Chasing Clay: Iceland June 23 2015
Above left, Reykjavik from above; right, Kogga ceramics studio in downtown Reykjavik
If you've been following me on instagram, you may know that I was lucky enough to travel to Iceland and Denmark a few weeks ago. This was my first time overseas and it was even more amazing than I imagined. Can I just say briefly that travel is an insane luxury, for both financial and environmental reasons, so I really wanted to make sure I got the most from this trip! No pressure or anything, Scandinavia :) My husband was there with me (we started calling this our long overdue honeymoon) and he was such a good sport, because I managed to find something ceramics related for us to do for ten days out of our thirteen day trip.
I have always admired Scandinavian ceramics/design. There seems to be a purity of form and reverence for materials in everything they do. On top of that, their ceramics have had a longer history, more time for development and a longer period of national support than the ceramics industry in North America, so I went into this journey with the romantic notion that nordic folks have the clay hustle all figured out. Or perhaps more figured out than we do over here. Reykjavik was my first stop, where I found several beautiful ceramic studios and retail spaces. Kogga (above right) is the home of ceramist Kolbrún Björgólfsdóttir. She has been working and selling from this beautiful location since 1985.
Another gem that was super close to our AirBnB was Stigur, which hosts the work of several artisans. Bjarni Sigurdsson's work really caught my eye. You can see in the photos above, Bjarni uses a diverse range of glazes, layering them on top of each other and fires his pieces several times until he has achieved the desired surface texture. His work, and that of Björgólfsdóttir at Kogga, is inspired by the natural elements and rugged terrain of Iceland.
Speaking of terrain...we rented a car for a day so we could drive down to the southern part of the island to see several (hundreds?) amazing waterfalls and the tiny, breathtaking coastal village of Vik. Famous for its black sand beaches and incredible rock formations, Vik was the perfect place to take a picnic (skyr, rye bread with lox...we ate that for days and never got tired of it) and be humbled by nature. I have a few friends who have also been to Vik and everyone comes back saying a similar thing. Basically, that we still aren't sure how to put this magical place into words but it surely leaves its mark on you.
It's clear how this landscape would be a huge influence on artists that live in Iceland. Sometimes the earth is used directly. Though I wasn't able to visit, a friend mentioned the ceramist Sigríður Erla Guðmundsdóttir of Leir7, who has been using native Icelandic clay since 2007. Thanks for the suggestion Margie! Looks like I already have my excuse to return to Iceland one day.
...to be continued.