Archives: August 2011


Studio collectives are cool, no argument there. Although there is one thing that bothers me about them and that is, in some cases, they end up being more of a scrapheap than workspace. When we arrive on the other hand, we are met with an organized and personable kitchen and a meeting room on the end of the hall. As we are shown around one can see that most of the spaces are occupied with the people who rent them, which eliminates another problem I find myself having with studio spaces and that is, they often end up empty even though they have technically been rented out. After the short walk around we take a seat in the studio with Ninna Thorarinsdóttir and sit down for a short talk.

Ninna, what do you do for a living?

I’m an illustrator and a graphic designer mainly. On a day-to-day basis? Well, I graduated as a product designer but I specialized in graphics and fashion. Essentially the presentation part of the product? Correct.

What was it that brought about this specialization?

I think it was mainly down to the fact that the University workshops weren’t that great and I decided to focus on the things I could do, let’s say, not in the actual workshop but more on the computer. I love my computer! Don’t we all?

I saw on your website that you have been working for Icelandair Hotels, making individual logos for their hotels, how did that come about?

It was mainly by word of mouth, someone knew someone who knew me and then few of us sent in our proposals and they picked from that selection.

Looking at your work I sense a lot of joy and pleasure in the work itself, do you try to seek out projects that are more in line with what you like or is work just work?

I really try to get projects that I will enjoy. You have for instance been working for the band Bloodgroup, designing their album covers. Yes, these are definitely my favourite costumers, bands and artists.

Logo design for Icelandair Hotels

What is your artistic/creative method of work when you have customers like those?

Well I try to approach each project differently from the one before and from a new perspective, I try to mix up my methods, learn as much as possible and challenge myself more each time. For instance, each month I produce a drawing for Time Out Amsterdam and I try to do something new and challenging each time so that I learn something new from it. It doesn’t have to be anything more than a new filter or a new technique.

Time Out is a current events magazine, do you have carte blanche on the content or do you try to work from what is happening at the time in Amsterdam?

I try to keep up with what’s going on but I have free reign with my work.

How long did you stay in Holland?

I studied there for three years and then I worked for another two, both for design companies and freelancing.

Costume design and more for graduation project

You exhibited in Amsterdam as well?

Yes, once with my fake band. I graduated with the fake band, I had wanted a vehicle to facilitate my desire to work with fashion, graphics, video and everything really and so I created a mock-up band, found band members and made a video, created the clothing and the album cover, posters and everything that comes up around a band process. Then we were invited to play a venue which we did and performed, wearing these crazy dresses, a bit like a disco ball when the lights come on.

Some of the dresses are kinetic?

Some yes, I try to be as technical as I can in my work with clothing because I design for the stage. Another one here changes colour, not really but the effect is much the same. It took 566 hexagons which I cut, folded and glued together and then it was really hot and they started to unloose, so I had to put them back together again. In total I have redone it three times. I keep throwing it away, sometimes you grow tired of old projects but each time I throw it away I’m asked to show it somewhere, so now I have resolved not to throw it away. Suffer for fashion. Totally, models have been reluctant to wear the moving dress because it is spiky and battery powered and sometimes there are lights within it. Want to try? (This is said to our faithful photographer is halfway into one of them already in her attempts get the best possible picture). I have the remote here somewhere.

She stands up and goes over to the window to retrieve the famed instrument, turns it on and the dress starts to dance, mechanical and loud but very impressive, it assumes a life of its own and we wonder how it fits a person but we remember having seen the videos of the performances and that it works very well indeed.

It has been in storage for a while and therefore doesn’t move as easily. I’ll just have to tweak it a bit to get it back to full function.

“making furniture from fruit and a giant ten meter T-shirt”

Living and working in China?

Intense immense, six day work week and long days despite the fact I had it a bit more relaxed as I wasn’t Chinese. That meant that on occasions I didn’t have to work the weekends as well. It was amazing to be there and to get an insight into how they work and operate. I think I was in a weird place, the owner of the company, it was a graphic design firm by the way, was a real artist and I found myself doing weird things like making furniture from fruit and a giant ten meter T-shirt screen print and it was all a bit crazy. Culturally they have a different approach to design than the Anglo-American world we inhabit. True, but they are big fans of Europe and really just everyone but themselves and try to emulate the working practices of others, which is a bit sad. You feel they have little confidence in there ability and their culture, to them anything done buy anyone else is better than their own work, for me it was a strange experience.

How was life outside of the workplace?

At first I tried to take the bus and just go about my business, but in the end I gave up on that because I was being stared at all the time, in the end I just had to get a ride from my boss in his private car. I couldn’t take the staring, I never got the feeling people bore me a grudge though. You miss the food from home and I realized how western I really am.

Graduation project Meat the Humans of the Future

You moved home not long ago, how has that been?

It’s not been without its difficulties but I’ve been very fortunate to move into here and meet people doing much the same as me, I think that has helped a lot. It’s great to be home and I enjoy being around Icelanders, it all just takes a bit of time.

Any interesting projects cooking?

Ooh yes! I’m working on a project called Dance City with my friend Þórey Mjallhvít, we have been going around town recording people dancing which we will then compile into a single video, where in it we are researching how the people of Reykjavík dance. We have just finished putting it together and we got music from Amigo for this project. Now we’re at the stage where we have enlisted the help of two dancers from the group Raven Artsa choreographer, who will help us find and make the Reykjavík dance. That will be the next video where we get people in the streets to dance the Reykjavík dance for us, for that video we got music from Ingi Björn Ingason. Are you co-operating with Reykjavík City Council on this project? Yes we got a grant for the project from them and will also be doing a workshop on Menningarnótt (Reykjavík cultural Night) where we will teach people the dance. Raven Arts dance group will teach the dance and we will also show the video. It will be shown at the Muses exhibition at Bakkaskemma, Granda.

Are you going to enlist the talents of the Mayor for the video?

Now that would be fantastic, but we have had an amazing amount of people dancing for us and I’ve been amazed at how many people are willing to dance in the middle of the street. Do you play them some music while they dance? Yes we have a small ghetto blaster with us and put on the Grílurnar and so far we have had loads of volunteers. All kinds? You just walk up to them and ask? Yes from small kids to the elderly who dance waltzes. This is staggering, I thought the majority of Icelanders were rather shy. I thought so to but it’s been really great! You two must be really charming. My friend is really good at talking to people and being jolly. Sometimes we sing and dance along ourselves and that puts people at ease. It’s been a really fun project. I hope the Reykjavík Dance will catch on like the Macarena, everyone knows the Macarena! A new national dance.


With Menningarnótt just around the corner, one should be able to
catch a glimpse of the fresh new dance that is bound to put a smile
on everyone’s faces. The Reykjavík dance will be performed by
Raven Arts at Bakkaskemma, Grandagarður 16 (Saturday 20th, 17:30)


Interview: Guðni Rúnar
Photographs: Nanna Dís


They say that the cream rises to the top and every once in a while its true. In our regular perusing of the intraweb we came upon Outliers, a project that looks and feels quality.

Behind the project are a small group of filmmakers, photographers and musicians. Their intent, is to explore the more remote side of the Icelandic countryside and peoples. They intend to document there ventures in there own unique style, drawing on the skill of photographers Tim Navis and Kim Høltermand. Behind them stand the film collective Scenic and the electronic music producer and composer Deru who will create a unique score.

This makes for a mouthwatering prospect as they intent to create a series of short films drawing on their experiences.

To fund the project they are using Kickstarter, the largest funding platform in the world! The website likes to boast. Cheek out their video and their work, you wont be let down and hey you’ve have spent your coin on worse things! Why not be a part of this project and pledge a fiver! Their good for it.

Photos: Tim + Kim
Video: Scenic

Dirty South Gallery

Last March we had the pleasure of meeting Jacob from Dirty South Gallery from Stockholm, Sweden.

DSG is a great conduit for Nordic talent, be it fashion, art or craft. We certainly like how they showcase interesting people and we hope you’ll take the time and check it out, there are some real gems there.

Photos: Alfredo Salazar

Outside Reykjavík Letterpress

Lovely film photos of Hildur and Ólöf, the owners of Reykjavík Letterpress, outside their working space at Lindargata.

photos: Nanna Dís

Reykjavík Letterpress

It was a rare and lovely sunny day in Reykjavík when we went for a visit to Reykjavík Letterpress. Situated not far from Laugarvegur, the city’s most famed shopping street, and in a small industrial building we found the entrepreneurs, Ólöf and Hildur waiting and greeting us with a big smile. Though the building is quite industrial and cold, inhumane it is not, quite the contrary – it has all the qualities of a working area but is also as homey as one could wish for. Right of the bat we got to talking…

We purchased the hardware from an 84 year old Páll Bjarnason, a printer by profession and he had been operating it out of his garage. He even taught us how to use it before handing it over.

Before this came about you both worked in graphic design?

We worked together in an advertising company for five years.

That industry suffered like most other after 2008?

Yes and no, we were both working at half capacity after the bust but that gave us plenty of time to plan and work towards this project of ours, Letterpress.

So not your a-typical crisis success story?

Maybe not, but it gets you thinking on what you can do yourself and how not to be dependent on others. This might not have happened if the collapse hadn’t occurred and we had been doing a full time job or even more than that, as the custom is here in Iceland.

How long was the birthing period?

Year roughly, no let us see, exactly nine months after we started airing the idea we moved in here at Lindargata 50.

Did the idea start off slowly and then gain momentum, and were you certain that this was the model for you?

From the start we had a really strong idea of what we wanted to do but we were by no means certain that it was achievable, we didn’t have knowledge of how the market would react, how we were to fund the idea, etc. It´s been hard to get a grant when your going into a competitive field, as it needs to be innovative.

Might even depend on the mood of the person looking at the application?

We don’t see us competing with pre-existing companies. When we speak to printers they don’t see us as a threat, more that we provide greater range of service and this is something that they can gain from. We have heard that for the last few years the industry emphasis has been more on speed and cost reduction and nearly no tinkering or “nostur” is done.

It seems to me that there is a movement; a sort of post digitalization that is centered on going back to handcrafting. What is this giving you as opposed to simply working it in the computer?

For us it means variety. We design and print, then in other cases we design for other printers, then again we print for other designers. The projects that land on our table are for the most part the intricate and special project that you get only a few times a year in an advertisement agency.

Is the work process in anyway different than for example, on the computer?

No, we apply the same process. There are just small differences in what the machine allows, for instance we can’t print photographs, so that might cause us to think differently but we use the same computer programs and the same methods of research. Now there is a lot of time that goes to hands on labour. It´s great to be able to stand up from the computer once in a while.

Typography can be a obsession, would you recognize that?

We can attest to that as we spend a lot of time working with fonts on these special projects, there is seldom a large body of text – it’s more headlines or stand-alone words and it’s so much fun playing around with them.

How does the process work from sketch to the final result?

Sometimes we will use the movable type, there we use what we got with the machine as it’s not being produced anymore. It’s our dream to get some of the big woodblock letters. For the most part we use a plastic photo polymer, then we use the computer and send the result in the form of a PDF to a company that creates for us these printing plates that work like the moveable type and in that the printed part is embossed. Having only the lettering is really restricting. The paper you use must therefore be of supreme quality? The paper that we use is 100% cotton.

The condition of the printing press is astonishing.

That´s all down to Páll who is a delight and our guardian angel.

“Facebook is so large in Iceland that everyone is just on it”

I’d like to ask about the Internet, you certainly have a great following there and it seems that you have been active there from the get go?

Even before we started we were on Facebook, with friends and family looking at what we were doing but then people in the field started following us and we have just been showing how we have gone about it, from the first print, blending colors and everything really. Pictures from when we moved in, that was really a big undertaking.

So this self documentation has been, in a way,
your advertisement?

It has been amazing. Facebook is so large here in Iceland that everyone is just on it and we have put that to a good use, it really is the only thing we have done to promote our self. As well, there are Austrian documentary filmmakers making a film about Iceland post collapse and its effect on people, they interviewed us about what we had been doing and they were also really surprised to learn that we only had been using Facebook.

Not just American Psycho anymore? (reference to business cards)

We do a lot of them in all shapes and sizes, like these bundles that you can rip one of each time you need to hand one out, then there was one woman that came in with used milk cartons and suchlike, that after printing was superb. These prints aren’t comparable to digital prints, there is just something about the texture and feel. Also there is really no end to how varied they can be.

How complex does the work get?

The major complexity is that we can only print one color and therefore people haven’t been using more than one or two colors in business cards or invitations, at least so far and it’s more expensive but not undo-able. Again the issue is that we don’t print photographs unless they are put into one color and printed with the polymer but it extends to serviettes and invitations, doing them for instance in the same format.

“There isn’t a lot of free time, we even forget lunch!”

Dream project or are they all dream projects?

They are all fabulous, the beauty of invitations for instance is that you are involved in an important moment in peoples life, weddings, confirmations or big birthdays. Getting people in here with strong ideas or couples that might not agree and then working it out with them so you get to be a passenger in their adventure. People are really making an effort and they are paying a bit more, they could print from the home printer or do it digital and they will be fine invitations, but they have set the tone and decided to go this way and they care about the process and we feel such gratitude when it goes well. They sense the difference.

That brings me onto the question of self employment,
are you in control of your own working hours?

Yes! maybe not into the night but there have been many occasions where we have worked well into the evening, come in on weekends and holidays and there isn’t a lot of free time. Sometimes we even forget lunch! We didn’t think that was possible. When you came in at 2 pm we where eating toast! Contrary to what you’d think that one might be relaxing coming in at a certain time but you are driven to show up.

We are the worst slave drivers out there, which was a surprise but we have needed to be as there has been so much work to do and you have to pull your weight. This job just gets more and more fun as we
go along.

Long term plans?

More, expand! Hire people and open a store, well that´s the dream. We’re working on making time to work on our own line of cards, and products like that, but there are so few hours in the day. There are many possibilities out there, that´s for sure.

Between the constant phone calls and people dropping in, we witness how vibrant and fun workplace the Letterpress really is. For too long now, we have been a distraction and we see the girls need to get back to work, so with much learning behind us we say our farewell.

With so many new companies and innovative ideas around these days, one wonders how well the start-ups will fare in this climate of uncertainty. But that’s not the case with Letterpress, though young they may be, they have already in a very short time made the grade and earned all the plaudits they have got.


Interview: Guðni Rúnar
Photographs: Nanna Dís