Does this use of the original idea entail meta-formation? This is not how the idea embodied in the original object was intended when it was first designed.

Tuva Tjugen: Vilterkrakken ’Vilter’ is a collection of stools for both children and adults. It is inspired by Norwegian wildlife. The stools come in the shape of wild animals: foxes, squirrels and bears. They are based on a simple design consisting of three parts, a seat supported by two profiles. Everything is made from plywood.

Why create new ideas when an original can be transformed from a man-made object into unique? 

The Art of Reverse Fabrication project, Kjell Rylander and Tuva Tjugen conceptualise, define and use the idea of ‘waste to taste’ and ‘back to life’ and bring it into design. They bring mass-produced anonymous objects into the art field for critical reflection purposes. 

They all cross traditional boundaries between design and art and bring objects we use and discard ‘back to life’. Shifting the focus from the mass-produced and global thinking to the local, travelling short distances and using contemporary techniques, they upcycled their materials into unique objects. 

With multiplication and mass production, the definition of the original is different than in the case of a unique item. The original is an idea that is associated with something personal and thereby special. The terms original, copy, unique and specimen indicate what is different and what has more or less been multiplied.

What about an original and changes? In Norwegian, the notion of the original is a broad and ambiguous one. One of these meanings is ‘source’, as in ‘source text’, while another refers to people and describes someone with unusual qualities. Raising the question of the original also indicates a search for something primary.

The challenge of multiplying an original idea is something that, in a broad sense, can be found in memory, that goes hand in hand with

the process and is part of the perception of the idea.

The Art Museum as a public space that places limits on contemporary values


The Art of Reverse Fabrication project was exhibited at KODE , the Art Museums of Bergen. I asked the director of the museum for

permission to auction off the objects shown at the exhibition at the end of the project. The works of art were to be presented anonymously

at the auction. Our idea was to make the process valuable and to present something more than the monetary value of an object. For

example, we wanted to see whether people would want to bid in the auction because of the aesthetic value of the products, because they

understood the style of the artist or simply liked a product.

Charles Michalsen

Associate Professor, University of Bergen

Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design


This also raises questions about what original and unique mean.


First a few words about downcycling and recycling:


Recycling is a physical process in which raw materials are extracted and reused to

produce a new result. 


Down-cycling involves combining raw materials that, as a result of various processes

and techniques, cannot be separated and reused. 

From destruction to construction and brought back to life.

From industry, the building industry and trash, we find plywood and hardboard that is

defined as waste and regarded as useless. This material is a resource that can be

transformed to construct a new idea and, instead of being destroyed, it is recycled

or ‘upcycled’.
Wooden materials often contain traces of how they were made, and we often find

such qualities in leftover or waste wood.



From destruction to construction and back to life

Kjell Rylander did his PhD at Bergen Academy of Art and Design. 


By cutting up and reassembling objects, Kjell Rylander transformed cold, anonymous

mass-produced products into unique art objects that point back to their previous use

and thereby have narrative value.                                                                                                  Film. Click and start.

In Ceramic Monthly August 2011, Glen R Brown writes about Kjell Rylander’s art work under the title The Anthropic Aura. 


I can agree with Glen R Brown’s use of the term ‘anthropic when analysing Kjell Rylander’s work, but not the term ‘aura’. 


The concept of aura and fetish has largely been occupied by and set in religious contexts, but it is really an attempt to describe something unknown and invisible.


In 2001, Jack Lohman, now director of British Columbia museum, and I were responsible for five projects with a mixed group of art and design students at South Africa’s National Museum. The main question addressed was how to attract a new audience. At this time, the museum’s exhibitions and communication were mainly designed with a white audience in mind. From this work and from the project, I learned about the power of the object, and two different categories of objects were very interesting to me – fetish objects and no fetish objects. We wanted to discover and define the differences in power of these objects.


I use the meta value of an object as a conceptual dimension to describe the no fetish term. It triggers qualities that emphasise the search for connections. It is very often too easy to ascribe a religious meaning to these qualities. 


We need to include the narrative in art and design, which in many way consists of transforming the meta and emotional qualities of an object. In the case of Kjell Rylander, his objects are moved from table to wall, from industrial design to art, yet they still invite the viewer to make the connection to their original use.


From Mass-produced to Unica. 


The concept behind the project ‘The Art of Reverse Fabrication’ was based on taking imperfect rejects from the production process at the only porcelain factory in Norway, Figgjo, and reversing the process, giving a simultaneous nod to tradition. The aim was to transform trash into unique artistic objects. This is related to the modern concept of upcycling, through which objects are transformed and increase in value – from a mass-produced product to a unique work of art.



Quality in industrial design and mass production is associated with the properties of repeatability and physical similarity. Quality is often defined by a very clear boundary, and the untrained eye may have difficulty noticing what it is exactly that determines that the products are not physically identical to each other and therefore do not pass the quality test. Industrial design and mass production often provide us with sets consisting of many objects that can be juxtaposed with each other, making it easier to notice differences and flaws.


More than a hundred years ago, Thorstein Veblen, who was originally from Norway, wrote his most famous book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, in which he discussed what happens when machines multiply what was previously handmade. It was a discussion about aesthetics and values in which Veblen asks questions about the value of mechanical repetition. Many questions can be asked about the values associated with the multiplication or reproduction of a work of art, or a combination of many works, and the relationships between them.

The book includes comments on the original, on memory and a new original, about what happens when an original is multiplied.

A hundred and fifty years ago, porcelain and glass were such exclusive products that the tradition was to repair things that were damaged. Good, gentle repair methods made the damaged objects even more unique. It was necessary to conceal imperfections in glazing, defects arising during the production or repair process, and it became a tradition and a custom to apply new ornament, ceramic decal paper or gold to glazing.  


‘Repetition is always a form of change.’ – Brian Eno

What is an original and what differentiates an original from a copy and a unique object? 

In Oblique Strategies, Brian Eno concludes: ‘Repetition is always a form of change.’ 


Breaks and repetitions are valuable. In a production involving many repetitions, a change also takes place with regard to value. 


A duo consisting of two objects is another form of multiplication and whole, where one object depends on the other, which may be different, but represents a certain idea.

What changes occur when an idea is applied in mass production? Energy is consumed, but the product is not sold or used. This raises questions about the environment and living conditions. 

Can such a product be sold or given as a present? Can the production be better adapted to environmental needs and less geared to making a profit? Can the idea of a product and its packaging rely more on local raw materials?

Constance Kristiansen, design manager at Figgjo porcelain factory, wrote in the catalogue for the Art of Reverse Fabrication: ‘If the product is cheap, we are often more tolerant about defects. But the relationship between the price and tolerance of flaws can be the reverse. People who buy more expensive products often accept imperfections, considering them to be something that results from the properties of the material. Sometimes, for instance, shades of a colour or small air bubbles in glaze can be regarded as indications of a “hand-made product”, for which these customers are willing to pay. The so-called middle market usually makes the highest demands of manufactures as regards both price and quality.

Here, the customers pay relatively high prices but not high enough for them to feel that they are purchasing anything but an industrial product. And this industrial product should be perfect, so that its price is justified. 



Customers may think that they have paid more than enough to expect perfection. However, the value is assessed on the basis of what the customer is willing to pay, not the item/product itself.’

In this context, the mug is for some reason at the bottom of the hierarchy. 


Having less or no knowledge about the production process has also changed our perception. In the past, when production used to take place closer to the user, we knew more about how things were made. Nowadays, new technological processes and physical distance have deprived us of this knowledge. We are no longer aware that many steps in the production process may be performed manually and that not all processes are equally easy to control. This applies to mass production, but not the technology used in porcelain production.

From working with porcelain in China and Norway, I have experienced that production is very different, and, especially in China, less energy is used in the production of high-quality porcelain.

That is why our tolerance of imperfection has changed. There is a difference between lack of perfection resulting from the properties of a material, or how it is produced, and those caused by poor craftsmanship or production. Deformations arising during the firing process are a typical example of lack of similarity due to the material itself. 

Today’s users do not necessarily have the knowledge required to distinguish between values. This ability is a skill the designer can acquire by being mobile and gaining global experience. In my case, I have experience of Chinese and Scandinavian porcelain production. 

In a few exceptional cases, Figgjo has sold products that were damaged or were basically waste. In these cases, they marked the defects on the surface using blocks of colour and turned them into decorations. They had customers who were interested in the challenges represented by waste and second-quality products, individuals concerned with social and environmental issues. This is meaningful mass production.

From Industrial Design to Art


The experience gained during the project

The Art of Reverse Fabrication did not address people from a specific profession. Half the participants were art students and the other half were design students – from five different countries in Europe. The project focused on the manufacturing process, which was supposed to present human relationships, using visual stories and narratives. How do we live and what is around us? No distinction was drawn between designers and artists. The overriding idea was related to people’s lifestyles and attitudes, and the environment, and the students could come up with unique ideas and interpretations.

The plates were delivered to us at the academy from Figgjo porcelain factory. They had a narrative, a well-known one that it was easy to identify with. In a few cases, it became the basis for the idea behind their reworking. Initially, the project seemed a bit like ‘suicidal acrobatics’, but it proved to be feasible and was implemented. The ideas were supposed to develop and transform for six days. The participants were to communicate and discuss, then the production process was to be carried out, and to crown it all, an exhibition was planned. In the middle of the week, as the project progressed, I was thinking about the contract with Bergen Art Museum KODE , about the exhibition opening at 2 p.m. on Saturday. It was important for me to remember all the people who had volunteered to participate –about my colleagues who made up a team with diverse skills, which meant that enormous resources were available that would be helpful in preparing and organising the exhibition.

Design and fine arts are professions for individualists who are able to work as a team and aim for a common goal. These professions are very much about managing and executing projects.


Installation with sound. From the Art of Reverse Fabrication exhibition 

Title : Looking for Connection . By KHiB student Inghild Skramstad Lunn.

Image. Kjell Rylander. Porcelain and metal.                

at Art Museums KODE  of Bergen.

 Photo: Kjell Rylander

Student work. The Art of Reverse Fabrication.

Photo: Charles Michalsen 

Photo: Charles Michalsen

Shifting education and responsible citizenship

The Art of Reverse Fabrication.

From Waste to Taste. 


From Mass-produced to Unique. 

From Industrial Design to Art .

Why create new ideas when an original can be transformed from man-made and mass-produced into unique?


The Art of Reverse Fabrication.

Upcycling – from Waste to Taste.


The Reverse Fabrication project concerned the idea of improving the quality of ‘a faulty product. Upcycling takes this idea further, transforming the idea and adding value. 


Upcycling is more of an analytical and conceptual process that can also be an artistic action, whose aim is to increase the value of a given product and to transform a faulty mass-produced product into a unique item and designer piece.


1. How can ordinary and banal materials become a resource? 

2. Can one expression (a ready-made) contain infinitely many, other expressions?

Found porcelain fragment in Jingdezhen ( China ) . Its about found fragment and to connect it with her own stories .The old porcelain piece is used to create new combined objects. Coincidences played an important part. To connected something old with something new. The work raises questions around the meeting of different cultures, places and stories of the people living there, told through the discovery of old porcelain pieces connected with new made forms.

This work got the Juries 1 st prize in Cumulus exhibition Kyoto ( Japan ). 


From the project that I initiated and organized. The project was named the Global Table. A cooperation project between KHiB and JCI ( Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute ) China. 


Another example is Tuva Tjugen, now a second-year bachelor student at the Department of Design. For me she has developed a concept that combines a load-bearing structure with anthropological visual storytelling and uses machinery in the production process.

– The base material in a supporting structure (such as a stool) can be made from upcycled , locally found plywood or materials where the aim is to use a minimum of energy for their physical transformation.
– Contour lines that tell a story. Through interviews with people and collecting traces and remnants from the environment in which the wood is sourced, the contour lines of the material convey its local history and previous ownership.
– The upcycle of materials in the stool has a spin-off effect, the surfaces, colour and text being recognisable and communicating the values its previous use embodied. Using material found locally or asking people to bring leftover material was a way of conceptualising values. They are graded through selection and use, and form a category based on local values.
– Another aspect of her project is the use of contour lines as a narrative resource. Laser cutting or water cutting are digital applications where machines shape and create contour lines. The visual story is transferred to these applications and cut into the desired material.

Tuva Rivedal Tjugen’s originally trained and has experience as an occupational therapist, a profession that focuses on communication with people and on their creativity.
The materials is from the local community, identifies visual stories and has a design manual that focuses on people's creativity and local values.

Image. From the Art of Reverse of Fabrication studio.

Photo: Charles Michalsen 

Bergen Art Museum is a public space supported by public funds, and one of its policies is that the objects shown at exhibitions are not for sale. That is why the auction did not take place. It is a public space, but can it be a space for experimental practice and debate about the value of this kind of activity? 



1. Ceramic Monthly, August 2011, Glen R Brown on Kjell Rylander, The 

Anthropic Aura -


2. Torstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class -


3. Oblique Strategies by Brian Eno -

Two jars and one idea. An antique Chinese porcelain jar and made by me    


                                  Bergen Art Museum KODE.


             From my solo exhibition named Copy Original Unique.


a physical copy with a mirror surface.

Artist and photo: Charles Michalsen

Photo and design: Tuva Tjugen

Paper published Cumulus Conference

Aveiro, Portugal
May 8 – 10, 2014

Tuva Tjugen and her stool.