INTRODUCING KAI HAGBERG
I’ve been drawing pictures as long as I can remember. I would practice on the wall paper and any surface flat enough to draw on. Eventually, either having spotted my talent or driven by desperation, my parents started buying me more conventional art supplies. By the time I was ten years old I was painting oil on canvas.
From that point onwards any career other than art was not really an option. After spending three years re-illustrating my high school textbooks, I graduated and completed my obligatory national service of eleven months in the Finnish Army.
In 1979, I enrolled at Lahti University of Applied Sciences for four years of studying sculpture, jewellery making, jewellery design and engraving. During my time in Lahti, I was chosen to work as an assistant to the late Pentti Papinaho, an iconic figure in Finnish sculpture. I worked on many of his bronze monuments, ranging from wild life and horses to figurative pieces. I was given a unique insight into the world of sculpture through this experience.
I spent a summer in USA and Mexico toward the end of my studies at Lahti University. I spent a month in Minturn Co, Colorado Mountain College studying illustration under three masters of that field: Gary Kelley, Sam Wilson and Ray Bravo. After a month in Mexico, it became clear to me that I was meant for a warmer climate, preferably near the ocean. I could not see myself returning to Lapland where I was born.
I moved to Switzerland to work as a jeweller, engraver and diamond setter for Lambelin & Cie in Olten, one of the ancient towns of Europe. My experience in Switzerland gave me the best introduction to traditional jewellery making and style and design.
The workshop had been built in the 1920s inside an 18th century building. The workshop had changed very little since it had been opened. In this workshop, we had only hand tools, most of which were as old as the workshop itself.
The soldering was done with unpressurised gas. This meant the flame was as weak as a candle flame until you blew down a pipe to make the flame hot enough for soldering. The experience of working in this environment taught me to rely on my own ability rather than tools given to me.
I moved to Australia in 1984, and knew I had found where I belonged when I stepped off the plane. I began work at the Diamond House Jewellers in Darwin. The intense heat, humidity and close proximity to the ocean were heaven to me. Sailing became a new hobby. In 1986 we were invited to join a crew of a 40 foot sloop to sail around the world. We spent twelve months sailing along the equator to Africa, South America, through Panama Canal to the Pacific and back to Australia.
On returning to Australia in 1987, I settled in Cairns for a while and I have worked for the local clientele of the Cairns and surrounds now for 30 odd years. I design custom made jewellery and make it all by hand. I paint landscapes, abstracts and portraits. I sculpt and illustrate. I have worked for individuals, taken part successfully in many competitions and received commissions from multinational companies. Now living on the Atherton Tablelands, my wife, Maerey and I are creating new designs daily and I have found a place I want to remain for the rest of my time.