MEET

SOFIE BJÖRKGREN-NÄSE

aka Fia Lotta Jansson Design – the lettering artist from Finland, who fell in love with shapes

 

November 10, 2017

Hi Sofie! What kind of creative would you call yourself?

I’m an analog creative foremost - I work with pencil and paper and I draw letters, letter forms. I’m a mix between an illustrator and graphic designer because I’m not a typographer, I don’t work with fonts. I create letters and I’m a graphic designer in the way that I combine, compose and design whole pieces.

So every piece is unique?

Yes, they are. If I draw a quote, two Es will be different because I draw them the way they look best in that particular word.

What set you on the path to illustration?

I’ve always loved letters and letter forms and how they relate to each other. I love how you can create a word and somehow communicate a feeling, or information. I’ve always drawn letters for the album covers of the bands I played with in my youth, and I did my own solo album artwork. Back then I didn’t even know that there was a thing called lettering or that you could pursue a career as a lettering artist.

You’re also a musician?

I was a musician. I’m a singer and songwriter and I did that for many years. More as a job actually than a hobby. I moved to Stockholm five years ago and had to decide what creative path I should take. I was a bit too ambitious and burned out and that was hard. Before we moved I was a blogger, sold vintage clothing and worked with young people part time - that’s what I’m schooled in, my “profession”, a youth leader. I also worked as a singer/songwriter, we had a house and I was a wife and we had two kids under three years old.

 

So yeah, it was… Women, we want to do so much but sometimes too much and I think we need to realise that. So many of the women that I look up to, one by one said, “I’m tired, I can’t do this any more, because I’ve been doing too much.” That’s when I decided to cut away things that didn’t give me any energy. I took some time off work, three weeks I think, found a peaceful place and started to draw letters. It was quite typical that I started something new, haha, but it grew out of peacefulness somehow and that made me feel like there was a good foundation. Maybe the most important thing that I realized was that I became better the more I practised. So I decided to focus on this. It’s tough, I’ve been my own boss for a year now, but I like it, it gives me freedom and it’s rewarding.

How do you incorporate all the experiences that you have into what you’re doing now?

At first I didn’t think I had any use for what I’d done in my life, but I realised that I’m a performer and that helps me during workshops or when I do [interviews] because it gives me a kind of confidence. It’s not hard to promote myself, in a way. Although I’m shy as well - there’s always a conflict between those two sides of me. I like making contact with people and collaborating, for myself, but also to give something of what I do to others. It makes it more valuable. And that’s something I’ve got from previous years.

You’ve been illustrating for five years as a profession. When did you start with your workshops?

Four years ago somebody asked me to come to a school in Ostrobothnia, it’s like a hundred kilometers north of Vaasa, near where I was born. In that neighborhood - in Jakobstad - it is the only graphic design course in Swedish in Finland, and a teacher there asked me to come to their class and inspire people to draw.I​ ​realised​ ​I​ ​really​ ​love​ ​inspiring​ ​others​ ​-​ ​to​ ​create​ ​-​ ​and​ ​also​ ​to​ ​give​ ​someone​ ​the​ ​tools and tips​ ​they​ ​need​ ​to​ ​evolve. That’s what gave me the spark to start workshops. Now they’re my financial lifeline so I’m very happy there's an interest in it.

What brought you to Stockholm?

My husband. He’s a musician and a studio producer. We were thinking about Berlin but I had just given birth to my second child so that felt like a too big of a step at the time. Two years later my husband connected to a great producer in Stockholm​ ​and we decided to sell the house and car quit our jobs in Finland and move here. I had thought Stockholm would be a difficult city to feel a part of but it was the total opposite in every way. First of all for my husband who made his way into a great environment and business so he could focus on what he’s best at, and I felt like I got a good response to my lettering work and it made me want to do it more.

 

The good thing about Sweden is you use superlatives and adjectives that are pretty strong for a person coming from Ostrobothnia. If you're in Finland you’d say, “that's good.” Here it’s more like, “it’s fantastic!” So that gives me even more confidence. Even if it’s just words it makes me feel better.

Where’s your favorite place to sit and draw?

My desk. My light table is amazing. I also sit and draw on the train, though. Like today, when I was on my way here I drew this:

I checked out your website and saw that you’ve drawn tattoos, logotypes and a book cover - what’s your favorite kind of requests?!

I do like logotype work because you know, in a way, that you’re strictly bound to what the client wants. That makes me even more creative. To be inside a box but still have to create something unique. I always have a very clear process in my work and I ask a lot of questions before I begin, to get a feeling both for the company values and the reference images. That’s what I start sketching from. Of course, tattoo work is very honouring and a ​responsible ​task… The book cover is actually a mock-up so I haven’t made a book cover – yet! I’d like to though.

Do you have any tips for other people who draw?

I’d like to quote the fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. “Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself.” That’s something I share with the participants in my workshops. Sometimes you need to draw a known thing and then change that in order to find yourself. And draw every day - do some work every day.

Who is Fia Lotta Jansson?

Well, my name is Sofie, but I’ve never been called Fia. My nickname was Sofa from the age of nine. Fia Lotta Jansson was something that the neighborhood boy called me when I was at his house and my mom called me Fia Lotta Jansson too, but no one called me that after I was four. It might have been a song during that time that somebody just picked up. When I started a blog ten years ago, I decided to not have my own name, but to use Fia Lotta Jansson. When I sold vintage clothing before my blog it was also called Fia Lotta Jansson. It’s followed me from early years and it’s had different meanings. I have become quite attached to the name.

"Sometimes you need to draw a known thing and then change that in order to find yourself. And draw every day - do some work every day."

 

Visit Fia Lotta Jansson's Instagram account @fialottajanssondesign and see more of her work on her website

 

 

 

Photos by Annie Hansson

Text by Jennifer Borge

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