From Iceland — Artist Talk: Designer Ágústa Sveinsdóttir

Artist Talk: Designer Ágústa Sveinsdóttir

Published January 11, 2017

Artist Talk: Designer Ágústa Sveinsdóttir
Hrefna Björg Gylfadóttir
Photo by
Hrefna Björg

At DesignMarch 2016, Ágústa and Elísabet Karlsdóttir—who together make up the powerful design team ALVARA—presented a jewelry line called ‘Silfra’. In December they launched their second collaborative project, the clothing line USELESS. We asked Ágústa about her recent work and working as a designer in Iceland.

When did you start designing?
I took my first steps in design when I started studying Product Design at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. I graduated in 2014 but went on to studying goldsmithery at the Technical College. I wanted to gain a more hands on material knowledge. I used to work on a variety of projects while studying but these last few months have been the first in a long time where I’ve not had to juggle design work and studies.



What is your creative process?
My process usually revolves around some kind of a story, which varies between projects. I usually focus on the materials first. If the material has an interesting story, for example because of its origin, the outcome tends to be good, even better so if the material has some kind of a problem, which I find often to be an opportunity.

Researching and experimenting is also a huge part of the process. I believe that approaching something from a different viewpoint is the best way to create something new. When materials or objects are put into a new context it can often look strange to practical people at first since they are not used to seeing these things in a new setting, but unusual possibilities and strange outcomes are precisely what makes design interesting to me.


I believe in embracing the strange. Sometimes I want to do something fun and playful because then there are absolutely no rules but other times I want to be practical and make up rules for myself, which I use as guidelines for the design. It all depends on the nature of the project and where the story guides me.


What inspires you?
I get inspiration from all over the place. There are so many things that capture my attention. It can be some sort of material, an interesting place, a good story or a certain shape or texture.

Silfra Photo by Eygló Gísla

Photo by Eygló Gísla

What is your favorite artwork, by you and/or another artist?
Shit, that’s a difficult question. I like too many things to be able to choose a favorite. I guess my favorite project of my own right now is my most recent one, USELESS, a reindeer clothing and accessories line I did in a collaboration with my partner at ALVARA, Elísabet Karlsdóttir.

Photos by Anna Maggý

How is it being a designer in Iceland?
It’s a relatively young field in Iceland, a grassroots movement in a way, which is fun to be a part of.

What do you wish to achieve through your work?
A redefinition of modern values. I want to make people think. Where the design comes from and why it is made is my focus instead of solely producing commercial merchandise.

What are your future plans?
Producing the jewelry line Silfra, that I collaborated on with Elísabet at ALVARA last DesignMarch. We received a grant from the Iceland Design Centre and therefore have been developing the line a lot, which I am very excited for. I will also be producing the USELESS clothing line so 2017 is going to be one busy year.

Silfra Photo by Eygló Gísla

Photo by Eygló Gísla

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