SMALL TALK – ELSA & HELENE BILLGREN

 

We met with Helene and Elsa, mother and daughter at the premises of the Royal College of Art where they have their studios. A conversation about motherhood, childhood, fears, artistry and life. Thank you Elsa, Helene and baby Lynn for the small talk. 

 

Photo: Linda Alfvegren/Agent Bauer

 

Elsa, did you talk alot with your mother before you had a child, about what it means to be a mother?

Well, I ask my mother about lots of things but she doesn’t remember many details. I often ask her about what she was like at my age. That inspires me. Seeing how similar and different we are and how we’ve lived our lives. For example, my mother loved horses and spent a lot of her childhood in stables. I’m much more social and feel the need to socialize and meet people all the time. But we both like to express ourselves in weird, creative ways each day. And we’ve both always had our own, personal vintage style.

Helene, what do you find to be the hardest part of being a mother?

The hardest part is probably that I feel too like a child. But I’m good at cooking and routines.

 

 

 

In what way are you and Elsa similar?

Elsa chooses the good things in life while I choose a more difficult path. But we do have the same taste.

Elsa, what do you find to be your similarities?

We’re both childlike, creative, imaginative, fun and warm. But mom does things in her own speed while I rush about more. Mom’s more old school in the way she does things and I work with quicker social media.

What is the best part of your work?

I’m a TV show host, blogger and vintage entrepreneur. The best part is that I’m in control of most of what I do. If I want to, I can go away in the middle of the week to create my own content. It’s truly a luxury, making every day feel exiting.

 

 

 

Do you inspire each other?

Absolutely! We ask each other for advice and show each other projects during the process phase. It’s so nice being able to walk over to mom and get a hug or have coffee, whenever you might need it during the day.

Helene, in what way does Elsa inspire you?

Elsa encourages me to be a little weird and odd, pushes me forward whenever I feel lost. That’s lovely.

Tell us about your artistry.

I can’t be too happy when I’m working. I like it when something doesn’t feel right, like when I’m thinking of an orphan foal or of people with only a hamster to care about. Right now I’m working on a proposal for a wall decoration in a new school, while also doing a book cover. I’m painting for an upcoming show with my colleague Stefan Uhlinder, at the art gallery Passage in Linköping. I’ve also designed this year’s Christmas wrapping paper for Gallerian in Stockholm.

 

 

Elsa, you’ve been blogging for a long time, What’s it like running a blog every day?

It’s both hard work and fun. I have to always be alert and can’t forget about my readers. But my blog is very alive and full of people commenting, which makes writing and sharing fun. I’m never lonely in my blog.

What are you afraid of?

Getting stuck. Going blind, I have really bad eyesight. I’m also afraid of being uninteresting and being a bad mother.

When are you truly happy?

In the morning. When we’ve just woken up, and are having a cosy moment, my husband, baby and I. Time stands still.

Helene, what are you afraid of?

What will happen with the world. Go Greenpeace!

… And when are you happy?

When I’m opening the door of my car in the countryside, and can feel the air in my face.

 

 

 

Who were you in school and how do you remember your childhood?

I was the second tallest in my class, quiet and shy and never raised my hand. I remember my childhood as one long stay outdoors. I think of puddles, home made ice skating rinks and gooseberry bushes, perhaps that’s why I paint girls in landscapes and like jogging.

If you got to meet your 16-year-old self, what would you say?

You’ll always feel like this, and you know what? That’s your strength. These very feelings will be the foundation of all of your future artistic creativity.

Elsa, how do you remember your childhood and what were you like in school?

Very idyllic, in Gothenburg. I grew up in old houses, old contexts and with a lot of play. With two siblings and lots of neighbors, you always found something to do. I loved E-Type and wanted to become a singer. I arranged circuses and invited everyone in town. I picked bouquets and sold them, dressed up and dreamed of hanging out with my nine year older sister and her cool friends who were driving mopeds. But I had a darker side as well, I think almost every child does. There are so many things you hide and worry about, as if the world is resting on your shoulders. In school I was the one talking loudly all the time, I got good grades, but secretly I was crying.

How does one rebell against two rebelling parents?

Hehe. You try to fit in, I guess. I remember when I was a ’kicker’ and had chalk stick covering my lips and wore beige clothes. That was probably quite rebellious to my parents.

Helene, what was it like when Elsa was little?

Our Elsa always had all sorts of projects and inventions going. She was a director, actress, circus artist and a dancer. She was resolute and walked by the time she was 8 months old.

 

 

What do you think differs the most in being a mother today?

Don’t know, but a lot more is seen as dangerous and toxic today. Back then it was mainly the toxic fish in the Baltic Sea.

Elsa, has your relationship to your mother changed in any way since you had a child?

We see each other a lot more often! That’s lovely. The way it is when a new life is brought into a relationship. Suddenly, there’s so much more to do together, to see and to talk about! She often comes to visit us and takes care of Lynn for a while so I can work for a bit, take a shower and just be. But we find the time for coffee as well, when he’s fallen asleep.

 

 

Best advice you’ve been given as a mother?

To keep in mind that everything’s a phase, you know best and try living in the now.

What inspires you?

Old movies, long walks, dreams, Pinterest, vintage shops, weird ladies and untouched rooms.

And you, Helene?

I like fashion magazines and vintage youth books, adventures and clothes.

Elsa, what will you be doing in five years’ time?

By then, I’ll be decorating our new (old) house. I’ll have a couple of employees, a bigger studio space and my very own TV show!

 

Läs Elsas blogg här!