I'm not shocking anyone by pointing out that this is an intensely transient city, and in the context of creative DC, so often that conversation focuses on who's leaving, and why and how they're taking their DC-nurtured talent elsewhere. What I don't think we're talking about enough, though, is who's arriving, how their creativity and ideas can add and contribute, and how, eventually, this city will start to inform their work. It's an exciting aspect to focus on (and a positive one, at that), so when I found new-to-DC (by way of Copenhagen) Julie Bjarnhoff's clean, beautiful design work in the #aCreativeDC Instagram feed, I got in touch immediately. She's been here just since November, and I was glad to spend some time with her at her apartment in the U Street Corridor, discussing her work, her home, and her creative DC.
"I’m a visual artist and graphic designer...I do a lot of different visual work. I guess I’m creating small visual worlds...I love the endless possibilities of starting with one element and then transforming it into something else."
Where did you grow up, and what brought you here?
I grew up in a wonderful and very creative family in a small village in Denmark. In the last 3 years before I moved I lived in the heart of Copenhagen - the city is magical. My husband Troels was offered a job [here], and I chose to follow along and start an adventure in DC. It is very different from Copenhagen...the people, the architecture, the food, the way life is lived – I discover many interesting things on my way around, it's hard to describe just exactly what...it's probably more a feeling that arises. I just love to walk around the streets and look at the beautiful, exciting and fascinating people - that inspires me a lot.
How long have you been working in the design field?
My passion for design lies deep in me, as I was raised by very artistic parents. My mother works full-time as an artist and my father as an architect and lighting designer. I grew up with the feeling of knowing what is aesthetically right and how to appreciate beautiful things. Actually I don’t think there was any start in the design field, design is just a part of who I am.
What's your typical process?
I always stock images in my head, and feelings. It’s like a giant internal hard disk. And I allow myself to be surprised with what comes out of it through my hand. Often it is hidden or forgotten emotions that I treat with care and curiosity. Lately I have started playing the same music again and again to maintain a specific mood for the project. I can describe my work process as ‘intense but soft’ and coming from an "inner tacit drive."
Your personal work is created to be printed + shown large format. Can you talk about that?
I love to give my art space – It makes it possible for the viewer to get closer to the details - I feel it makes it more alive and intense. I want people not only to see but to feel. When I allow my art to be large, it gives it a special power - there is something magical about when space and art comes together.
You worked in Copenhagen as a fashion stylist – what was that like?
Long days with a lot of work - you are on 24/7. Unfortunately, the job as a fashion stylist is not as glamorous as you dream of...it also has a reverse side, which I'm sure every job has, but I have much respect for the profession. It is art in its own way. One of the things that meant a lot to me was meeting so many passionate people. Working in the fashion industry becomes more a lifestyle than just a job...just like being an artist! I think it's incredibly interesting how clothing can create a certain attitude – quickly it will tell a lot about who you are and what you stand for.
Your home is a m a z i n g . What decor philosophies do you hold?
Minimalism, beautiful shapes, quality materials, art that gives you a certain feeling, the right light - daylight, candles, installed lights, light as art - light means more than you think. Clean lines, contrasts, material mix...stone, textile, wood, leather, metal, ceramics. I could go on...decor is all about aesthetics – that sense of taste. My parents have always told me, either you have it or not. In general I have very few things on the walls. The whiteness of the wall is essential to the art on it. All my stuff is chosen with care - I love every little thing. If you ask me, I’m sure I can tell a story about it all...I like that my home is filled with personality and that it stands out from the crowd. I have some of my mother’s, Annette Bjarnhoff's, paintings and a big one of my own – filled with emotions and family heritage. Everything has to evoke a feeling in me.<br />
"I work in my apartment – here I can work intensely and without any distraction. But I do like to be in a buzzing and creative environment too – it's just not always here I can concentrate the best. Music means a lot in my creative process – and I like to screw it up high and be in my own world...that works best at home ;)"
Where do you find inspiration?
I am inspired by objects and places but more often by the feelings these objects and places awake in me. I observe a lot and when something touches me, it always comes back through my work. I’m specially fascinated by all kind of faces. A face, no matter what, holds an expression and awakes emotions. I’m very fascinated by dolls – they carry a special purity, and tell a lot though even they have a stone face. There is something about their fragility...from my perspective they are delicate and sensitive.