Apollo Magazine

In the studio with… Klara Kristalova

The Czech ceramicist works in the heart of a wood in Sweden where animals and insects are her main visitors

Klara Kristalova in her studio (2021), Magnus Karlsson. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London

Klara Kristalova in her studio (2021), Magnus Karlsson. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London

Klara Kristalova’s ceramic sculptures incorporate aspects of the human body and elements of nature – insects, animals, flowers and trees – to create uncanny hybrid creatures and worlds. Her first solo exhibition in London,‘The Cold Wind and the Warm’ at Lehmann Maupin Gallery (until 9 September) draws inspiration from the material details of her everyday life, as well as from mythology, fantasy and ecology.

Where is your studio?

My studio is in a wood not far from my home [in Norrtälje, Sweden]. We moved there out of practical and economical reasons when our children were small; we got the opportunity to take over a little house by a lake that we couldn’t resist. Half the year it is light and feels summery. The other half of the year, it’s dark and wintery – its not always very nice. It’s also lonely in countryside, which is both a good and a bad thing. Nowadays I also have a studio in the city, which is something I always longed for, but I must admit I seldom use it.

Kristalova’s studio, photographed in June 2023. Photo: the artist

How would you describe the atmosphere of your main studio?

It’s big, airy and flexible. I can do various things at the same time. I move around and work like a bee. Right now, it’s messy after several years of having a hectic schedule. I need to get some help to restructure…

Shades (2023), Klara Kristalova. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin

What’s your daily routine?

I start early, after having a coffee and walking the dog. The hours before lunch are the most precious. After lunch, I take another, longer dog walk and then work until supper. In the evening, I mainly focus on computer work as I hate to waste daylight on that. I very often do several things at the same time: a series of sculptures or simultaneously drawing, painting and sculpting. As soon as I’m in the work, my hands make my thoughts materialise.

Do you listen to anything while you work? 

Birdsong, silence, my thoughts. From time to time, music such as my brother Jakob Krajciks’s playlists or Joanna Newsom and so many other things.

Kristalova’s studio, photographed in June 2023. Photo: the artist

What’s the most unusual object in your studio? 

An unfinished handbag made from birch bark. I did a course in that craft last year, but lost energy for it in the end. I don’t think you would find any other unexpected objects in my studio – everything relates to my work or to dog training. I have lots of different craft tools, such as a loom that I still have not used. I have a love for various crafts but not the patience for them, perhaps not the time either. I’m a restless person.

What’s your most well-thumbed book? 

Sammanhang: Material, a book of poetry by Birgitta Trotzig. I read it especially when I’m about to set titles for my work – it puts me in the right mood. It’s very dense. I’m eclectic and very intuitive, but Birgitta Trotzig somehow brings me down and makes me more centered.

Redon’s Flower (2023), Klara Kristalova. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London

Is there anything that frustrates you about your space?

I wish it were situated closer to public transport so it would be easier to find assistants. Apart from that, I need more storage space and bigger doors to keep open in sunny weather. I would prefer to work partly outdoors all of the time.

Who is the most interesting visitor you’ve ever had? 

A snail that left a very unusual track. The animals and insects that got lost and came inside – I’m happy if I find them still alive. Not very many people visit me. Though perhaps I should mention Cheryl Brutvan, a curator who worked on a show of mine at Norton Museum of Art in Florida a long time ago. I remember she stayed for several days and we had good talks. Or Thierry Boutemy, a fantastic Belgian florist who has helped me with my plant installations – his English is as bad as my French so we didn’t talk much, but his presence was very inspiring.

‘The Cold Wind and the Warm’ is at Lehmann Maupin, London until 9 September

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