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