Independent art director Julia Stenius talks to Alex Jackson about the virtues of her latest project – a marble bookend with a heart of gold
“I thought the quotation mark itself was a good way of highlighting and supporting our favorite words on the bookshelf, as well as the writers and journalists all over the world who don’t get the opportunity to put their words there,” says Julia Stenius of her latest creation, Quote, a luxury marble bookend with a conscience.
As Stenius, an independent Stockholm/London-based designer and art director, herself explains, half of Quote’s profits goes to the Swedish branch of PEN International – an organisation defending freedom of expression, promoting literature and intellectual co-operation among writers worldwide.
“I decided to donate half the profits [to PEN] because I think they’re doing a very important job,” she affirms. “There was really no other brief than me wanting to contribute something good to society… and to create something that was pretty nice to look at.”
Carved from white Carrara marble Quote is certainly a handsome edition to anyone’s bookshelf. “It’s a beautiful and very classic material,” says Stenius. “But designs in Carrara can look very ostentatious so I wanted to combine it with something equally classic and beautiful like Helvetica, the typeface I used.”
And the inherent problems of marble were not the only issues Stenius faced bringing Quote off the page and into reality: “As a personal project, the big difference, except for having no money, is that you yourself are both client and the creative,” she says. “Total freedom, no-one telling you what to do sometimes makes it hard to get to the decisions but, from the perspective of Art Director, finding a workshop that could make what I wanted was the biggest challenge.”The workshop Stenius finally struck on was down in the southern region of Campania, in Salerno, where she found “a long history of stone cutting,” represented by a genuinely handcrafted approach: “They have a water-jet cutter that cuts out the shape but from there it’s just a one-man job to get the angles and surface perfect. Each shape takes a couple of hours before they’re individually wrapped, put in a wooden box and shipped. The workshop’s set in this beautiful green valley and every lunch they eat is like our Sunday dinner. Amazing!”
Discoveries such as that, coupled with projects of the heart, such as Quote, is what gives Stenius her biggest sense of joy and motivation. “When I work under my own name, it’s only my personal interests and taste that set the boundaries,” she says. “When working for someone else there are other fences to stay within. Or try and jump over.“While it’s never really been my dream to be an art director, all things leading up to being one has been fun and I don’t feel like I’m on the wrong track,” continues Stenius. “I’ve made a few turns along the way and Quote is the one I felt I had to make, having been working for quite ugly big corporations for a bit too long.”