DesignMarch is an annual design festival which takes place at Iceland’s sparkling capital of cool. Spread out across Reykjavik’s main streets, fishing harbors and the lava fields surrounding the city, this one-of-a-kind design week presents the newest developments in architecture, graphic design, fashion, furniture and product design.
It’s the biggest design festival in the world (per capita) – well, it’s probably not the biggest in number, but it certainly has the biggest heart and character. With it’s cozy and intimate atmosphere (read all about my experience here), it was easy to discover, get to know, and fall in love with the unique designs and projects on show.
Here are my favorites from this year’s edition:
Spontaneity and surprise are the key elements to 1+1+1, an experimental collaboration between designers from three Nordic countries. Hugdetta from Iceland, Petra Lilja from Sweden and Aalto+Aalto from Finland reimagines objects – candles, wallpapers, posters and vases – by having each studio design an object consisting of three distinct parts, and then joining them up together in surprising, unplanned combinations. To ensure that they don’t influence each other, a set of rules are agreed upon and no information is shared during the process.
The Search for Icelandic Porcelain
The Search for Icelandic Porcelain is a thoughtful research project between a designer, a ceramist and a geologist. Brynhildur Pálsdóttir (designer), Ólöf Erla Bjarnadóttir (ceramist), Snæbjörn Guðmundsson (geologist) maps out Icelandic minerals which can be used to make porcelain from all over the country. Speaking at DesignMarch’s main event DesignTalks, and exhibiting at Reykjavik Art Museum’s Case Studies: Product Design into the 21st Century, the trio presented their ideas and shared their adventures so far.
The team take samples of suitable Icelandic minerals (and later experiment and study them) from their journeys to Iceland’s rugged landscapes – far-flung locations they heard of mostly by word of mouth or from history books and old journals. As alkali feldspar – one of the three minerals usually needed to make porcelain, the other two being kaolinite and quartz – is nowhere to be found pure in the country, one of the main goals of the project is to search for other local minerals which could replace it, and thus, create “true” Icelandic porcelain. “People in general do not think about Icelandic nature as being ‘geologically fit’ to produce minerals usable for ceramics and we wanted to challenge that idea, and at the same time we wanted to continue the very short-lived search for porcelain in Iceland that was started in the late eighteenth century,” Guðmundsson and Pálsdóttir shares with me. “The final goal of the project is to develop and produce some kind of porcelain or other kind of ceramic material from local Icelandic minerals and rocks. As a side note, we want our research to be accessible for others to use so big part of our project is to document the search and keep the information available at our webpage for everybody interested in the project and the Icelandic minerals.”
Shapes of Sounds by Thórunn Árnadóttir
Thórunn Árnadóttir creates beautiful, interactive design objects by combining local Icelandic materials with salvaged soundboards from broken toys, thus giving new shapes to these discarded “sounds.” The shapes and material choice is a minimalistic interpretation of the sound, based on basic geometric shapes and raw materials. Two wooden cones made of pine wood plays “Jingle Bells” when stacked on top of each other, while a cube made of lava stone (an “elf house”) tinkles when it’s held. Árnadottir, a master of playful and innovative design, is also the creator of the famous PyroPet – cute animal-shaped candles which reveal grim metallic skeletons once the wax melts.
Design collective Vík Prjónsdóttir creates whimsical wool items inspired by folklore and everyday magic. Inspired by craftsmanship, natural materials and fair production, the team almost exclusively works with Icelandic sheep’s wool – Icelandic sheep have evolved over more than 1,000 years in complete isolation – and works closely with traditional knitwear factories. The Wing Blanket is inspired by the colors and folklore surrounding birds. You can slip your hands through its layered “feathers” to give yourself wings. The Healing Hands scarf – now featured on special edition Icelandic stamps – is inspired by the mystical figure of the Shaman: “To be in his hands, is to be under the protection of a magical power drawn from the spirit world. His touch offers relief from suffering, cleansing the soul of negative energies and warding off evil influence.”
Of course, I couldn’t resist the beauty of the Healing Hands and got myself one during DesignMarch. These images are taken on the black sand beach of Vik, a few days after the festival when I went on an epic adventure exploring the rugged south coast of Iceland. It was a truly cosmic moment wearing my scarf at the place where Vík Prjónsdóttir’s name was actually based on: the small town of Vik, with its eerie black sand beaches and magical geometric basalt cliffs, seemingly crafted by otherworldly hands.
Read about what makes DesignMarch special here.