Fredrik Andersson on using Instagram and making the personal public

The Arse Vase creator and 2016 Gradwatch star has had very busy year.

This time last year, Fredrik Andersson was just graduating from Camberwell College of Arts, and earned a place on our Gradwatch list thanks to his playful, humorous work that draws on sexuality and autobiography. Since then, he’s been very busy, working with Wieden + Kennedy on its collection of “arse vases” sold for charity to mark London Pride Week, as well as working on editorial illustrations and other personal projects. When we call him for a catch up, he’s just delivered his first collection for iconic London department store Liberty.

Frederik Andersson, Arse Vase for Wieden + Kennedy

CR: What have you been up to in the year since you graduated?

FA: It’s been a busy year but it’s been worth it: I’ve been getting more recognition, some of the things I’ve made are going into Liberty… I didn’t really get that break a lot of people take when they finish college, as I was afraid to lose momentum. I had a couple of small exhibitions, one was a showcase in Holborn at UAL, and another one was a ceramic collection of tiles about body positivity in a pub in south London, Peckham Beer Rebellion. I moved into a studio in Catford first and was working on quite a hardcore studio practise, and obviously collaborating with people too. I’ve started writing a book but that’s had to go on the shelf recently because of all the commercial work. I’ve also worked with a magazine called Loverboy, but mostly it’s been private pieces in ceramics and pushing my own work. Now I’ve just moved into a ceramics studio in New Cross run by two lovely women, and it’s good as I’ve not been doing ceramics for that long and it’s a proper facility. I can do a bigger run that I could before, and it’s got proper wheels and good kilns.

I’ve not been seeking out a lot of commercial work as I wanted to define what I was about first. If you go straight into looking at too many commercial projects you’ll be shaped by other people rather than yourself. Now I’ve found my own voice and that’s what people want me to do.

CR: How did the Liberty collaboration come about?

FA: It’s all Instagram really, a guy who worked at the office saw my work and showed the buyer my Instagram, they’d liked the head pots I’d made quite a lot. Then they got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in selling my work from there. As I’m still quite new [to London]  I hadn’t heard of it so was just really confident when I emailed them back, it was only when a friend told me what a big deal it was that I realised.

CR: Congratulations! That must have been quite a big undertaking, do you make everything by hand?

FA: I did with the head pots, and I like that every one is slightly different. With the arse vase I made a cast as I needed them all to be exactly the same.

CR: Did you expect the Arse Vase to take off like it did? They’re all sold out now aren’t they?

FA: No! Once again I wasn’t sure who Wieden + Kennedy was either, so I didn’t know how big their reach was. I’m making them to order at the moment! The response has been great.

CR: What do you think it is about your work that big brands or agencies are so drawn to on your Instagram?

FA: I think it’s quite tongue-in-cheek and quite colourful. I have this idea that humour makes things a little more approachable, and it makes people laugh and become a little bit more relaxed. Even if I do something about hardcore sexuality I make it in quite a lighthearted way and that makes it easier to talk about.

CR: There have been quite a few creative projects recently broaching more explicit topics, especially around LGBTQ topics – The Cute Brute for instance, or Ren’s Bears book, and Dominic Myatt’s Craigslist personal ad drawings. How do you think creative projects can help break these sort of taboos? Do you think artists have a responsibility to make work that challenges prejudices around those sort of issues?

FA: For me personally I think it’s a natural reason to the fact the world is shifting and there’s a need to be more outspoken and proud. Artists are the ones making those steps and naturally it’s a way of educating people and sharing stories. I think it’s up to whoever is making the work as to if it should tackle those sort of things, or what they want their work to do. It’s hard to put work into the world that you don’t want to make. I do think people have a responsibility in society though, for instance to not draw everyone with a perfect body shape, and a thin waist to that sort of thing. You have a responsibility to show diversity.

CR: Now that you’re working more in ceramics, are you still making print-based work too?

FA: I still love illustrations and I wish I had more time to do them but the ceramics have been so popular. It’s also still quite a new medium for me so I’m pushing my practise. My illustration work feeds into my ceramics so it’s the same in a way. I want to do more print stuff this fall, I’ve hired an assistant now which seems absurd to say it out loud but I need to be more stern with myself.

CR: What advice would you give to people who might be just about to graduate or just starting out in their career on how to successfully use Instagram?

FA: Use hashtags, and if you see someone you like or whose work you like approach them and start a conversation: maybe you can get a collaboration out of it, or just some advice. Most of my paid commissions are from Instagram. It’s such a good platform to use and it doesn’t cost you anything – let’s pray to god they keep it like that and don’t and don’t make it too corporate. It’s about being a bit daring, and showing new work. Just try to connect with people: it’s a social media network so you can find all kinds of inspiration and get feedback. Everybody’s on there.

CR: Your Instagram shows a lot of process shots, and some personal snaps too of you and your friends. Why is it important to show that side of you too, rather than just polished final pieces?

FA: I think it’s really important, especially in today’s age. Before, I didn’t put personal stuff but you learn that if you want to make a name for yourself people are interested in you as much as your work.

With what I do so much of it is based on my own life experiences, so therefore it’s just as interesting as you can use yourself as a tool as well as the work. It makes people more interested as they want to know about the person behind it.

CR: When you spoke to us last year you said that your goal was to become a published writer – how’s that going?

FA: I did a book in the end of college about my siblings and our relationships. It was mostly text based with a few illustrations, and I’m working on finishing that. I had a few leftover stories about my sexual experiences at a young age, like at five years-old when I discovered porn for the first time, and all the way up to today. It shows how I’ve been affected by those things like before coming out and after coming out as there was a lot of shame involved. It’s a way of processing things: it’s all about sex but in a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way. It’s important to share things like that as the things that happened when you’re young really shape you when you’re older and make you realise why you behave how you do in certain situations. It’s healthy to look back and analyse – it’s like a self help tool that’s fun enough to share.

CR: Do you feel nervous or vulnerable sharing such personal things with the world?

FA: I was before but I’ve come to terms with things, and I see the importance of sharing things with people so I don’t see it as a bad thing. People should speak more openly and that’s a conscious choice I made.

CR: Coming from Sweden do you think that prudishness is quite a British thing?

FA: Definitely. I’ve been told by my tutors I was way too direct about certain things. It’s not that easy to talk to people here about certain issues; when it comes to things like dating I’ve struggled. I’m always told I’m way too frank but that’s the charm!

CR: Last year you spoke about worrying that other people in your class were making more complex or conceptual work compared to yours which was quite straightforward. What advice would you give to students or graduates who worry that their approach is very different to that of their peers?

FA: I think there’s a danger in over-contextualising things sometimes, and people can weave this intricate web of context to justify why they’re doing a simple drawing, but my mind doesn’t work like that. If it isn’t for you just go with your gut feeling: you might think it doesn’t make you smart enough, but that’s not the point. You can be blunt and loud and obvious – if that’s who you are, that’s who you are. People shouldn’t compare themselves to others or do what they think other illustrators do. The things I’ve done on a whim are some of my favourite pieces as they happened naturally, they didn’t come from hours of reading textbooks.

CR: What are you hoping to do over the next year?

FA: I want to get my book done so I can put it to rest and stop thinking about it! I want to keep on pushing my work – make bigger pieces of ceramics, push my illustrations, as there’s always new things to learn, and go into painting more. I’ve done some small pieces but I want to try working on a larger scale. I’m looking for all kinds of collaborations: I’m working on some clothes together with some friends and working with a graphic designer friend on the book. I’m a sociable person and I like working with likeminded people.