Interviews

Norway

In (Brief) Conversation with Tone Vigeland


Tone Vigeland, Neckpiece, 1985
Tone Vigeland, Neckpiece, 1985, steel, 14- to 18-karat gold, 120 mm inner diameter, 240 mm outer diameter, photo courtesy Galleri Riis, photo: Hans-Jørgen Abel

The Norwegian jeweler Tone Vigeland is about to celebrate her 80th birthday, and the Design Museum in Munich has organized a fantastic show of her jewelry and published a catalog to go with it. The museum calls her the “Grande Dame of Scandinavian Jewelry.” In both her jewelry and her sculpture, Tone makes remarkable work of small metal parts that interact with each other. It is a rare artist who can cross over from jewelry to sculpture and stay true to their methods and techniques, but Tone has done it. I have asked her some questions about her life and her work, and she has answered them with a sparseness of words about work which has an abundance of texture.

Susan Cummins: I understand you were born in 1938 into an artistic family. Can you tell us something about them? Do you feel a certain family lineage with the way you think, the materials you use, or in any other way?

Tone Vigeland: My father, Per Vigeland, worked with church art, stained glass, and fresco painting, among other commissions. My aunt, Maria Vigeland, also worked with stained glass, fresco painting, and drawing. They had a studio in the house that I grew up in, which was originally my grandfather’s studio. My grandfather, Emanuel Vigeland, also worked with glass painting and fresco, before my parents took over the house. He built a large brick house and dedicated one large room to fresco paintings on all the walls. It is now the Emanuel Vigeland Museum in Oslo, and it is open to the public.

My grandfather’s older brother, Gustav Vigeland, was a very famous sculptor in Norway, working with portraits as well as monumental sculptures. He has his own museum in Oslo, next to the large Vigeland Sculpture Park, which he created.

My younger brother, Pål Vigeland, was originally trained as a goldsmith, but now also works as a sculptor.

Tone Vigeland, Ring, 1987
Tone Vigeland, Ring, 1987, silver, steel, 60 x 28 mm, photo courtesy Galleri Riis, photo: Guri Dahl

Why did you decide to become a jeweler?

Tone Vigeland: I started at Arts and Crafts School in Oslo, and ended up choosing the metalwork department.

Tone Vigeland, Bracelet, 1985
Tone Vigeland, Bracelet, 1985, steel, silver, 103 x 107 mm, 42-mm-wide band, photo courtesy Galleri Riis, photo: Hans-Jørgen Abel

Cecilie Malm Brundtland says of your work, “Tone Vigeland’s exquisite works can seem demanding, intimidating even as they are invested with some magic power. They conjure up powerful associations with such corporeal aspects as protectiveness, sensuality, and sensitivity.” Do you agree with this statement, and where did your inspiration for these qualities come from?

Tone Vigeland: That is difficult to answer … I would say visiting museums has been inspirational, but primarily it has been through my experimentation with silver and gold and other materials.

Tone Vigeland, Necklace, 1988
Tone Vigeland, Necklace, 1988, silver, 110 mm inner diameter, 170 mm outer diameter, photo courtesy Galleri Riis, photo: Hans-Jørgen Abel

What cultural/art movements had an effect on your jewelry designs?

Tone Vigeland: Same as above.

Tone Vigeland at her exhibition, New Works, Galleri Riis, 2010
Tone Vigeland at her exhibition, New Works, Galleri Riis, 2010, photo courtesy Galleri Riis, photo: Guri Dahl

You often use repetition as a technique in making your jewelry. What are your thoughts on how that affects you as the maker, and the final look of the piece?

Tone Vigeland: I oftentimes repeat elements in an effort to make the piece form to the body.

Tone Vigeland, Muster II, 2014
Tone Vigeland, Muster II, 2014, steel, 783 x 945 x 490 cm, installation view, photo courtesy Bergen Kunsthall, photo: Thor Brødreskift

In 1995 you started to make sculpture. You were still using metal and in some cases the repetitive technique like on the jewelry, but the forms did not require the body. What led you to this change?

Tone Vigeland: In 1996, Galleri Riis asked me to exhibit in their project room. It was the first time I made an object that was not intended to be worn on the body.

Tone Vigeland, Muster II, 2014
Tone Vigeland, Muster II, 2014, steel, 783 x 945 x 490 cm, detail, installation view, photo courtesy Bergen Kunsthall, photo: Thor Brødreskift

Is the exhibition in Munich the first time you’ve shown jewelry and sculpture together?

Tone Vigeland: Yes, it is the only exhibition in which I have had both jewelry and sculpture.

Tone Vigeland, Muster I, 2014
Tone Vigeland, Muster I, 2014, steel, oxidized silver, 7,308 units, 2,008 x 464 x 15 cm, installation view, photo courtesy Bergen Kunsthall, photo: Thor Brødreskift

What have you seen, heard, or read recently that you responded to and would like to share with our readers?

Tone Vigeland: Recently I saw an exhibition of drawings by Richard Serra in Oslo; Serra is an artist whom I highly regard.

Tone Vigeland, Muster I, 2014
Tone Vigeland, Muster I, 2014, steel, oxidized silver, 7,308 units, 2,008 x 464 x 15 cm, detail, installation view, photo courtesy Bergen Kunsthall, photo: Thor Brødreskift

Author

  • Susan Cummins has been involved in numerous ways in the visual arts world over the last 35 years, from working in a pottery studio, doing street fairs, running a retail shop called the Firework in Mill Valley and developing the Susan Cummins Gallery into a nationally recognized venue for regional art and contemporary art jewelry. Now she spends most of her time working with a private family foundation called Rotasa and as a board member of AJF and California College of the Arts.

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