abandon her roots and even incorporates them subtly in her work and projects. She remains happy by simple things, pure and full of acceptance and dedication.
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+++Pictures by Silje Forbes+++