When Guðbjörg Kristín Ingvarsdóttir opened Aurum in a small backhouse off the main street Laugavegur in 1999, her nature-inspired designs were like a breath of fresh air to the local jewellery racks.
Today, Aurum is one of the most celebrated entities of Icelandic design, but Guðbjörg is not one to sit on her laurels—with her tableware collection and cool new concept store, she will soon accessorise both us and our homes, too.
Sari Peltonen: How did you end up as a jewellery designer?
Guðbjörg Kristín Ingvarsdóttir: I went to high school in Bainbridge Island in the US when I was 18. It is a little island, you take a boat from Seattle. I stayed for a year and took all the art classes – I didn’t have them at home in Ísafjördur. I took a course in jewellery, too, and fell for it. When I returned home, I started to look for a practical place.
After studying and working in Denmark, you returned home and opened your own workshop and label in 1999. What is the Aurum ideology?
I felt I could show Icelanders something new. The jewellery I was doing was nothing like what was available here back then, I work very three-dimensionally with clear, feminine forms.
And I want to make jewellery that women can come and buy themselves. I wanted them to afford to just come and pick a pair of nice earrings to go with the dress, to not have to wait until Christmas.
How has your work developed through the years?
My graduation pieces were dark and heavy, black and made of iron. When I got pregnant with my first daughter, my work got lighter and more feminine.
I am always developing and pushing myself to make new things.
You introduce new collections twice a year, one during the annual design festival DesignMarch and one before Christmas. What is new?
‘Bríet,’ ‘Dröfn’ and ‘Dís.’ ‘Bríet’ is made of copper and has a vintage feel to it, and ‘Dís’ is inspired by dragonflies. The idea for ‘Dröfn’ comes from corals I found on the beach in the west of Iceland. We have a summerhouse there. It doesn’t have electricity, there are no cars driving by, it is just out in the middle of nowhere.
There, I have everything I need—the sea, the mountain and the glacier. I get a lot of my ideas there.
Icelandic design is often said to be inspired by nature. Does this ever bore you?
We have this fantastic nature around us, with so many things to be inspired by. It is difficult not to be inspired by it. There are endless things to pick out and work with.
No—we should not be bored with it.
What constitutes good jewellery design for you?
I always think about the human body and its lines. When you make a painting, it goes on the wall. When you design jewellery, it goes on the body. Jewellery should be nice to carry.
You have recently extended your work beyond jewellery, haven’t you?
Yes, I launched a collection of ceramics tableware based on the ‘Dögg’ and ‘Hekla’ patterns previously used in my jewellery in collaboration with the Finnish Elinno. There are more things like that on the way.
And the store, too, has changed?
Yes, we got this space next door to our workshop a year and a half ago. It is a lifestyle store with lots of different things handpicked from all over the world, things that you won’t find elsewhere in Iceland, labels like Donna Wilson, Design House Stockholm and a lot of children’s art equipment. We also stock some local design, such as the NotKnot pillows by Umemi. Just a lot of things that I like myself!
SOME COOL GIFT IDEAS FROM AURUM
Known for her feminine form language, Guðbjörg Kristín Ingvarsdóttir has designed a new unisex collection ‘Dröfn,’ inspired by corals she found on the west coast of Iceland.
BIRD BONE PENDANT
In addition to Ingvarsdóttir’s own designs, Aurum also stocks Sami jewellery from Swedish Lapland and another local label, Kría (Icelandic for Arctic tern), with pieces inspired by and resembling the bird’s bones and claws.
The latest addition to Aurum’s lifestyle brands is French L’Artisan Parfumeur. From forest to flowers, absinthe to amber, the range covers perfumes, candles, room scents and amber balls.
MERRY MONKEY BUSINESS
The responsible choice for a Christmas gift, MonkeyBiz is a non-profit project that empowers women in bead art in South Africa. Each of the quirky, colourful pieces is unique and comes signed by the artist who made it.
Aurum is located on Bankastræti 4, 101 Reykjavík