Renowned designer Valdis Steinarsdottír wants her art to raise eyebrows, and awareness

By ERIK SEDIN
August 24, 2020

The Iceland native creates designs that state her position on climate change, and her independent art (and its values) have not gone unnoticed — she recently won the 2020 Formex Nova design award, which saw her beat some of the Nordics best designers. 

—  I’m mainly focusing on material experiments by recycling organic matter. With my projects I hope to bring societal change and open up a platform for discussion and debate, she says. 

Tell us about your aesthetics and inspiration.

— I am more driven and inspired by process rather than aesthetics. Knowing the story behind an object can utterly change your conception of it. Designers are important social critics. In our work, we often take on the role of a narrator and try to present things in an easy-to-digest way. Personally, I find design to be most exciting and inspiring when designers have something to say with their projects.

When it comes to Steinardottír’s designs, it’s hard to misconceive their message. For example, two of her recent projects called Bioplastic Skin and Just Bones use leftover animal parts to create new materials. The former is a biodegradable packaging for meat made out of the skin of the animal itself, while the latter is a material made out of ground up animal bones that resembles MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) wood. And also the Horsehair Project, that utilize horsehide that is mostly considered a byproduct of slaughtered horses.

— The focus of my work has mainly been material experiments, where I strive to find solutions to replace toxic materials out of natural materials, like the series of projects where I researched the meat industry and the waste materials it produces. —It’s a difficult subject matter, which appealed to me in the first place. I think as designers we also need to be ready to tackle uncomfortable issues. I see the products I sell almost as by-products of my process as a designer and they are sold as a limited edition.

What else do you have coming, now and this fall?

— Covid has changed a lot of my plans for this fall. Tactility has been an important part of my material projects but now touching has become a kind of a taboo and I have to rethink how I showcase my work. Usually, viewers would be allowed to touch the material experiments to experience them. Now, when touching should be kept to a minimum, I have started exploring using Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) to stimulate the viewers’ senses to experience the materials and will continue working on that concept this fall. •

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