Swedish inspiration Discover the treasures of Sweden - no matter if you are in Sweden or in Hong Kong

Meet our next Swedish profile in Hong Kong: Sandra Isaksson

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your work?

I am an illustrator and graphic designer and I have worked a lot with product design and illustration for the past 15 years. I always tend to centre my designs around the home; specializing in home decoration, family, kids, kitchen and dining products as these areas are very central to me. I started my design studio (Sandra Isaksson Graphic Design and Illustration) and homeware company (Isak) in the UK, nearly 15 years ago. 

Within the design studio I freelance for international companies designing homeware products, clothes and toys as well as editorial work. Within Isak I design a range of homeware products from scratch, source manufacturing and wholesale to shops internationally.

At the moment I’m working with a brilliant Hong Kong clothing company for children’s clothes, launching this summer. On the side I write freelance travel articles and do a bit of photojournalism. I love travel and food.

What would you do if you didn't work with design?

As the world is changing so is my work. Being very idealistic and quality concerned I am a little tired of chasing design infringements, stolen work and copy cats. The latest company selling a stolen design from me is Alibaba. This happens everywhere, small as well as big companies just rip off and steal and we all know it. Some of us buy it. As a small business – all you can do is send letters and take to social media. 

These days, instead of sending letters I just go into my kitchen and cook. There is just less respect for copyright in Asian countries. This can be tremendously disheartening and to escape from that I have started working more with another passion of mine; food and foraging. Cooking is like painting. It’s creative and alive. You can make people happy with food. I love that. Cooking is the new meditation.

What is design to you?

Design to me is something that has been thought about and carefully considered.  Design is the solution to a need or a problem. Every step in the process can be accounted for. Design is when function and the esthetically pleasing come together; when a balance between these two have been achieved you have – harmony. Design is harmony. And beautiful lines.

Which are the differences between Sweden and Hong Kong when it comes to design?

To me, the biggest difference between Sweden and Hong Kong is design tradition and appreciation for quality, natural materials and function. If something is red it’s because of a reason and not just “because I like that colour”. Another huge difference is ethics. I think that if you live closer to nature – you will have greater respect and appreciation for it.

Where do you find design inspiration in Hong Kong?

I do find inspiration in the above but I’m not one of those people who find it from museums and galleries, watching people on busy streets. I mostly get it from nature; I need the outdoors and the quiet and trying new things.

What is the best thing about Hong Kong?

I would say it’s the central location; you can get to anywhere in Asia within easy reach. I also love its wide range of contrasts. Hong Kong has a great vibe to it; it’s alive with extremes and contradictions. One minute you’re walking in the contrails of mothball smells on a bridge between tall high rises and the next you pass a flamboyant prostitute in Wan Chai; shortly after you sit next to a bejeweled banker on the ferry and pass the local cardboard lady from the shanty town on your short hike back home. There are still remains of old traditions about and people are not afraid of being themselves.

What is the best thing about Sweden?

The best thing about Sweden is definitely its nature and the abundance of wild food, animals and plants that grow and live there! The vast pristine landscapes and hundreds of clean lakes.

And the last question - which is your "smultronställe" (hidden gem) in Sweden that you would recommend a visitor from Hong Kong to not miss?

My idea of a hidden gem is being deep in a forest by a lake, with your loved ones; surrounded by nature and silence. A freshly caught fish, a roaring fire and a bottle of wine. That’s where I come alive.

I have never been, but would love to go to Lapland and do a long trek, maybe Kungsleden

There’s also ‘the fishing train’ that I would love to do. Inlandsbanan is a train that cuts from south to north, from Härjedalen all the way to Jokkmokk. You can jump on and off the train at any stop; spend some days camping and fishing wherever you choose before you jump back on again. 

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