REYKJAVIK: DesignMarch, the best of Icelandic and Nordic design
DesignMarch – HönnunarMars in Icelandic –it's the Icelandic design week. For four days, from March 15 to 18 in Reykjavik, conferences, exhibitions, workshops and performances succeeded each other in order to honor design in all disciplines, and throughout the city. It is interesting to get to know once on the spot the real link that exists between the Nordic countries – or even Arctic –who support each other and feed each other in many ways. Indeed, in many projects, the conceptual spirit of Icelanders mixed with the formal meaning of the Finns or the creativity of the Swedes, etc. Selection of the best Icelandic design, but not only.
DesignMarch opened on March 15th through a series of conferences – called talks – as inspiring as the others, given by Icelandic and Nordic designers in order to demonstrate that design can and must be part of a societal approach. In fact, through the various speakers, we discover the Nordic tendency to consider Design as deeply useful to the evolution of our society in all areas, bringing solutions to minor as well as major issues.
This is how we discover the incredible talent of Marjan van Aubel, DSolar Esigner, who dedicates her time to inject this energy from elsewhere in our daily life, as for example above in a table or even solar windows in order to recharge directly phones and small devices. It's ingenious, it is worth asking why haven't these products invaded our lives yet..?
Or even Tekla Severin, PHotographe and Swedish Designer Set to whom we owe many images become famous of interiors and objects (below, the apartment of Daniel Heckscher, designer within Note Design Studio, or the scenography of the launch stand of the brand Northern, at the Stockholm Furniture Fair this year).
DECORATIVE OBJECTS / LIGHTING / RUGS
But let's go back to Icelandic design. Strolling through the city over the different places stamped DesignMarch, we discover that the designers from here propose a design whose concept and basic idea come from afar, and they really care about them. The idea is strongly elaborated, and the final object minimalist. Thus, Theodóra Alfredsdóttir presented Mould, a series of small objects like puzzles, highlighting the mold, an ephemeral object and quickly set aside while its role is essential in the mass production as small series. A complete reflection between reuse of materials and how to bring to light a new category of objects, invisible to our eyes until then.
In the same place, the local brand FÓLK Reykjavik also exhibited its collection of products: a very smart and minimalist shelving system, and a series of decorative objects to put together and compose as we please in collaboration with the Icelandic designer Ólína Rögnudóttir. Photos by Baldur Kristjans.
Further, we also discover the Studio 1 + 1 + 1, which, as its name implies, is actually composed of three Scandinavian design studios: Hudgetta (Iceland), Alto + Alto (Finland) and Petra Lilja (Sweden). Each product designed by the group is always composed of three parts, each of them highlighting its own way of seeing things. So, in the 2017 vase series, each piece of the series was designed by one of the studios, and same thing for the lamps Sierra Leone Presented at DesignMarch, everyone has his own, that creates a varied but harmonious whole and once again a fine example of the importance of the links that keeps Nordic designers all together.
On the Icelandic side, the duo of Usee Studio just received the Design Award for best product line of the year by the magazine Reykjavik Grapevine. Founded by Halla Hakónardóttir and Helga Kjerulf, the studio offers products in an eco-responsible approach of recycling materials, without losing sight of the objective of a strong visual and fun impact. The duo designed the above rugs, Palm on a pelvis and Face in a Forest (also available in illustration), but also clothing and accessories.
On the last day, I had the opportunity to meet Ragna Ragnarsdottir and whose work I greatly appreciate. The designer presented her vases Ground, small containers Globules and some pieces of the collection Main d'Oeuvre. Resin compounds of different colors, the work of Ragna Could almost register in the graphic register as the motifs she managed to create resemble illustrations voluntarily obtained. Between design, art and exploration of the creative process, his work has reached the maturity of a complete and successful project.
For its project Candelabra, Studio Flétta was looking for a simple, honest principle that can be handmade and resulting in an affordable final product. The designers – Birta Rós Brynjólfsdóttir and Hrefna Sigurðardóttir – have therefore chosen a hand-modelled clay aesthetic made very quickly (one minute for each candlestick!!), in order to highlight the creative process and crafts. A collection that attracts the eye by its strange and captivating forms and its glossy appearance that unconditionally brings a precious aspect.
The Icelandic duo And Anti Matter – Þórey Björk Halldórsdóttir and Baldur Björnsson – is comitted to reintroduce the concept of visual aesthetics in our everyday objects. They propose a series of sculptures called Modular, that one can choose to associate or dissociate as stands and pedestals for an object or accessory that is dear to us, or as a decorative sculpture as such. With tones reminiscent of the Oddsson Hotel Reykjavik) and made up of colorful concrete, the duo is inspired by a technique once used to create graphic floors in order to give a unique look to these sculptures. During the Design Talks from this beginning of the festival, we were also able to see their lamps Dust Blue and Peach Noise on the stage...
After working with different media in the field of textiles, Sigrun Lara Shanko made Icelandic wool her hobbyhorse for her brand ShankoRugs. Each rug is unique, directly inspired by the complexity of Iceland's landscapes between sky, sea, ice and volcanic eruptions – above the red and black piece Holuhraunis in homage to the last eruption of the volcano of the same name and was presented on the occasion of DesignMarch – or the customer for whom the artist and designer receives orders. Lately, she worked for the Saatchi Gallery of London.
The project Souvenir/Minning of the Atelier Dottir – based in Paris – begins a quest for souvenirs and memory of an era, a place and even a feeling. By extrapolating the principle of "Madeleine de Proust", the designer, Hera Gudmundsdottir, literally gives a different smell to each of her sculptures impregnated with essential oils. Each one is unique, and everyone will find the one that appeals to him the most. Through this work, the Atelier Dottir tries to provoke reactions but also answers to the following questions: Is it possible to inspire fixed responses through scent? Can a smell evoke similiar emotional reaction in different individuals? That is the question...
Through her series Another Dialog presented at DesignMarch, the designer Hannah Whitehead offers new perspectives to tableware. Indeed, carefully listening to the needs, desires and recommendations of her close circle regarding what everyone would like to be able to do and have concerning these objects of everyday life, Hanna Whitehead changes the form for even more functionality. Her pieces of incredible lightness facilitate the contact with the latter, while shaping new uses... Nice work.
In the form of an exhibition more related to art than design, Hannah Whitehead also collaborated with Hilda Gunnarsdóttir - Founder and designer of the brand Milla Snorrason – in order to create Illikambur, an installation where the styles of the two designers come together and combine with strength in a common aesthetic, in homage to a hill of the same name. The new garment collection by Milla Snorrason is accompanied, like jewellery, by Hanna Whitehead's creations.
I'm not used to publishing graphic design projects, but as far as Icelandis concerned, it is difficult to miss the good work done by the Studio Fræ with their collection Twinkle-Twinkle, in homage to the different landscapes that can be encountered during a stay in the heart of Icelandic nature. A futuristic aesthetic highlighting the treasures present on Earth since the dawn of time... Nice project.
This year edition of DesignMarch was proudly supported by The Institute of Foreign Languages, which allowed students of Kunsthochschule Kassel ofGermany to present their Butterfly Project, or the demonstration of the possibilities available to designers in terms of materials and shapes to tackle the design of a stool. More importantly, the students demonstrate here that an object as simple and common as a stool can quite be part of a contemporary approach to make life easier for users. Nice reflection.
Studio Portland, composed of three complementary personalities – Karen Ósk Magnúsdóttir, the engineer, Sóley Kristjánsdóttir, the leader and Sölvi Kristjánsson, the product designer –has looked at aluminum, its properties and its ability to be recycled in order to achieve three parts: a stool, a suspension and an acoustic speaker. Indeed, aluminum recycles very well and is able to take any form, and it turns out that Iceland every year consumes three million of tea candles(!!), of which the container is of course aluminum made... The trio harvests and reshapes this material which keeps all its aesthetic properties but also solidity in their work.
Thanks to DesignMarch and the designers I've met!
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