Arhoj Studio Visit

studio_summer2016_1v2On a recent trip to Copenhagen, Persephone Journal correspondent Katy Niner stopped by Studio Arhoj—the site responsible for the whimsically melting mugs and bowls that color the café.

Defying Google Maps, Studio Arhoj sends would-be visitors on a treasure hunt to find it: Set on the harborfront of Islands Brygge, the studio sits tucked back from a stately stone façade, through an arcade and two courtyards, up a nondescript staircase on the leftmost corner of the cobblestoned quad. The only clue the spritely studio lives within the vicinity of the moving GPS dot: A neon sign of its smiley-face logo.

Studio Arhoj rewards treasure seekers with a working wonderland: plywood racks teeming with sip and slurp cups, dripping pen holders and wide-eyed ghosts; a wall of decorative pearls (one loyal collector buys a pearl with every paycheck); bookshelves lined with yuki vases and limited-edition familia figurines. The open-concept store flows into the studio, inviting visitors to peak at the process.

a_68Refreshingly, the Studio Arhoj crew is as twinkly as their wares. Busy mixing glazes and dipping mugs, Production Manager Pia Ager Bruun still stops to greet guests with a warm hej, an easy hospitality that extends to the tour led by Joe Cooper, International Sales and Digital Manager—a Mainer who joined the team as an avid Studio Arhoj collector. A close-knit group of 10, everyone participates in production in some form (though Joe is on prohibition from high-fire glazing having botched a batch), and because most staffers are trained designers, experimental product development remains a high priority. As does conviviality: Playful banter flows freely, especially when founder Anders Arhoj emerges from a meeting. A quick comparison of Copenhagen’s winter with Jackson’s makes Anders claim an imagined nook by the fire, book and hot cocoa in tow, far from the subzero slopes. Nothing athletic, he jokes.

Much like the treasure hunt to find the studio, the story of Studio Arhoj traces a winding route: Anders moved to Tokyo to study Japanese and founded a graphic design studio there in 2005. Only after moving back to Denmark did he discover his desire to pair Japanese culture with Scandinavian simplicity through ceramic design. “Ceramics were kind of a twist of fate upon his return,” Joe says.

After years of development, Anders established Studio Arhoj in 2013 with an eye to infuse color into the Danish design sea of black and white. He set up shop in a former envelope factory—a space the studio soon outgrew, precipitating a move around the block into an artillery warehouse made warren-like by the former occupants (a law firm then language school). Knocking down walls, they created an airy space at times too bright, with shades necessary come summer. Growth has compelled the studio to expand once again; last month, they claimed the fourth four of their building for operations and shipping.

As this bildungsroman suggests, business is brisk, with Studio Arhoj items found in 200 stores worldwide and a long waiting list of prospective vendors. Careful curators, they pick retailers according to aesthetic kinship and relative proximity—someone shouldn’t wander three doors down and find more Studio Arhoj goods. “We try to work with nice people who care about the product,” Joe says.

Now, the creative process can stretch its legs across the second floor. An entire wall stocks finished vessels, each labeled with detailed instructions, down to the seconds spent in the kiln, particularly important when trying to nail a precise drip. A lot of time is spent experimenting with glazes—mixing raw minerals and tweaking recipes to find new molten patterns, a wily process mastered by Production Assistant Morten Dyrsø. “There are so many happy accidents,” Anders says. Every color concoction gets a unique name—American Toad, Fluffy Unicorn, Lava Lamp. Some products—like the beguiling ghosts—take as long as a month to make (three firings, distinct steps for glazing then painting).

At its core, Studio Arhoj remains committed to artistic exploration: eschewing 3D printers, everything is born by hand. A concept may begin as a drawing by Anders and then evolve with Potter Stig Larsen at the wheel. The character of the piece comes to life through collaboration, and then extends to the customers themselves. More than souvenirs, a Studio Arhoj item speaks to the personality of the person who picked it up and chose to make it part of their home. It speaks to their willingness to recognize a genuine, handmade moment amid the consumer noise. “When you choose one of our products, it says something about you,” Anders says. Something real and rewarding. Like the experience of visiting the studio itself.

Find a selection of Arhoj ceramics at Persephone Supply and in both Persephone and Picnic cafes. 

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