Continuing the theme of 2-week chunks of time, I have been asked to blog about Icelandic design to tie in with Inspired by Iceland‘s Icelandic Design fortnight, and well, if you’ve twigged how awesome I think Iceland is (clue – it’s over there in the post-cloud in letters the same size as the word “GIGS”), it won’t come as a surprise that I said yes.
Aww, you mean I *have* to write about Iceland?
Icelandic design for me is inherently Icelandic. I know that sounds obvious, but let me explain. It doesn’t have any pretensions to copy other Westernised cultures, and you can clearly see inspiration drawn from Icelandic tradition and landscape, things which the Icelanders are rightly proud of. They also understand the importance of individuality. When I was last there, I complimented my friend Klara who was wearing this fantastic salvaged dress made out of 2 t-shirts – one bright red and one bright yellow – chopped up and sewn together. (I wish I had a picture but I had to run for the bus). It was completely unique, looked amazing on her, (even though on paper you might think it sounds awful), and we got to chatting about why Icelanders express themselves so strikingly through fashion. Klara reckons it’s a product of the small community, where everyone knows your business and you’re fighting to be seen as you and not who everyone thinks you are.
Random Reykjavik graffiti. Unlikely to have been inspired by volcanic lava.
That’s why I think I like Icelandic creativity so much. It’s minimal, elegant, proud, personal. Evocative without being obvious, it draws you in and makes you want to immerse yourself in it. Whether that’s music, film, literature, fashion, shopping – or practical design from jewellery, through to furniture and architecture. They even make boring stuff (like making things go) lovely (Iceland has pioneered the use of geothermal power and a happy by-product of that is the creation of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, seeing as how they thought the excess heat at the nearby geothermal power station shouldn’t go to waste. They also use it to heat the sea at a couple of Icelandic beaches. Who else woulda thought of doing something useful like that?).
So – pretty picture time! I’m going to show you some things that I really like from Iceland:
As you can imagine, volcanic lava features quite heavily in the Icelandic landscape and architecture, and huge chunks of it are readily available. Reykjavik harbour is bordered by tons of the stuff, haphazardly arranged like it’s a really big rock pool in your very rich Auntie’s garden. I don’t know what it is I like about these huge chunks of the earth’s core spewed up to the surface, but I can spend hours sitting on them, standing on them, walking on them, and not doing much else. I should probably get out more, but hey. So I really like this series of stools that have been inspired by weatherworn rocks that Inspired by Iceland have sent me to look at (they’re called Fjörulallar by a designer called Guðrún Björk Jónsdóttir). Love the way you can see bits of rock poking through!
I also wanted to show you a dress I bought on my last visit. Handknitting with wool from Icelandic sheep is big in Iceland. I got this one from a wonderful shop on Skólavörðustígur next to the Babalú cafe where they’ll be handknitting stuff in front of you. Here I take the opportunity to pose for you (whilst looking like a complete idiot) to show off my proper Icelandic dress, which not only is handmade by a very nice Icelandic lady, using wool from Icelandic sheep, it echoes the design of the traditional Lopapeysa jumper design, whilst being different enough to be definitely not a Lopapeysa. Four Icelandic things all rolled into one, oh and green is my favourite colour! Watch for me prancing around in it in Leeds:
It’s a dress. It’s green. It’s from Iceland. I’m happy.
I’d like to leave you with some pictures of Icelandic jewellery. There are tons of gold & jewellery shops on Laugavegur, which, despite being waaay out of my price range (and hey, I can melt metal, I’ll make things myself..), have window displays to die for, which translates roughly as a lot of striking use of gold and silver echoing Icelandic nature, or being minimal & sophisticated, or being individual & quirky (or if we’re really breaking it down – SHINY THINGS!).
Retro car Bracelet by Hringa Jewellery (www.hringajewellery.com)
Landscape inspired silver ring
Next time I go I’m making sure I have enough to time to get out of Reykjavik centre and check out what people are making outside of the capital. Now where’s my passport..?
InspiredbyIceland.com want to tell you how awesome Iceland is. Yes they’re trying to get you to go and visit, but honestly, why wouldn’t you want to? Tell them what you like about Iceland and find out about more cool Icelandic stuff on their Facebook page. Or just book a flight to Keflavik.