”I prefer to end my day in an outdoor swimming pool to reflect on the day”

Valdís Steinarsdóttir is a Reykjavik based designer, specializing in product design with a focus on material experiments. She received the Formex Nova award 2020 earlier this autumn and was nominated for Emerging Designer of the year at this year’s Dezeen Design Awards. When it comes to Steinardottír’s designs, it’s hard to misconceive their sustainable message. The Horsehair Project, for example, utilizes horsehide that is mostly considered a byproduct of slaughtered horses (pictured below).

My favourite thing that makes me proud of this city:
I am incredibly proud of a design-installation that I and fellow designer Arnar Ingi Viðarsson designed, which was placed in the heart of Reykjavík — Lækjartorg. We collaborated with Reykjavík´s city council, at first we suggested doing a much smaller peach but they liked the idea so much that they wanted us to do a bigger sculpture. And we did! It is called A Square to Reflect and is a mirroring design-installation that serves both the role of a public resting place and as an interactive sculpture. Our aim with the piece is to open up a conversation about the importance of positive self-image and how the citizen perceives oneself as a part of their city.

My favourite weekend routine:
I would love to start my day with a nice cup of coffee from Reykjavík Roasters, then go to different art and design exhibitions all day. I’m a collaborative person at heart and usually spend my day on meetings with designers and creatives I’m working with to moving forward on various projects. In Iceland, we have amazing swimming pools so I prefer to end my day in an outdoor swimming pool to reflect on the day.

Favourite cultural spot:
Ásmundarsalur — an art space that is dedicated to all forms of art and design.

Favourite place for dining out:
Yuzu! Good food with beautifully designed interiors.

Favourite place for a creative or business meeting:
Kjarvalsstaðir is another art gallery which has a nice cafe as well.

Favourite breakfast place:
Nothing beats a good homemade breakfast in bed.

Favourite city escape:
Everywhere you go in Iceland is beautiful. It’s hard to name one place but Snæfellsnes is packed with beauty.

Favourite local entrepreneur or creative I want to promote:
Sebastian Ziegler, a filmmaker and cinematographer based in Iceland. He is always working on super interesting documentaries.

Favourite hotel for a staycation:
I am frustrated with hotels. There are too many hotels, and in order to build them, many of the greatest creative places in Reykjavík have been torn down.

Favourite route for a run or walk:
Ægissíða has a lovely view of the sea.

Favourite place for fashion:
Thrift stores. Hidden gems everywhere.

Favourite space for great design:
Museum Of Design And Applied Art – They collect and preserve the part of Icelandic cultural history encompassing design, especially from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.

Favourite example of tech innovation in the city:
Genki instruments.

Favourite local media:
HA – Magazine on Icelandic design and architecture.

Favourite thing at home
One of my most cherished items is a wooden box my uncle made me for my birthday when I was a child. It is made from trees from my relatives’ gardens.


Renowned designer Valdis Steinarsdottír wants her art to raise eyebrows, and awareness

The Iceland native creates designs that state her position on climate change, and her independent art (and its values) have not gone unnoticed — she recently won the 2020 Formex Nova design award, which saw her beat some of the Nordics best designers. 

—  I’m mainly focusing on material experiments by recycling organic matter. With my projects I hope to bring societal change and open up a platform for discussion and debate, she says. 

Tell us about your aesthetics and inspiration.

— I am more driven and inspired by process rather than aesthetics. Knowing the story behind an object can utterly change your conception of it. Designers are important social critics. In our work, we often take on the role of a narrator and try to present things in an easy-to-digest way. Personally, I find design to be most exciting and inspiring when designers have something to say with their projects.

When it comes to Steinardottír’s designs, it’s hard to misconceive their message. For example, two of her recent projects called Bioplastic Skin and Just Bones use leftover animal parts to create new materials. The former is a biodegradable packaging for meat made out of the skin of the animal itself, while the latter is a material made out of ground up animal bones that resembles MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) wood. And also the Horsehair Project, that utilize horsehide that is mostly considered a byproduct of slaughtered horses.

— The focus of my work has mainly been material experiments, where I strive to find solutions to replace toxic materials out of natural materials, like the series of projects where I researched the meat industry and the waste materials it produces. —It’s a difficult subject matter, which appealed to me in the first place. I think as designers we also need to be ready to tackle uncomfortable issues. I see the products I sell almost as by-products of my process as a designer and they are sold as a limited edition.

What else do you have coming, now and this fall?

— Covid has changed a lot of my plans for this fall. Tactility has been an important part of my material projects but now touching has become a kind of a taboo and I have to rethink how I showcase my work. Usually, viewers would be allowed to touch the material experiments to experience them. Now, when touching should be kept to a minimum, I have started exploring using Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) to stimulate the viewers’ senses to experience the materials and will continue working on that concept this fall. •