Dispatches from Reykjavik: Spark Design Space

Guest contributor post by Julie Pasila

{Today we're welcoming  Canadian multidisciplinary artist & writer Julie Pasila to the blog who will be guest blogging for us this summer from Iceland and Finland!  Please join me in welcoming her here with her first post}!

Reykjavik is one of those cities that’s just artsy at heart.  Maybe it’s the landscape: volcanoes and fields of ancient, rock-hard lava ring the city on one side while boundless ocean creeps up on the other; the air is crisp and clean and carries scented waves of wildflowers and salt water; and then there’s the drama of summer’s midnight sun and winter’s endless nights.  Inspiration is built into the landscape and it’s easy to see why Reykjavik’s citizens have seemed to so effortlessly mimic this beauty in the handmade. 

My first few posts will be dedicated to some Icelandic artists and designers that I discovered at SPARK Design Space, Reykjavik’s only design gallery (to clarify, there are many shops and galleries in this city, but SPARK is the only design focused gallery with revolving shows and really exceptional curation). 

This is how SPARK Design Space works: the gallery provides a platform for design projects that are locally focused and that involve collaboration between designers and other professions.  Each exhibition lasts for two months; after that, SPARK stocks selected items from the show in their shop, a process that has allowed them to slowly build a collection of beautiful and truly unique works.  The owners refer to SPARK as a “slow shop,” and I think they’re onto something with this approach.

SPARK Design Space was founded in 2010 by Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir, professor of product design at the Iceland Academy of Arts, and the gallery maintains a strong connection to the school, consistently supporting student work.  This is likely why the gallery is so fresh and unique. 

One of the most intriguing projects I found at SPARK was referred to as “food collaboration” by my tour guide.  Students enrolled in Product Design at the Iceland Academy of the Arts were paired with local farmers.  The goal was to develop products that could create economic benefit for farmers by using design to facilitate the creation of unique regional products with more widespread cultural appeal (you can read more about the project at www.designersandfarmers.com).

Below you'll find a few of these food collaborations and the interior of SPARK.  The first set of images is a confection – shaped like a cow’s udder - made of high quality Valrhona chocolate and filled with homemade skyr (a traditional Icelandic dish, similar to yogurt) from a local creamery (images courtesy of the Designers and Farmers Project). The second set of images is beautifully packaged ice cream, with flavours inspired by Icelandic food and packaging inspired by a traditional china pattern from Copenhagan (images courtesy of Bubot's facebook page).  The rest of the images were taken by yours truly.

Keep your eyes peeled for more amazing work from SPARK Design's artists - and from Iceland - in the coming weeks!


Julie Pasila is a Canadian multidisciplinary artist & writer. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Media from Ryerson University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art & English Literature from the University of Guelph. She is currently available for freelance assignments and exhibitions in Canada and abroad.

Jan Halvarson


Jennifer Stevenson said...

I've just returned from Iceland and I totally agree with Julie's comments about the artist vibe that Reykjavik has. One just needs to walk around the town to see how the locals have embellished buildings and even trees to see examples of it.
Also, you must try the ice cream. I still crave the rice pudding flavour. A total must!!!

Mandy Behrens said...

What a lovely addition to the blog -- can't wait to read future posts. Cheers!

Sere said...

I already love Finland! Can't wait to know more about Iceland trends!

Alison Laxdal said...

I loved reading your experience of SPARK. What a great concept.

Elke said...

I spent a year in Iceland when I was a teenager & returned for the first time last summer with my husband & children. What an amazing experience to see the change & also to see the art & style that abounds & is on every corner. Looking forward to more posts-

Diane Streicher @ Diane Again said...

I was surprised and delighted to see that Reykjavik, like my hometown of Seattle, dresses its trees in socks!

Blogged about it here...thanks so much for a great story!