Inhabitat has traveled to the world's northernmost capital, Reykjavík, to introduce our readers to the weird and wonderful designs on display at Iceland's DesignMarch. Empty buildings, art museums, shops and coffee stores host resourceful objects crafted in response to the country's 2008 economic crash. Click through the images to discover handcrafts made from recycled sweaters, algae, volcanic stones, radish, dandelion flowers, driftwood and even a cow's bladder.
Textile artist Anna Gunnarsdóttir‘s lamps ‘Aggh 015’ were handcrafted using local felted wool. Shaped like a cocoon, they create a romantic mood through their soft warm light.
Ingibjörg Ósk Þorvaldsdóttir crafts lovely, low-tech porcelain coffee makers through her brand Inosk. Called ‘UPPÁKLÆDD’ (‘All Dressed Up’), they consist of three parts: a recipient, filter and lid with a contrasting grip made from wooden beads.
Kristín Þórunn Helgadóttir‘s ‘Fjöruperlur’ (‘Animation beads’) necklaces are made from dried Ascophyllum algae from the West Fjords. Beautiful, unique and biodegradable, the pieces even float.
Icelandic designer Ragnheiður Ösp Sigurðardóttir’s ‘MaybeKnot’ cushion for her brand Umemi were born when she was experimenting with a tubular knitting machine to make teddy bears’ legs. The intricate twisted design might not look like a cushion at first glance, but it’s perfect for cozying up in winter.
MM Hönnun makes sweet recycled aluminum coffee stencils inspired by Icelandic crafts and nature. Featuring a knitting detail and snowy farm design, these items turn coffee into art.
Kristbjörg Guðmundsdóttir‘s ‘Urns to eternity’ are the most stunning way to store loved ones’ ashes before they pass into the next life. The one-of-a-kind containers are made from ‘crystalline-glazed porcelain’ made using a complex 12-hour technique in which crystals spontaneously form and grow from molten glazes while the pieces cool in a kiln.
At a lovely shop called Kirsuberjatréð, we found Valdis Harrysdotter‘s wonderful bowls made from sustainable radish paper. Through trial and error, the artist finally discovered the right cooking time, appropriate thickness and drying method that successfully turns the root vegetable into paper. The radish is colored with synthetic pigments – as natural dyes would fade too quickly.
Design studio FÆRID, which means everything is possible for those that have passion, devotion and ambition, unveiled their Berg tables. Suitable to use both indoors and outdoors, the timeless pieces are made from a steel structure topped with hand-casted concrete. They are ideally suited to holding magazines and small objects.
Within the exhibition Hidden Wood, which sheds light on the many ways to put driftwood to good use, we spotted a rough yet stunning table by Dogg Design called ‘Stranda’, which looks like it could walk away on its own. Standing on many wooden legs, its surface is made from coarse local black sand.
Designer Sigríður Hjaltdal Pálsdóttir studied at the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts before heading to Barcelona for industrial design at Escola Massana, Centre d’art in Disseny. She designs utilitarian homeware with a twist for her brand Bybibi. This tapas-style plate made from beautiful lava stone is a design we found particularly striking.
We first spotted Theodora Alfredsdottir‘s ‘From The Ground’ at last year’s London Design Festival. It consists of a simple totem-dining set for two made from a mineral called Feldspar, which makes up 60 percent of the earth’s crust.
London’s Royal College of Art critical designer Thomas Pausz created a set of containers from wild Icelandic dandelion flowers and its rubber. The project is an attempt to extend the flower’s lifecycle, giving new purpose to an otherwise overlooked common weed.
Furniture designer Gróa Ólöf Þorgeirsdóttir from Groa exhibited her ‘Into the Blue’ cocoon-seat. The textured skin was inspired by the colors of the ocean, while its shape mimics that of seashells.
Designer Hrafnkell Birgisson produces small-scale, local designs made in collaborations with craftsmen from a studio in Copenhagen called Berlinord. Exhibited was a duo of ‘Tools you light’ made from a turned wood base topped by a spun aluminum shade.
Gústav Jóhannsson and Ágústa Magnúsdóttir are the duo behind Agustav, a small studio in Reykjavík that works with handcrafted wood. The pair exhibited a new marine-inspired room organizer featuring a wooden structure harvested on their own plot in Iceland, a fishing net container and a boat’s anchor topped by a sweet wooden paper-like boat. The design duo also plant a tree for each item sold.
Also from Agustav is the Butterfly Inlay Table, a solid low table made from a rescued board of solid Oak. Using a minimalist process, the designers filled a crack in the board with contrasting butterfly inlays.
Kjartan Oskarsson‘s studio had three interactive lamps on show, including the Halo Light and Halo Mirror. Both are illuminated by gently pulling the strap or rotating the mirror’s frame. Forester 9 is made from copper pipes linked to the base by bearing balls that allows the user to move them as needed.
Ásgeir Einarsson (1927-2001) first designed the Sindra chair in 1962, and G.Á. Húsgögn recently re-released the design with a weird new skin. A fishing community, Icelandic people use 98 percent of a fish, which are primarily killed for its meat. This chair’s fish skin upholstery reuses a great percentage of the popular industry’s waste materials.
And last but not least there is a piece that is slightly gross but also quite magnificent. Valdis Harrysdotter‘s Cow bladder’s Lamp is a strange luminaire with a dark brown hue with vein marks on its skin. Albeit potentially disturbing to some of our readers, we were struck by the ingenuity of material use in Iceland, where it seems nothing goes to waste.
Photos © Ana Lisa Alperovich for Inhabitat