The most characteristic trait of the work of Studio Brynjar & Veronika is their strong relationship with stories and legends from the Icelandic culture. Brynjar Sigurðarson comes form Iceland and Veronica Seldmair from Germany. They both transmit their ideas through various media – photography, video, sound, pictures, spaces and furniture. They do not put limits on their work and take inspiration from their surroundings to create objects with adventures function and rich character.
Their distinctive approach to design brought them the prestigious Swarovski Designers of the Future Award at Design Miami Basel 2016.
We’ve already met Brynjar Sigurðarson back in 2014 when he was part of a project we were leading for One Design Week – Enlighten me. It was a pleasant occasion to recap what has happened lately with the work of his studio and where it is heading in the near future.
We met back in 2014 during One Design Week in Plovdiv. What has happened in the past two years? Why did you decide to join forces with Veronika and to diversify the activities of the studio?
I’ve been good thank you, I remember very well my stay in Bulgaria, it was great, I’d love to go to Bulgaria again. Since 2014 many things have happened, I was living in Lausanne where I had my studio, then moved to Berlin and moved in with Veronika where we started working together as well. A lot of bliss, a lot of challenges, a taughtful journey. Basically the reason why me and Veronika started working together was that we fell in love. Then we started working together, it felt natural. Also at that time I was starting having difficulties coping up with the workload. Now we are finding a balance there, to take less projects, and give them more focus, more value.
What makes you a good team?
Two different backgrounds, two different voices. It brings depth. On the other hand we also need to give space to each others’ qualities without too much questioning. It’s to keep that balance that makes us a good team.
The supernatural is very natural – this is the opening sentence on you web page. Could you, please, elaborate on this.
Yes, somehow this sentence has followed me throughout the years. I saw it or heard it somewhere when I was staying in the fishing village in the Northeast part of Iceland, it made much sense to me then. And still does.
Congratulations on the Swarovski Designers of the Future Award. This is a big recognition for your work. What exactly does this mean for you as a young design studio?
Yes it is a big recognition for our practice. Gives us a feeling that we should keep on doing what we are doing. Specially since it’s still a constant hassle, to work as an independent designer.
As part of the award you started working on a project dedicated to crystals. How was your visit to the Swarowski headquarters?
Yes, we went to Wattens (Swarovski Crystal Worlds) in Tirol, Austria, where the headquarters are. It was quite impressing, to see the scale of the company but also to see the place, the environment, a tiny town at the bottom of the valley somewhere in between the Alps. You get this fairytale feeling when you are there, and what they do somehow starts making more sense to you then before.
What impressed you most in crystals and on what project are you working for Design Miami / Basel 2016?
We were very fascinated by the history and that the motivation to make crystal in the first place, roughly 100 years ago, it was to create a diamond for everybody. So they started digging sand and minerals from the mountain and try to create a diamond that everybody could afford. It sounds as a form of alchemy. Then slowly throughout the years the material has become a “luxury” of it’s own, it’s crystal clear, full of facets and sparkles. For such a natural material it has gone quite far away from it’s origins, the mountain, so we thought we should try to trigger the nature within the material. To highlight the natural aspect of the crystal.
How does the work process look at your studio? Do you have the freedom to decide on what projects to work? Do you manage to keep the balance between commercial and non-commercial work?
We have been travelling a lot. And that has shaped our ways of working, so the time when we are in the studio, is somewhat precious. We try to use that time to work on new things, ideas, draw, along with some management work. We have lately been trying to take a week for each project, so not to be doing multitasking all the time, you start running after your projects like a headless chicken. We don’t want to be that chicken, so we are trying to take in less and give more value and focus. Hopefully that will pay back at the end.
I don’t think we are doing anything commercial at the moment and haven’t been, but our direction is not there either, our dream is to be able to manage some production of things by ourselves and then to be doing more artistic projects along with performance related things.
And of course we are very lucky to be able to live on our predominantly artistic projects at the moment.
Well, yes, we are working for Swarovski, but we don’t see it as a commercial project, we are quite free and very happy to get to know a new material.
Most of your projects are still dedicated or inspired by Iceland’s nature. Why does nature and its artefacts play such a big role in your work as designers?
It’s very unconscious, we are moved by nature, and our surroundings. And the longer we stay in the city the more we get affected by details and scenarios in the urban landscape. We try to be more intuitive in our projects rather then strategic, and then we seem to find nature as a very interesting source.
In addition we are also fascinated by professions such as geology, which simply speaks about how things are made, just not in a factory but in nature.
Tell us more about your stay in the remote fishing village in Iceland. A lot of your project are inspired by this experience like for example The Silent Village Collection for one of the most important design galleries – Galerie Kreo.
A big part of our work deals with the Icelandic fishing and harbour environment, started with a one month stay in a remote fishing village in the NE of Iceland, called Vopnafjörður. Since the trip, we have continuously worked on “exercises” and examinations on how to translate shapes, materials and details from the harbour and the coastal environment. The objects vary from furniture with abstract functions, sticks arranged with ropes and collected objects, porcelain pebble stones, ocean like glass vases and furniture referring to the fishing harbours in Iceland. In this case, the initial goal is to create a visual universe, speaking the language of the Icelandic fishing village.
What is the project you have enjoyed most until now?
Hmm, hard to say, we love them all. And all of them are different, you always learn something new. There are projects such as the Vopnafjörður project, where I stayed at the fishing village, and the film project that somehow left you with a lot of things to think about, to take from, but the making of those projects was maybe the hardest.
You are working multidisciplinary – you made a documentary and among the list of your current projects one can find a musical performance for Foundation Enterprise Galeries Lafayette in Paris. How does all this fit together?
To be honest, I don’t know how it fits together 🙂 but it somehow does. We don’t relate to this over specifying mentality. We feel as our story may be told in different mediums, The mediums we use may vary but the subjects of our work stays the same. It’s like telling a story in different languages, the whole is the same while the details change. Things become obscure and may be interpreted in various ways.
But more simply, we are attracted by different mediums, they are all somehow a part of our process, and have always been. E.g I take a lot of pictures, it’s my way of observing, it helps me to look at my surroundings, of being inspired. Then slowly the images became a work on it’s own, sometimes a couple together, sometimes in a sequence. And then those works start affecting our objects as well.
We are working on that performance for October with the Fondation Galeries Lafayette, then we are working with Swarovski on an installation for Design Miami/Basel as a part of the Designer of the Future award. Then we have been working on all sort of things and experiments at our studio, that hopefully will end up somewhere one day .
The interview with Studio Brynjar & Veronika has been conducted for our owl column in LIGHT.