Designer Sruli Recht and writer/illustrator Megan Herbert recently opened a cool new store, Vopnabúrið (‘The Armoury’) down by the Reykjavík harbour. There, they spend their days working on their respective creations amidst selling Sruli’s “arsenal of non-products and the illustrated topo-graphic narratives of Megan Herbert,” as their website states. Which, after paying the Armoury a visit, we discovered amounts to an ambitious line of clothing, shoes, and fashion accessories, as well as hand-printed gift-wrapping paper, artworks and decorative objects.
The store itself is a beautiful, unique affair that highlights the couple’s apparent love for mangling, re-contextualizing and generally transforming story-laden objects to their own, utilitarian end. The effect is that of a sci-fi flick set in a post-apocalyptic future, furnished with materials hoarded from the nuclear rubble. It’s all very cool looking.
“It is semantic play – an armoury is a place wherein one stocks up on supplies. And it’s a reference to the dark subtext that seems to be in the work offered here,” the couple tells me over coffee and muffins when asked about the store’s name. My eyes keep wandering off to the sides; there is a lot of nifty looking stuff around. I ask them what brought them to Iceland [Sruli is Israel-born and Megan is a native of Australia] and how being here fits into the context of what they want to do.
Says Sruli: “Right now, in terms of business, surprisingly the answer is probably that it makes sense. Despite the current economic situation, this is a relatively central country with a high standard of living. And cultural morality is uniquely polarised – heritage and family values are high on the chain, yet against a contemporary global backdrop, there are some startling examples of flexible morality here, which allow producers to push boundaries.”
Megan was living in London and on the verge of moving back to Australia to resume her career as a television scriptwriter when Sruli invited her to make a life with him in the wild north. “Maybe it’s the risk-taker in me, or the romantic, but I found that the utterly irrational impulse to set up camp in a place far from all of my comfort zones refused to abate,” she says.
What is it you want to do? And are you interested in fitting into whatever it is that’s going on in Iceland now?
Meg: “I want to use my abilities as a writer and an illustrator to tell people stories. The purpose of my stories, both visual and literary, is to shift perspective, build empathy, and provoke thought. While many of my current projects have an Icelandic audience in mind, I am really trying to reach anyone anywhere with an ability to understand narrative. It is a universal language after all. That said, I do think that post-kreppa Iceland provides the ideal creative conditions for me. Like a hyperactive toddler who’s broken all his expensive toys in a fit of orgiastic play, Iceland is now looking around and working out what can be done with the cardboard box it all came in. Imagination is the new currency here. And that holds a huge appeal for me.
Sruli: “I make things… products. I don’t think you would find a creative who says that what they do is not linked to their environment. In saying that, I don’t make things to conform… or to arouse debate. I make things I need and that other people need. In terms of Iceland, it fits into what is happening here because for the first time the Icelandic consumer is landlocked – too financially restricted to travel casually abroad and unable to afford to buy things once there.
So now the focus is turned inward and the situation for Icelandic business, from design to fresh produce, has improved. The consumer market is only able to shop here now, giving the Icelandic design community, from students through to established producers and designers, a strong sense of optimism.”
So despite the sombre economic landscape and the implied menace of the name, the future at Vopnabúrið looks golden indeed.
- Where: Hólmaslóð 4, 101 Reykjavík.
- Phone: +354-534-4238