Archives: January 2013


We dropped by studio Hnoss in Toppstöðin, where we met two sparkling designers, illustrators and best friends, Droplaug Benediktsdóttir and Sísí Ingólfsdóttir. Founded in 2011, they aim for creating beautiful illustrations and transforming them into all kinds of products. Their wrapping paper and gift cards have been very popular and soon they plan on heading in the direction of product design for children, made out of wood.


Where does the name Hnoss come from?

Sísí: When we started the process, we wanted to design something nostalgic together and we discovered this beautiful Icelandic name from mythology. The word means “precious” in Icelandic, we just felt it was fitting. And even though it’s Icelandic, it works well abroad even though it can be maybe a little hard to pronounce.

Droplaug: We also wanted to have the name short and easy to remember, we have noticed that the elderly people here really like it.

Sísí: Of course we Googled the name and we were a little bit bummed out that there URL had already been bought by a Japanese/Korean/Asian guy, and it costs a lot of money to buy it back. The URL was also occupied. But of course we registered the brand, and the categories that we wanted to design in.


You are best friends I hear, how did this idea come up to start a design company?

Droplaug: Sísi had just arrived back home from her honeymoon in Thailand and yeah, I had newly finished my studies when we started, what I can say it wasn’t planned it just happened. We run a small business in a sense, the process is that we design smaller things that we can easily even out our budgets by selling, and we always try to keep the expensive s in a way that we can afford the next thing that we want to produce.

We originally planned to design children’s toys made out of Icelandic wood but that turned out to be too expensive. We then scaled down, and started designing gift paper. Today we have already designed six types of gift papers and many types of gift cards which we have on offer in five to six various stores in Reykjavík, so we are back to our original plan of designing children’s toys.

How has the combined design process been between the two of you?

Sísi: Well, it’s often like that one of us comes up with a design that the other one comments on, and has affects for example on the colour or the size of the design. We always both approve things before we send them out.


How do you describe your style?

Droplaug: I am very fascinated by graffiti, street art and figures, but we both have similar kinds of styles so we connect very well when it comes to our sketches and designs. We have similar styles in a way, which I think is very interesting.

“We call our different designs; bábyljur, which means playfulness”

Sísi: We decided on our colour palette for our first Christmas gift papers production, 2 years back, that we couldn’t use strong colours because we were using this environmentally friendly paper. We want things to fit, and we always decide on these things together. We call our different designs; bábyljur, which means playfulness, which is perfect for our gift papers designs because we want to remind us that we are freely designing this and that, without having serious consequences if things are not working.

So, is the paper itself nature friendly?

Droplaug: We looked in to various printing companies, but we were immediately very fond of Guðjón Ó because he runs an ecological printers company here in Iceland. He introduced us to this recycled paper that we then decided to use for our designs. We liked the texture of this paper, and also for our concept in designing gift paper, that usually is disposable in a way. People wrap gifts in, and then they throw the paper away so we are happy to use this paper.

Sísi: But we are not necessarily going to print our designs here in Iceland, if we get a better deal abroad then of course we will. It is not good for a start-up like us to prize our products too high, just because we are paying for an inland service.


What inspires you as designers?

Droplaug: I really like figurative elements, especially when I lived in London; I was very fascinated by street art and graffiti there. I remember a particular exhibition held by Tate Modern Museum that was all over the city that was very inspirational to me. I also intended to write my BA thesis about a stop-motion graffiti artist from Argentina that was very interesting and devoted in what he was doing. (here) He created so many great things, for example he made spiders crawl in to people´s houses and stuff like that. So basically this artist combined my two interest zones of drawing and animation into one. My teacher on the other hand didn’t like this idea as much, so I did something else for my BA thesis.

“I am a part of the Simpson generation”

But yes, this culture is not very visible here in Reykjavík; my friend came up with this idea that could make the city different in a way, he wanted to paint all the hydrants red with white dots, so we would have mushrooms in our city landscape all over the place. That would be interesting! It would also be refreshing to see more new ideas like this and of course graffiti, real graffiti, not tags. The tags annoy me in a way, but I’m not going to talk about that!

Sísi: I am a part of the Simpson generation; I had a dream to be one of their drawers actually when I was younger. I was a student in an acting school, but soon I found out that that didn’t suit me well enough. I was drawn to draw and design, me and Droplaug have that in common. It is different though when you are designing or drawing, that you keep in mind that you are producing a product that is to be sold. Me and Droplaug have sometimes illustrated or drawn something’s that are not appropriate, in relations to societal limits. But in our designs for our clients we are very appropriate.

Droplaug: Yes, we were thinking about opening an exhibition someday, to showcase our inappropriate art. This exhibition would be called in- appropriate, to refer both to the duality of the word, oh.. is this appropriate or if it’s just inappropriate in general.


How are you received in the open market?

Sísi: We enjoy very much to participate in shows like Handverk og hönnun, Hrafnagil or Pop-Up markets, because then we can talk to our clients and they often express their opinions about our products. They often give us ideas about what they want us to design. For example they want us to design wallpapers, but that is a bigger production.

Droplaug: Yes, and also, its different to have a pattern permanently on or wall versus having a more complex art piece illustrated on the wall paper print. I think our prints, from our gift papers, would work more as wall stickers.

“I’ve heard it’s a very good meditation for people with ADHD”

I am drawn to your Origami that is all around us, do you sell those as well?

Droplaug: We sold a couple of those Origami’s before Christmas, but I love doing them. It’s so relaxing to make them, for example in front of the TV; it’s so repetitive and calm.

Sísí: I’ve heard it’s a very good meditation for people with ADHD.

Droplaug: We wanted to create lights or something out of this Origami´s. I learned how to make them on YouTube.


How do you like to be a start- up here in Iceland?

Droplaug: We are so lucky to have so many good people around us, to advice us to run this business. But we are also taking things slow, so that has helped us a lot.

Sísí: We also have regular customers, other than our mothers! Sometimes people also drop by to our studio here in Toppstöðin, for a coffee and a chat. We sometimes also host open workshops that we advertise.

So finally, how is life outside work, do you spend a lot of time together?

Droplaug: Yes, we are together all the time! No, just kidding, we have the same group of friends though and we often spend quality time together.

Sísí: My children idolize Droplaug and her boyfriend, and we really think that is great.


We wish the Hnoss team the best in the future, hoping to see their designs pop up in different kinds of mediums.


Hnoss likes:


Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photos: Nanna Dís


XL is a feature film by Marteinn Thorsson that premieres in theathers on Januar 18th in Iceland. The film portrays an alcoholic slob, Leifur, who is also a high profile politician and parliamentarian that is forced to rehab by his co-workers. Leifur decides to throw a final party before going away to rehab, which turns out to be a night to remember. We wanted to hear more about the film, so we paid the director a short visit, a few minutes before the premiere.


Where did you get the idea of telling a story about an alcoholic parliamentarian? Is it maybe a metaphor for the financial crash here in Iceland?

Ólafur Darri and Elma Lísa (Icelandic actors) came to me when we were shooting Rokland and said they wanted to make a film about alcoholism but I didn’t get around to writing anything until November 2011.Then my wonderful co-writer, Gudmundur Óskarsson, took my first draft and made a decent script out of it and we began shooting in February of last year, so it was a pretty quick process once we got around to it. Making the main character an MP was a very calculated thing to do because it does give us the opportunity to use him and his world as a metaphor for corruption and breakdown of ethics on a grand scale, there is something rotten in the State of Iceland. It is still a very personal story though.

You have worked with Ólafur Darri (Leifur), the main character before. Why did you choose him for this role?

We just have this great chemistry, I think. It’s very easy to work with him, he is such a professional and obsessed with details in the same way I am. He is also the type of actor who can transform himself very easily into almost anything and he brings a charisma and likeability that is absolutely necessary for a character like Leifur (who is a total asshole).


There are very strong visuals in the film that portray this state of losing control, where the line of reality of everyday life and the drunken state is blurred. Was it your intention to make the audience feel like they were Leifur, to make them feel what he is feeling?

Yes! I think it even came before I wrote the script. I wanted to take the audience inside Leifur’s head and make a film pretty much from his point of view. I wanted to say: “this is what an alcoholic feels like when he’s drinking”. It’s risky because the audience can refuse to get on this ride and then the film won’t work for them but if they do, it’s one hell of a ride and you taste the truth of what alcoholism is like. This is true for both the camera style and the editing since the film progresses in a very disjointed manner, exactly like time passes for someone under the influence.


Is the music in the film mainly Icelandic? I noticed the song “Góða tungl” by Samaris, how was that chosen for the film?

The music is in the film is all Icelandic. I work very much from a musical standpoint when I do a film. Also, the music came even before the script as I am always trying to discover new music. I had heard a track by Anna Thorvaldsdottir somewhere and I found her album, Rhizoma, on the web and bought it and I listened to it when we were working on the second draft of the script and her music was speaking to me in the way I wanted the film to speak so I contacted her and she agreed to do the score. I am so lucky, she’s such a great artist. Last year she was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize for her work “Dreaming” , which is a great honour (Björk got it a few years back).

“to have Samaris portray the softer/warmer/tender sides of Leifur’s character and Anna to do amore sinister/dangerous side”

Then there was Samaris. I heard a song on Viðsjá (RUV Radio 1 program) and I bought their album and I felt they were such a great contrast to Anna. I thought how great it would be to have elements of both, to have Samaris portray the softer/warmer/tender sides of Leifur’s character and Anna to do amore sinister/dangerous side and luckily Samaris was also willing to participate. I feel very fortunate they were willing to be on board. At such a young age, they have quite a brilliant and unique sound, they’re going places. Then there are other songs by the MA quartet, representing Leifur’s conservative past and connections with “old money” as well as other songs representing other themes and ideas.


The trailer has English subtitles; will the film be screened with subtitles?

Sambioin are distributing the film in Iceland on January 18th and I hope they will allow us to screen it in Bio Paradis with English subtitles no later than a week after the premiere but it will definitely end up there.



Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photos: Nanna Dís