Those color averse needn’t read any further, but if you’re like me and seek out bright, bold color in art, design, fashion, and just about everywhere else, then let me introduce you to Tekla Evelina Severin.
Severin is a self-described color addict based in Stockholm, Sweden. As a multi-hyphenate colorist, designer, and photographer, her creative background is just as colorful as her aesthetic. She works across a range of disciplines, flexing her skills in interior design, set design, creative direction, and photography, with her love of color as the unifying factor in each.
After coming upon imagery of her recent exhibition “Dimensions of Colour” for FORMEX in Stockholm, I immediately gravitated toward Severin’s carefully considered, yet joyful aesthetic. I reached out to learn more, and Severin’s responses to a few of my questions are below.
(This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.)
Where does your love of color come from? Have you always loved color?
Well, where do things really start? Everything in life brings us where we are today, right?
So did it start in my early childhood, with a powder pink, wall-to-wall rug? That’s when I unconsciously understood what color and texture could do for a space. Or did it start when I got bad escalating eyesight at age 9? I was devastated, and thought I might lose it. Was it then? I got so obsessed with everything that was visually appealing because it felt so precious. I’m not sure, but I think it definitely plays a part.
Can you walk me through your creative journey to where you are today?
I graduated from Konstfack University of Arts and Crafts in Stockholm, where I studied interior architecture and furniture design. Afterward, first I was an intern, and then an employee at a great architecture studio in Stockholm. I slowly learned the profession, how to run projects, how to deal with clients, and about drawing architecture in general.
But I felt something was missing. It wasn’t only the creative freedom from art school— it was the conformity that was bothering and boring me; the idea about the Scandinavian grace with white beiges and greys. I needed a creative space, and we had this amazing material library in the cellar with lots of materials and colors that were sadly hardly used.
I started to do some kind of visual notes for myself— still lives, testing different combinations of materials and colors, exploring other aesthetics. I captured it with a very early smart phone and put it out on that new app called Instagram. I hardly understood I was posting stuff, hilariously enough— I only wanted to take advantage of those vintage filters to save the pictures to my camera roll.
But soon, I started to get in contact and connect with other creatives and brands around the world. I took many baby steps toward fully freelancing in 2015 and starting my multidisciplinary journey, first through photography, re-inventing, and discovering shapes and colors from scratch.
One of my first commissions was creating content for a Canadian shoe brand, doing a photo series on the theme of domestic science where I made a triangle of red cabbage with a lilac background and a cube of meat with a pink background. They paid me in shoes!
So from these smaller scenes, I moved my camera toward architecture and interiors. I got a real camera, and for a few years, I only took architectural photography around the world: in Guadeloupe for Air France, in Mauritius for a hotel designed by Camille Walala, in Spain of the iconic La Muralla Roja by Bofill Architects. I thought it was really liberating to not have to care about function or construction as when designing it. I could just focus on strong visual elements, outtakes angle, shadow play, colors, etc.
But after a while, I wanted to be more and more involved in the design in front of the camera, so I slowly came back to interior design, first by doing set design. One of my first projects was for a color collaboration for Montana Furniture. Through this, I felt I could come back in a new way to interior design and be as free, deconstructed, and abstract as I wanted.
From where do you draw inspiration? Are there other artists, people, places, styles, or time periods that you look to or who have influenced you?
Anywhere and everywhere. I can get just as much inspiration from an unexpected detail on a backstreet as from fine art in a gallery. But in general, I’m inspired by modern and postmodern architecture, art deco, playgrounds and games aesthetics, surrealism, graphic design, sunlight, and shadow play.
What project of yours are you proudest of and why?
I would say “An Apartment of One’s Own,” the exhibition design I did for Sancal during Milan Design Week last year. I enjoyed the creative vision from the company and total creative freedom for me. Also the context (Hey, Milan Design Week!) and the level of customized design. I designed special terrazzo, marbled tops, the kitchen, the book cases, etc. It’s also what I’m proudest of because I dared to be so decorative.
Then there’s “Dimensions of Colour,” the 250 square meter exhibition design and curation I did myself for FORMEX, Scandinavia’s biggest fair for interior details in Stockholm in January. The challenge was to find, pick, and display 200 products from over 400 exhibitors. I’m very proud of how everything came together, space-wise, [and how] perspectives and framings worked throughout the whole space. Also, in terms of color, every facade, wall, and niche had different colors to create different combinations. It all illustrated my forever, ongoing investigation of color. In terms of color theory, I always say, “Color is always relative, never absolute. It’s what you put next to it that defines it.”
How do you hope viewers of your work feel when experiencing it?
Confusion. New dazzling perspectives. Playfulness and beauty.
What’s your favorite color?
It changes all the time… right now, lime-ish yellow.
But an all-time favorite is peach— delicate, social, warm, playful, yet sophisticated.