DESIGNER AND PROFESSOR, Sigga, studied at London’s Central St Martins, before heading back to her native Iceland, where she began teaching and working with food and forest farmers. She tells us how she explores design opportunities to develop the country and utilize its natural resources.
When I started teaching, I wanted to look at the possibilities in Iceland. I felt there were missed opportunities – traditions that were maybe disappearing. Also, I was simply interested in working with local materials and companies. In Iceland there are not many raw materials you can work with – but food is definitely one of them. We have been working with local workshops and factories, and for some reason the food has taken off.
We were able to bring these products and projects all the way to market, and of course that’s one of the main reasons it has been very well received. This was only possible, because when we were working with the food farmers we had a big grant from Rannis [administrators of the public competitive funds in the field of research and innovation in Iceland]. This was the first design project they have supported. This is the biggest government research fund in Iceland and up until this point, they have mainly been investing in new tech and science, and now they are supporting more and more design-led projects.
I have decided to take a total break from teaching. I actually love teaching, it’s just because I needed a break from it. We are still teaching the farmers project course, but now we have changed it. For the past three years we have been working with forest farmers instead of food farmers.
There are 600 forest farmers [in Iceland]. It’s a very young profession, where most of the forests are maybe 20 years old. Farmers who started this kind of forest farming have not really been using anything from the forest, except the timber. On the course we have been focusing on coming up with ideas for everything but the wood.
Forest farmers in Iceland are selling Christmas trees. We went as a family to cut down this tree, and spent maybe two hours walking in the forest. We are working with the forest farmers on experiences like that. So, yes, they are selling the Christmas trees, but it’s also about a day out with your family finding the tree in the forest. But, it needs to look and feel good the way it’s done.
These projects bring together designers and farmers. It’s a very simple idea, everyone understands it, and people can always see and imagine the potential of it. I think our project and their supporting it has really been an influence for some good things – more support for design, more opportunities.
Interview: Siobhan Frost
Edited by: Angharad Jones