Ýrúrarí certainly has a fascination with the squishier, more interesting parts of the human body.
The textile designer first piqued the interest of many last year with her striking, tongue-adorned knitted face masks—her creative response to the suddenly omnipresent anti-pandemic measures. But even before that, Ýrúrarí—also known as Ýr Jóhannsdóttir—was notable for her signature lippy, mouthy, woolly sweaters. Not to mention her beautiful phallic scarf and vulval purses which, of course, must be mentioned.
“Body parts have become a big theme. I’m not sure why,“ she laughs. “But it just happened. It’s a difficult question to answer; I am still looking for the answer myself.“
This was not supposed to be a thing
Ýrúrarí’s unnerving face masks thrust her into the international spotlight. Each one produced in the series was snapped up by a museum, looking to record this weird period of human history via a slice of creative zeitgeist.
“I was not expecting this many people to react to the masks, because they were not supposed to be anything,“ Ýrúrarí says. “It was meant to be just a small series of sculptures on how face masks could be. But it was fun to wear them. And they were also implying that people should stay away from you!”
But long before her cunning lingual creations captured our imaginations, Ýrúrarí was knitting together two Icelandic icons—the woolly sweater and the humble hot dog. The name of that project, Peysa Með Öllu, (Sweater With Everything), toys with the Icelandic phrase “pylsu með öllu”, which is how you order a hot dog with all the sauces and trimmings.
For that project, Ýrúrarí took sweaters which had been donated to the Red Cross but were rejected as unsuitable for sale—many due to overenthusiastic pylsu consumption. “The name of the project comes from the fact that lots of the sweaters had stains on the front, after someone had eaten a hot dog and spilled the sauce,” she explains.
Ýrúrarí’s imagination was sparked as to how these “unusable” sweaters might be revived and turned into valuable items, leading her to create patches and decorations to cover the holes and stains. She focused on the hot dog theme—sausages and buns, mustard and ketchup—and of course, mouths to eat it all.
“I like to make something both funny and practical,” she explains. “Like a mouth-pocket that you can drag inside out, and it becomes a tongue!”
Everything for everybody—Ýrúrarí’s sweaters go public
The success of Peysa Með Öllu—boosted by some high-profile love for her pimped sweaters from musician Erykah Badu—gave rise to Ýrúrarí’s current project, a residency at Iceland’s Museum of Design and Applied Art.
The project, entitled Peysa Með Öllu Fyrir Alla, (Sweater With Everything For Everybody), takes her sweater-rescue work out into the community.
“I have so many sweaters, and I will never be able to fix all of them! They’re still piling up at the Red Cross,” says Ýrúrarí.
“So I will have workshops where people can mend a sweater then keep it, use it and make it last,” she continues. “The idea is that everyone can join in and be part of the design process. I have some good mending books here, so they can browse and find an interesting technique that works for their sweater. Then they can sit here with me and be part of my studio.”
And Ýrúrarí harbours ambitions to make her sweater rescue activities international.
“I’m hoping to take it further in the future,” she says. “Maybe I could even go abroad. There are probably ruined sweaters everywhere, I will just have to figure out where to get them in each place.”
So get your woolly on, spill some messy food down the front and think which squishy body part you’d most like to cover the stains. Ýrúrarí is on her way to help you pimp your saucy sweater.
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