How many projects do you have going at any one time? With business and life partners Þórey Björk Halldórsdóttir and Baldur Björnsson, it’s hard to keep track.
Perhaps the most publicly recognisable project of the duo is Lady Brewery, the craft brewer that Þórey launched in 2017 with a friend. Then there’s Soda Lab, which sees Þórey and Baldur teamed up with the couple behind Ramen Momo to craft sparkling teas and artisanal sodas. Then there’s And Antimatter, the couple’s design studio producing impossibly cool housewares, from sculptural lamps to modular sculptures.
Once upon a time, there was the Popup Verzlun series of markets that Þórey started in 2009 with her fellow designers and friends to create a space to showcase and sell their wares. And now the couple are launching Saman, an art, design, food and beverage market being held at Harpa on December 9.
Bringing it all together
“Popup Verzlun was just designers and artists,” explains Þórey of the long-time project that inspired the idea for the new undertaking.
“We started to expand it a little bit after we started getting more interested in food and drinks,” Baldur continues before throwing it back to his wife, who explains that the now defunct annual popup market of designers and artists began incorporating popup kitchens with guest chefs before they put the brand to rest with the arrival of COVID.
“Now when I think about it, it was kind of a market of that era. It was two things, art and design, but because now we’re doing Soda Lab,” she continues. “And Lady Brewery, obviously,” Baldur interjects before Þórey finishes her thought, “and we’re starting to do And Antimatter again, so now we’re having all our interests combined and together.”
Baldur continues: “Now that it’s all together, we decided to call the market that, also. Saman.”
A Focus on variety
For one day, Saman will bring together 40 vendors to sell their wares directly to their clients. Þórey explains that curating the list of participating vendors has been an involved process, with the couple reviewing applications and product offerings to achieve some balance among the variety of products being offered.
“With Popup Verzlun, I realised that having 40 designers in one space is a lot of competition,” Þórey says with a chuckle. “So we have maybe 10,000 people coming through all day – depending on the year and the weather – to see 40 designers. They are all doing different stuff, but there might be four with ceramics, five with fashion or textile products and so on. So you have a lot of competition in one place.
“So that’s another thing that I was thinking when we started talking about Saman,” Þórey continues. “Like, why don’t we combine (our interests) and then you get 10,000 people or whatever coming to the market, but there are only 10 designers and there might be just one with ceramics, one with blankets, one with scarves or other textile products. So we’re also trying to balance it – a more curated market.”
While Saman will present a curated experience for shoppers, it also provides vendors with a unique opportunity to meet with their customers face-to-face. “We want to create something for people in small businesses, family businesses,” Þórey explains, “giving them a platform not only to sell – because we all want to sell, of course, and you should buy Icelandic product from local community – but to give them a platform for introducing themselves, figuring out the interaction with their client, figuring out what works, what doesn’t work, how do they need to improve?”
Baldur continues: “For small producers, opportunities like that aren’t many, really. We felt that in our businesses. Let’s say you’re producing something, going into a supermarket is a major thing. It’s at least six months of prep, just to get in there. Even your production capacity probably doesn’t even match what they would need. So anything that helps with recognition of your brand and to sell your product is good.”
It’s infectious listening to Þórey and Baldur discuss their plans for the inaugural Saman market and the many places they’re already thinking about taking it in the future, which will remain under lock and key for the time being. In striving to better the position of their brands, they’re eager to bring other Icelandic brands along for the ride so everyone benefits.
The creation of more opportunities for Iceland’s grassroots designers, artists, and food and beverage producers to present their creations, meet their customers and maybe catch the eye of buyers for local shops or hotel chains is potentially massive. This dynamic duo has put in the serious time and effort to establish themselves and their brands and they’re now putting in the work to bring other established and up and coming brands along for the ride with them.
“I just thought we needed something new in the landscape,” Þórey says. “I feel like there are so many (events) that had been happening for a really long time, and then COVID came in and kind of just undid everything. I think that every time Mother Earth shakes you should do something new. As creatives, that’s what we do – I love to create something new and exciting and fresh. That’s probably why I have so many businesses! So it’s, I think, yeah, like, I think it’s just like, now is the time for something new, a breath of fresh air.”
“We also thought how amazing it would be to go somewhere and you can get something from every category and you never know what you’ll find,” Baldur concludes. “So you can be buying drinks here and suddenly you’re seeing a book there and a pair of shoes over there. Technically you could even finish 80% of your Christmas shopping in one day – which would be a blessing for everybody.”
Check out the inaugural Saman market at Harpa on December 9 from 12:00 – 18:00. Follow Saman on Instagram at @saman.maturogmenning for more information on vendors and future happenings.
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