Vanessa Fernandez’s Professional Role Was Formed in Steneby
Vanessa Fernandez is a Retail Conceptual & Interior Planner at Polestar. Behind the long title is an architect who came from Venezuela to the forests of Dals-Långed and HDK-Valand’s graduate programme in furniture design before landing at Polestar in Gothenburg. Her job there is to develop interior design concepts for the company’s showrooms all over the world.
“The concept encompasses everything from floor, ceiling and walls to lighting and furniture,” says Fernandez. “But the final design is always developed in dialogue with the site. Every building is unique, and it drives the result. Collaboration with local contractors also plays an important role. The process makes it possible for me to combine what I like the most – architecture, interior design and furniture.”
She had graduated from HDK-Valand’s master’s programme in furniture design in Steneby and was working at an architecture firm when she saw Polestar’s job posting on LinkedIn. She knew immediately that it was a job for her.
To Dalsland via Barcelona
Her journey began many years earlier in her homeland of Venezuela, where Fernandez earned a degree in architecture and worked in an architecture studio.
“But it just didn’t feel right,” she says. “I had something inside me that I didn’t really understand myself, and I decided I needed to figure out what it was.”
Fernandez moved to Barcelona and enjoyed herself in a city full of inspiration. She continued studying architecture and returned to Venezuela with a master’s degree in her pocket – but she still had an open mind about where she was headed. She started working for a furniture company, and it was there she found what she was looking for.
“I realized that I wanted to work at a smaller scale, with the objects and the architecture inside of buildings,” says Fernandez. “I have always had a sensibility for art, and through interior architecture I could see an opportunity to work with a more artistic approach and on a more personal level.”
Fernandez started looking for different educational programmes in design and art. At the same time, she was influenced by the political situation in Venezuela. The insecurity there led many young people to search for their futures in other countries. Her brother had already emigrated to Canada, and after visiting a friend in Uppsala, Sweden became the obvious choice for her.
“I fell in love with everything!” she says. “The people, the environment, the student life. And I've always seen Scandinavia as a centre of furniture and design.”
However, Fernandez’s life as a student turned out to be completely different than what she had experienced in Uppsala. She chose HDK-Valand’s master’s programme in furniture design (MFA Programme in Applied Arts and Design, Wood oriented Furniture design) and moved to Steneby and the forests of Dalsland.
“I’m grateful that I got the chance to be there,” says Fernandez. “It’s an incredibly beautiful place with a special calm that gave me inspiration and focus.”
In Steneby she learned to work with wood. The programme includes independent and experimental work with room for reflection on local and global social issues. “I got to develop, run and create something I’m really interested in. With that freedom, I learned to use a more artistic approach.”
Right Place to Grow
On the Steneby campus there is a close collaboration among the three master’s programmes focusing on wood, metal and textiles. This gave Fernandez a valuable opportunity to try out various materials and integrate them into her work.
Her experiences in Steneby and the people she got to know there inspired her to create the website Ljus Skog (Bright Forest). With funding from one of the school’s foundations, she established a platform for marketing and selling work by the students of the Steneby campus.
Fernandez’s work with Ljus Skog unites two interests that have run through everything she has done and continue to characterise her work at Polestar today. “New technology and commerce fascinate me,” she says. “At Polestar I can combine the precision of architecture and technology with the creativity of business and furniture design.”
These days the feeling of being in the wrong place is behind her. Last fall she was able to secure a lease on a flat in Gothenburg, and for now she has stopped looking around. “I’m enjoying staying in one place, putting down roots and growing where I am.”
By Åsa Rehnström