Crafts and design in Iceland

By | December 12, 2020


The oldest evidence of Icelandic crafts is found in the burial mounds. There are jewelery and weapons, and the ancient writings refer to talented persons who worked with arts and crafts under the protection of the church.

The Icelandic handicraft has been characterized by a strict conservatism and respect for the traditions until almost modern times. We see it especially in the woodcut. The Romanian ranch has lived at its best from the Middle Ages up to approx. 1850. The textile art, where the Icelandic woolen yarn in natural colors has dominated, has a virtually unbroken tradition from the Middle Ages to the present century. Industrialization did not come to Iceland until the trawler era in the early 1900s, about half a century after it came to the other Nordic countries.

At the time when, among other things, William Morris was trying to save the arts in England from the dominions of the machines, the artist Sigurður Guðmundsson came home to Iceland after years of studying in Denmark. His main task was to save the artistic skills in the country. He redesigned the old Icelandic women’s costume to adapt it to a modern lifestyle, and he brought both craft traditions and silversmith traditions up to a higher artistic and craftsmanship level.

Oli Johann Ásmundsson

Oli Johann Ásmundsson’s children’s chair Litli-Loki in laminated plywood was manufactured by Fagus Co. from 2001.

A new era

A new era began when Guðmundur Einarsson returned home after many years of study in Germany in 1927 and started a modern pottery workshop with his wife Lydia. The first modern weaver was Juliana Sveinsðottir, who in the late 1950s began to weave after first establishing herself as a painter. The Icelandic Craft School was founded in 1939, and with it came the first institute of arts and crafts in Iceland.

From the 1960s onwards, a viable group of professional craftsmen in Iceland has grown up. The geographical location between Europe and the United States has resulted in an exciting meeting between two different cultural traditions. Textile art has arguably developed into the most interesting branch of the Icelandic handicraft. In recent years, a whole new group of artisans in Iceland has also emerged, the glass artists.

Sigurdur Gústavsson

Sigurdur Gústavsson’s lamp Take Away for Swedish Källemo joins the company’s products that are in the border between design and art.