As I’m sure you have noticed by now, a few of us here at Nordic Style Magazine attended DesignMarch and Reykjavík Fashion Festival and covered both of them extensively.
I attended a big portion of the DesignMarch events myself (I have a hard time counting all the openings I went to…) and saw many innovative things and met many inspiring people. The events were of course as different as they were many and the amount of effort put into them was very apparent. Some blood, sweat and tears went into the planning of this festival.
Of course everyone can’t experience it in the same way, which is the great thing about art and design. The perception of any one thing is as varied as the people who percieve it are many. That being said, I have covered these events unevenly, focusing especially on what had the greatest impact on me personally – for example STAND UP / STAND OUT and Kría’s Incarnation.
This brings me to the last event I went to, the unveiling of the latest collection of jewelry by Orri Finn designs, “Tools”.
As we (myself and photographer Ellen Inga) approached the event in Orri Finn’s workshop/showroom on Skólavörðustígur in central Reykjavík, we were immediately intrigued by the commotion out front. As we came closer we met a parade of sorts that included two uniformed marching-band members playing trumpets, a lumberjack and a barber.
This resulted in the relatively small space being packed full of people and even more gathering anxiously outside. We were instantly intrigued and could’t wait to get in.
Once inside we were met by a display of wood logs adorned with jewelry from the Tools collection, various types of chains featuring a variety of miniature items assosiated with both industrial and at-home use. They’re items everyone has some type of relationship with. There was an axe, a straight razor, the tip of a pen and a pair of scissors accompanied with a single red gem – symbolizing the blood of the working man.
These items seem in themselves mundane while at the same time almost gruesome (the straight razor made me instantly think of Sweeny Todd) and also a bit emotional since everyone, in any stage of life, has a connection to at least one of them.
Since the event was so well attended – to say the very least – and the hosts’ attention was in very high demand, I only managed to speak to them very briefly and quickly realized that I would leave the event without the information I needed for what I was now convinced had to be covered separately and more extensively.
I was thrilled when Helga and Orri, the people behind Orri Finn design, invited me back at a later date for some coffee and conversation.
It was very exciting to get a look “behind the scenes” as they completely opened up their workshop to me and I was able to get a better sense of them as well as their work.
I returned to the workshop/showroom on a Thursday morning and was greeted by Helga and Orri and a freshly made coffee in a Moomin cup.
In addition to all their wonderful jewelry, both ready-to-use and unfinished, they’ve made a few unique display items which they showed be, a pair of beetles – one very realistic in build despite being covered in gems and the other made up of many smaller beetles from the Scarab collection – and a braided skull which they made in association with the Braid collection. The skull is made of fine wires which Orri and Helga spent about two months braiding and then hand-stitching together – this pair is nothing if not dedicated to their craft.
I asked them a few questions to get to know them a little better…
What is the essence of Orri Finn designs?
We want our jewelry to be part of a lifestyle, to be worn every day, to be more than adornments; they should express your feelings and contribute to life’s beauty. We feel there’s been a lack of mundane jewelry so to speak, a piece of jewelry doesn’t have to be flashy or fancy. We want to offer high quality but affordable jewels.
What was the inspiration for your new collection?
We had been inspired by tools for a while, first of all simply because of their look and feel. They can be so beautifully shaped and to touch their cold and smooth surface is often very intriguing. We were interested in how using a tool can make you feel empowered and how specific the purpose of some tools can be.
How does working on this collection compare to your previous work?
Up until now we have always known what we want to make next so every collection has been molding in our minds for a long while before we actually made them. The brainstorming and design work was very smooth and easy with the Tools, we knew exactly what we wanted and were able to execute our ideas.
Regarding the ideology behind it; all our previous collections have been based on symbols but not necessarily on purpose and it was the same with The Tools Collection. The Anchor was our first collection and like so many Icelanders we strongly relate to the anchor and how it symbolizes our heritage and commemorates drowned sailors. Our second collection was the Scarab and is inspired by the ancient Egyptian symbol of the amazing insect that the scarab beetle is. The Braid Collection which we released before last Christmas might not seem to have anything to do with symbolism but the fact is that when you look into braids you realize how symbolic they are. With the braids and tools alike we realized how much meaning these everyday things have and how putting them in a different perspective elevates them.
You chose to unveil your new collection as a DesignMarch event. How important is a festival like DesignMarch for a designer?
DesignMarch is such a brilliant opportunity for Icelandic designers to collaborate or show before unknown sides of their design or work. We have participated in DesignMarch the last three years and have most often taken the opportunity to make a sculpture or a bigger piece. We’ve made two large silver Scarab beetle sculptures, we’ve made a live size skull out of braided metals, and we’ve done photography collaborations with amazing photographers. We are also fond of live performances so both last year and this year there was a performance at our DesignMarch exhibitions. Last year a professional dancer danced a “beetle dance” and this year the performance consisted of a marching band and a barber. We love to surprise people!
What do the tools mean to you, on a personal level?
We are both drawn to tools and wanted to put them in a new perspective. Orri is a goldsmith so he uses a lot of very old school tools in his work. Helga has a strong connection to the haircutting scissor since her mother used to run one of the largest hair salons in Reykjavík. We spend our summers in the West Fjörds where we are renovating an old house and coincidentally found a pair of vintage haircutting scissors there; we decided it was a sign to go ahead with this tools idea. For us tools are a perfect symbol for workers and labor demonstrations so our collection is in a way an ode to the working class hero.
The pieces in the collection are very gender neutral – how important is it that your designs appeal to both women and men?
We are really focused on making unisex jewelry. It’s probably the only rule we’ve put in our work, so all of our collections are for both sexes. Modern societies are terribly gendered and we don’t want to add on to that, we want men to feel just as good wearing jewelry as women. If anything we try to be aware of men’s taste and the fact that they tend to like rougher things so every collection has a mix of finer and rougher items.
How does Scandinavian design rank on the global market, in your opinion?
Scandinavian design has been highly ranked for a long time and people seem to relate it to quality and timelessness. We’re not sure whether Iceland is always taken into the picture when design is mentioned and not necessarily thought of as part of Scandinavia either. Iceland has been known for good musicians for years and we’re sure DesignMarch is putting us on the map as good designers as well.
Does Icelandic design sell itself or do designers need to be more aggressive?
Nothing sells itself, you always have to brand your work and get your concept through to the customer. You might say that the best and worst thing with the Icelandic market is how small it is. It’s easy to catch people’s attention if you are a little “aggressive” and then a word of mouth process starts. That process is a luxury for the designer; your customers help get you new customers. It’s probably a very Icelandic marketing process but it doesn’t happen without your effort. Sadly it’s such a small market which makes living off your work a struggle. Selling to stores abroad and international marketing is another story and needs good tactics where social media and networking are probably the most effective tools.
How important is sustainability and environmentalism for a contemporary designer?
It’s important for everyone, homes and businesses. We miss having more options and we would love for the market to be more see-through. It can be hard to know the true origin of things since most of the metal and stone mines are owned by very few and very powerful companies. We feel lucky to be able to make everything ourselves here in Reykjavík but are of course dependent on others for material.
How do you work together as a team – do you each cover different aspects of the designing/production process or do you do everything together 50/50?
All design work, brainstorming etc. we do equally. We’re lucky to share the same taste and have been happy with each other’s ideas so far. The design work is such a hidden part of the work but is the most important. It can take a lot of time and patience to reach the right outcome. Each item in a collection needs to be not only beautiful but it also needs to function and be wearable.
The production side is very different, we each have our role. First the pieces need to be assembled; chains put together, items put onto chains etc. – this is usually Helga’s job. Orri, being a goldsmith, takes care of everything that his education is needed for.
Name one ideal person who you would like to see wear your design.
There are so many ideal people wearing it already! Bob Dylan or Neil Young would look good with a Scarab bolero and PJ Harvey and Patti Smith would rock the Tools collection.
And finally, what’s next for Orri Finn designs?
We recently moved our studio to Skólavörðustígur (one of the most popular shopping streets in down town Reykjavík) so we are now settling in there. We haven’t planned our next collection which is a new experience for us. We are going to enjoy having open and clear minds. We are going on a South America trip this summer which will without a doubt be very inspiring. So be sure to follow us on Facebook.
For more information about Orri Finn visit their Facebook page or take a look at their instagram account @orrifinn
Photos by Ellen Inga
Tags: orri finn
Hugrún is an art and design enthusiast from Iceland, with a deep appreciation for aesthetics that deviate from the conventional.
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