I was cruising along in a Reykjavik taxi when I saw Netagerdin Work & Shop.
“STOP THE CAR!”
Inside, I found a treasure trove of uniquely designed artwork, furniture, and decorative items, sold at the front of the workshop where they are made.
When I spoke to designers in Iceland, they unanimously spoke of how design changed “after the crisis.” They are referring to the devastating economic crisis that Iceland suffered in 2008. Before the crash, design was a global affair, where no-holds-barred ideas were often inspired by what the rest of the world was doing. Because designers had been trained under the influence of so many cultural backgrounds, there wasn’t a clear-cut artistic identity.
After the fog lifted from the financial downturn, designers turned to their national heritage and the rich resources of Iceland. They focused on using traditional, local materials, with an emphasis on production that was not only economical, but environmentally conscious.
The designers that work together in this building along Reykjavik’s harbor are living, breathing examples of this new wave of Icelandic design. Even the building they are in, formerly used for producing fishing nets, has inspired their identity…Netagerdin means “net production.”
Ceramic designer, Þóra Breiðfjörð, creates delightful, whimsical serving dishes that look like they might be from the world of Alice in Wonderland.
Bryndis Bolladottir is a textile designer and artist whose brand is BBolla. Using Icelandic materials, she creates playful objects for the home, like these textile wall decorations, door stops, and geese.
Architects Árný Þórarinsdóttir and Helga Guðrún Vilmundardóttir create products for their brand, called “Stáss.” Designing everything from jewelry to furniture, their vision is inspired by Icelandic folklore.
I was particularly fascinated by their table, with a base that folds flat, and a trivet consisting of four 2-dimensional houses cut out of wood.
Their powder-coated aluminum shelf, with waxed oak details is ingenious. (Stáss jewelry is hanging from the knob on front.)
Elísabet Jónsdóttir and Olga Hrafnsdóttir are two designers that have created the brand, Volki. Using Icelandic materials, and inspired by Reykjavík’s colorful houses, culture and people, they make blankets, throw pillows, poufs, and brightly colored powder-coated steel coat stands that look like skeletal trees.
Netagerdin is also home to independent Icelandic record distributor, Kongó, whose motto is “we spread joy.”
I’d say that phrase describes the spirit of all the designs at Netagerdin…joyful, colorful, imaginative, and inspired by the beauty of their surroundings and traditions of the past.