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March 26, 2013
Eyjólfur Palsson and his Reykjavic-based Epal Furniture emporium have supported and championed Icelandic design since the 1970s. During Iceland’s annual DesignMarch this year, Epal presented the work of 23 local designers representing a wide range of styles, materials and expressions. From the truly original ideas to others that felt more tried and tested, one thing was clear—in an economy that is still rebounding, all of the designers had marketability on their mind.
Beardcap by Vik Prjónsdóttir
Epal carries Icelandic designs like this Beardcap by Vik Prjónsdóttir. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
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Flóki stool by Dóra Hansen-Hansen is known as a successful interior architect, educator, event curator, and to the crowds at DesignMarch: a product designer who reinvents the possibilities of everyday materials. Her work with ocean harvested driftwood for the Tindur lamp is well known, but it was the Flóki (or Felt) stool that caught my attention at the event. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
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Flóki by Dora Hansen
In Flóki, layers of wool felt are pressed tightly together between birch sides to create a welcoming, and curious ("wool, will it hold me?"), place to rest. "I wanted to give the stool some special kind of construction,” explained Hansen, “and the folding came from playing with the material." Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
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Marmo tables by Ólöf Jakobína Ernudóttir
Marmo tables by Ólöf Jakobína Ernudóttir-It seems natural for a designer who is also a food stylist to create a series of tables. Ólöf Jakobína Ernudóttir's Marmo tables strike a balance between the heavy elegant surface and the thin radial of a functional, industrial base. Photo courtesy Ólöf Jakobína Ernudóttir.
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"I studied in Italy and always wanted to do something in marble. Icelandic designers often draw from local influences but just this once I wanted to do something different," Ernudóttir said. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
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Sheep skin stools by Gerður Guðmundsdóttir
Sheep skin stools by Gerður Guðmundsdóttir-A graduate from IADT Tampa, Guðmunsdóttir pays homage to Mies van der Rohe but creates pieces that are distinctly Icelandic. For her DesignMarch submissions, she accepted a challenge from her uncle to work with Icelandic sheep skin, famous for its long outer coat. The result, a bench and a set of stools showing the versatility of the material. "I love the raw and wildness of the natural uncut sheepskin,” Guðmunsdóttir told me. “I made a bench using that, and went the opposite direction for a completely different but complimentary look for the stools with cut sheepskin." Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
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Winter Treeline lamp by Ellen Tyler
Winter Treeline lamp by Ellen Tyler-For the past 20 years Ellen Tyler has made Iceland her home. Working with local architects and manufacturers, she has drawn on a wide range of experiences to create the Treeline lamps. In their latest incarnation, the lamps have been reimagined for indoor use, and with a seasonal narrative. The first to emerge from Tyler's studio is the Winter lamp, inspired by the shadows cast on freshly fallen snow by a midwinter moon. "The lamp purposely has a raw look to display the honest nature of the materials themselves," said the designer. Tyler's dedication to the line is evident in her recent studies of lighting design at the Technical College of Reykjavík. And with very few trees in Iceland, I suspect it was Tyler's time at the University of Oregon that inspired her. Photo courtesy of Ellen Tyler.
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5 candleholders by So by Sonja
“5” candleholders by So by Sonja-Taking the pentagon shape as her inspiration, Sonja Björk Ragnarsdóttir masterminded a five-sided puzzle of sorts with candle holders for her own brand, So by Sonja. "It's impossible to create a straight line with them. But placed together they will always create an interesting shape," she said. Ragnarsdóttir's "5" candle holder uses neither wool, wood nor stone but rather the lesser known but equally Icelandic material of aluminum, manufactured in large quantities by the island nation. By applying autumnal colors (the designer's favorite time of year) the cold metal seems if not natural then at least as reaching out to the land from which it was born. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
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Textiles by Sveinbjörg
Textiles by Sveinbjörg-Being forced to rethink your whole profession and output is no simple task. In the case of life-long artist Sveinbjörg Hallgrímsdóttir, the change was born out of the nation's financial strife. "The collapse of the Icelandic economy forced us to think about how to be more commercial, more marketable, around the globe," claimed the designer. For Hallgrímsdóttir, the answer was to transfer her painted motifs and wood block prints to textiles and other home accessories. The international outlook forced on many local designers also reached Hallgrímsdóttir’s manufacturing. All her textiles are produced and distributed from Sweden, but her own store is still located in the northern Icelandic town of Akureyri with a population of just under 18,000. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
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Sunrise Tray by Anna Þórunn
Sunrise Tray by Anna Þórunn-A piece that stuck in my mind and felt distinctly Icelandic with its sense of imagination, storytelling, and good common sense and utility was the Sunrise tray by Anna Þórunn. A product designer by trade, Þórunn relies on her ability to tell traditional stories in a witty, thoughtful, and contemporary way. From the Rúdolf magazine rack on wheels (charming!) to the seriousness of the Norðurmyrin cuttingboard (the blood from cut meat filling grooves mimicking street patterns telling the story of conflicts among early settlers) to the raven inspired (of course) Feed Me bowls, Þórunn captivates and leaves you wanting more. "I see shapes and forms in everything, so with this tray I saw a house, a mountain and a sunrise so I went with it," Þórunn told me. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
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Cutting boards by Reykjavik Trading Co.
Cutting boards by Reykjavik Trading Co.-Designer Anthony Bacigalupo grew up in a very different environment from the one he now calls home. With the culture, climate, and aesthetics of central California as early reference he and his Icelandic girlfriend Ýr Káradóttir now combine a nowhere-but-there Pacific Coast aesthetic with vintage Icelandic design. "Our focus is on sustainability,” explained Bacigalupo. “Our serving boards are painted with natural and food-safe milk paint." The color-blocked oak boards made it on to my mental wish list. Would I use them for their intended purpose? Maybe not, but just like many of the products from companies Bacigalupo has worked with before (Apple, Bang and Olufsen), there is a certain must-have quality to them. The oak is grown in Kentucky which makes me question their eco credentials somewhat, but I like the way they look and the feelings they trigger. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
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Beardcap by Vik Prjónsdóttir
Epal carries Icelandic designs like this Beardcap by Vik Prjónsdóttir. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet

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