On Aðalstræti, in downtown Reykjavík, you will find the design store Kraum that fully represents the bustling spectrum of Icelandic design, with no fewer than 200 designers represented in the store. In the bright, stylish and spacious store the lively and vibrant state of the Icelandic design scene is readily apparent.
Kraum is actually located in the oldest remaining house in Reykjavik, built in 1762 by Skúli Magnússon, a prominent figure in the history of Iceland as a pioneer of industrialization. By remarkable coincidence the first industrial wool production took place in the house, bearing quite a resemblance to the present activity housed there. Walking into the comfortable environment Kraum offers, you will notice two recurring motifs shared by many of the design products. Firstly, many of the designers obviously seek inspiration in the old Icelandic handicraft tradition when creating their products. The Icelandic wool sweater pattern in a new context, on napkins and thermos flasks is a good example of that. Secondly, you will witness the simplicity or purity of many of the products. One material is chosen and the ornament is moderate to minimal.
Kraum’s selection of designer products ranges from small decorative ornaments to full-sized furniture. In between, one can find clothing, glasses, bowls and hangers. “We have objects made of fish skin, which always amazes foreign travellers and hangers that look like whale teeth,” says Halla Bogadóttir, manager of the store. Icelandic materials are evident by looking over the store; for instance, beautiful fish skin lamps, shaped like fish, are one of the first things you will see upon entering.
What characterises Icelandic design, according to Halla, is a certain fusion, as cosmopolitan education and influences meet local upbringing and experience. Whilst it is perhaps not as distinctive as Danish design, to take a well known example, the variety is probably greater.
Some of the items instantly awaken one’s curiosity, like the ‘Glass on foot,’ a ceramic chalice with a baby foot. This design both plays with well known forms, in the case of the baby foot, but in a strange context. It also plays with many of the common sayings in Icelandic connected to the word ‘foot’.
Another item that might interest bird enthusiasts coming to Iceland is “the Birds of Iceland.” It is a box containing everything you need in order to embroider your own pillow with a lovely image of some of the most distinctive Icelandic birds. The instructions are quite easy to comprehend.
It is apparent by walking through Kraum that both older and younger designers are fully aware of the ever-changing Icelandic weather. A good variety of warm clothes can be found in Kraum; sweaters, gloves and caps. The young designers do not hesitate to put the materials to novel uses, which results in quite remarkable clothing.
Kraum is going from strength to strength. The store started with about 60 designers but now there are products from more than 200 on display. Halla adds that they are really selective when choosing new products – naturally choosing only the best for their store. Apart from the store in Aðalstræti, Kraum has three other stores situated in two of the Reykjavik art museums, Hafnarhús and Kjarvalstaðir and one in the Design museum in Garðabær. Those stores are smaller but offer a surprisingly robust selection nonetheless. The store in Hafnarhúsið mainly features works from young and upcoming designers.
More information is available on www.kraum.is