Joy from the creative roots
The identity of Icelandic design is in the materials, the Nordic forms and patterns from the Saga age, along with modern ideas and innovation. Icelandic designers use resources from fish skin to lamb skin, fish bone to wool, silver to glass, lava rocks and natural stones, recycled metal, porcelain and wood for carving. Handicraft has always thrived quite well in Iceland.

When walking through the centre of Reykjavik, the capital, one cannot but wonder at the sheer number of designer and handicraft stores and galleries. And indeed the Icelanders are exceptionally creative and love their heritage. The likely reason is their way of life for centuries, closed-in on their farms by darkness and forces of nature for months during the winter. To make it bearable, they had to create beauty and enjoy making clothes, shoes, accessories, toys, furniture, pottery and tools. One can simply go to the National Museum to see how the islanders tolerated their isolation. It was their journey from darkness to light.

After the second Wold War, the Icelanders were eager to join the Western World and for some time the heritage was generally frowned upon as being unfit for the modern culture—but it was not forgotten. Even during the feminist era, the women would be seen knitting during meetings, whether political, cultural or educational.

The joy of creating returned with a vengeance after the financial crisis in 2008. Suddenly, all those who had used their creative talents on mere gifts for families and friends, dared to show their products to the world. In general, the nation was relieved to be rejoined with its beautiful heritage; to be able to find new approaches for old ideas, use old patterns for modern pieces of clothing, accessories, pottery, toys and tools.

Icelandic designers are quite eco-conscious. They work wonders from recycled materials and prefer material provided by Mother Nature to express their creativity, with the Icelandic sheep wool being the favourite, by far. Their pieces are designed to last a long time and quite a number of them have already become classics—such as the Icelandic ‘lopapeysa’ sheep wool sweaters and cardigans.

So, when in Iceland, look for the beautiful designer wares. Though most designers sell their products to shops in Reykjavik, you will most surely find designer shops and galleries all over the country.

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