The Ode To was founded in 2018 by friends Helena Carlberg and Anna Lukins—both passionate collectors of aesthetically pleasing things, sharing an obsession for art and interior. The Ode To takes its name, and philosophy, from the notion of giving tribute. The company always works with artists that they truly admire and strive to find a balance that ensures a creative platform for women. As curators, Helena and Anna bring part of the present moment to light, giving them the opportunity to counterweight the imbalance that exists in the art world.
From sculptures and objects to paintings and drawings, they collect and present one-of-kind, original artworks by some of the most talented artists around. Each piece is handmade specifically for The Ode To. Whether their customers are buying their first piece of art or they are seasoned collectors, the company fills one’s home with truly special pieces that few others have.
What was your first job in the Arts and what was the most useful or important thing you learned in that experience?
We actually created this job for ourselves by founding The Ode To. We both come from the fashion industry prior to this, and Anna has been working as a talent agent, so we’ve always been in creative industries and are used to balancing business and artistry. The major learning is the reality of becoming entrepreneurs and being our own bosses. By now we feel very comfortable with making fast decisions, pitching to investors, solving all types of issues, celebrating successes, and enjoying all the other ups and downs.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
We’re friends since way back and we’ve always had art as a shared interest in our friendship. We’ve always loved looking for special pieces for our homes, but never really felt at home among the art galleries, so we’d go art hunting at flea markets, in artist studios and other random places. At one point we were both moving between different countries (Helena from NYC to Stockholm and Anna from Stockholm to Germany and then Amsterdam), which made us feel brave, so we decided to pursue this art hunting into a profession.
What do you do now?
We run The Ode To which is an online art gallery that curates handmade, unique and affordable artworks. The best part of our job is to source artworks from fantastic emerging artists. We put together quite eclectic collections of sculptures, paintings, collages, vases and drawings. We just opened up for US shipping and it’s been a long time dream to launch The Ode To here. We originally planned for it later on but have received so many requests from all corners of America. Since some of our most devoted followers and visitors reside here, we decided to speed things up.
Where are you from and what is the arts community like there?
We’re from Sweden and both of us now live in Stockholm. All education here is for free, including art schools, which means that more people can get the chance to study art and there are lots of fantastic artists. It’s still a tiny country though, so the local art community is quite small and everyone knows everyone. We source our artists from all over Europe though and the online arts community is large and filled with inspiration.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Absolutely. There’s a sense of democratization in what we do with The Ode To, as we want to make it easier for more people to buy original artworks and this is a very Scandinavian approach to culture and design. The Scandinavian esthetics has also shaped our way of looking at things and how we curate the artworks.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
To find your own taste and voice – it’s easy to get caught up in what’s considered “right”.
What is one of the greatest accomplishments in your career so far? And what has been a challenge?
To take the daring step of founding our own company. This is by far what we’re most proud of. There are constant everyday challenges of running your own business and the biggest is that you have to do everything yourself. We manage everything from IT and logistics to marketing and branding.
How is your current job adapting to the ever-changing digital landscape? What do you think can be done better, if anything?
We’re born digital and it’s the world that we live and breathe, so it’s not really a challenge for us. We do spend a lot of time creating content and are always coming up with new ways to document and share the art, but that’s just a treat.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job?
It’s always a special sensation to pitch your company to investors and we’ve done this in front of large live audiences in 1 min, in TV studios and even at parties.
What do you think defines a good employee? And what defines a good boss?
We think a good employee and boss both should inspire each other and make room for the other person’s expertise and learnings. We believe in lots of freedom and rather leading by setting the vision and then letting our employees take responsibility of working towards that vision together with us. At least that’s what we’re aiming to do, but we also just recently got our first employees.
What is your advice for making yourself stand out in the workplace? Any good tips for giving a great interview?
We love interviewing people that have done an effort and show real engagement. Interviews are all about getting to know and understand a person. For us it’s about finding a good personality match, so as cliché as it may be, try to show who you are, what you know and how you can contribute.
What artwork is/was in your home office?
We have picked some favourites from artists that we’ve worked with for some time. Graphic ceramic artworks by Sofia Tufvasson, wood cut-out drawings by Joakim Nyström and smiling glass sculptures by Erika Kristofersson Bredberg.
What is/was your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again?
We started our company from two different countries, Sweden and the Netherlands, so we were already used to working remotely. We were mostly working from home anyways, although we’ve now had to share our home work spaces with our partners, kids and dogs, so the peace and quiet wasn’t the same. We’ve always kept a flexible schedule and tend to work from different places and we’ll probably always keep doing that.
What aspect of the art world this year (2022) is most exciting to you?
We’ll hire a bigger team and will move into a fantastic new showroom. We opened US shipping in November 2021 and we’re really excited to see where it’s going to take us.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
To find a workplace that feels modern and open for change. There are lots of stuffy places and they will probably have a hard time adjusting to the new digital era.
What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?
Honestly, we haven’t really been to that many exhibitions in that last two years. We dream of going back to Storm King in New York soon. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art outside of Copenhagen is always a treat no matter what exhibitions they have because the building and the garden are as inspiring as the art.
How do you think the art world can become more transparent?
We’ve always seen ourselves as adding something to the art scene, rather than competing with it, so we can really just speak to what we’re trying to achieve with The Ode To. We’re trying to make it more effortless and understandable by sharing the inspiration, thoughts, and techniques behind an artwork and hopefully this makes art more relatable and thereby transparent. We also share what we like about an artist and how we discovered them, in order to make the selective process more inclusive and open.
How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward?
In as many ways as possible – through your phone, in the subway, on your wall, in a museum. Social media is great for discovering artists, having art at home is the best way to enjoy it often and going to exhibitions can immerse you in a whole experience. There’s not really one way to do it, is it?
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
A Hockney if we get to dream. Besides that we currently are thinking about getting a water melon vase by Danish artist Nanna Stech, a large two-piece painting by Soraya Forsberg, wavy mirrors by Caia Leifsdotter and a metal wall sculpture by Sofia Eriksson.