Each item is unique

Crafts and design (i. Handverk og hönnun) will hold its 14th fair at Reykjavík City Hall from November 5th to November 9th. Among the 58 participants is Kristín Jóna Þorsteinsdóttir, or Stína bongo as some might know her, who will be displaying work made from hardwood and ram horns

Artist Kristín Jóna Þorsteinsdóttir, or Stína, will be taking part in the Crafts and design fair at Reykjavík City Hall this week.

”I love everything about the Icelandic sheep; the meat, the wool, the horns,” says Stína, when asked what initially made her interested in working with material like ram horns. ”I remember when I was a kid, sitting on the steps outside our house polishing them and how I loved the smell of them and seeing them become smooth as silk. Unlike rein deer horns which are too smooth, and therefore too easy to work with, there is something so challenging in working with ram horns. They have all these grooves and are so crude and crazy in the beginning. It’s very rewarding to see them transform into something almost as smooth as silk just by your doing. I love to transform them like that. (Laughs) And to blend them together, like I do in my candle holders, is even more beautiful.“

Where do you get your ideas from?
”From people around me. For example my father, who passed away a year ago, was a very talented craftsman and a strong influence. I have continued to work on his ideas, like the meat-stands. I’ve also made jewelry, with ideas or adjustments from people around me. A ring from ram horns which was hard to make but I kept developing because people admired it. Same goes for a necklace in one piece, that I like wearing with open shirts. I find that so much fun, trying out new things from people asking me to try this or that. So my ideas start in my head, by demand or simply from all over.“

Does it take a long time to develop them?
”Yes, because I’m old-fashioned. I could use more modern tools to make them but I love spending time making them with my own hands. To see a ram horn, that in the beginning is so raw, transform slowly in my hands to something so smooth and beautiful, is so rewarding. And since I don’t use machinery they never become exactly alike. I could be faster when making Glámur [see photo], but I use an old hand plane, because I want to make each item unique.“

”My father was a gifted craftsman…He was my mentor. He helped me develop my ideas…“

Work by Stína. From left:  Glámur, a safe place for your glasses and a beautiful ornament as well. Rings made from ram horns. A candle holder made from ram horn and hardwood.  Fóa, Upplifun and Ram sell Kristín‘s work.

You make both jewelry and household items, isn’t that a broad spectrum?
”Yes, and actually it reflects my own character. I am a bit all over the place. (Laughs) For example I love dressing up when I’m going somewhere, I think about what I’m gonna wear, what accessories will go with what and what make-up I should put on. But I also love putting on my overalls and step inside my workshop, working with my tools, using my hands to create something and get covered in dust. That’s an image some people find easier to associate with me rather than the dressed-up version, perhaps because I’m a lesbian. (Laughs) But it also reflects my thoughts on jewelry and household items, they’re just as important to me.“

How long has your work been in progress?
”I started about four or five years ago. My father was sick with cancer and we knew he didn’t have much time left. He was a gifted craftsman and worked on his craft at a crafts-shop for the elderly at Norðurbrún 1, where I could be with him. We spent time there together, working on ideas, helping each other out. That was a very precious time for me. Not only because it started me on this journey which keeps developing and growing bigger, but also because I got to spend as much time as possible with my father before he died.

A meat stand, based on an idea by Stína’s father.

We shared this mutual interest and talent. He was my mentor. He helped me develop my ideas and while we were there at Norðurbrún we kept making things for each other and filled each others homes with various things. I still visit my friends at the crafts-shop occasionally; sit down for a cup of coffee and ask for their advice when I have new ideas.“

Our talk moves back to the Crafts and design fair, and I ask Stína what it feels like to take part. ”It’s fun,“ she says, ”but also difficult. I mean, there are so many guests who come from all over. I had already been to see it for myself so I knew it was popular, but when you are on the other side, wow, you get a different experience.“ But she’s quick to point out that taking part is very rewarding. ”For example, last May when I participated for the first time, carpenters came especially to me, interested in seeing a women with these sorts of items, and when they started to praise my work, I was so glad and honored.“

Would you say that the fair draws a mixed crowd? ”Oh yes, it’s sought by all sorts of people. And it’s very common to see whole families come together. They make it a whole day experience. Perhaps starting at the café for a brunch and then going off to see everything that’s on display. I even had a visit from a kindergarten because the kids wanted to learn what you can make from Icelandic products and were interested in seeing jewelry made from ram horns. Since the designers are so varied, there is something for everybody. “

Stína just started a new company with Þórey Hafliðadóttir (on the left), called Grafísk Miðlun. One of their aims is to make it easier for individuals or smaller businesses just starting, to have professional graphic designs. With an easy step-by-step order form that not only outlines the time needed and cost, the customer can also clearly outline what he wants in his logo, website, brochure etc. ”You don‘t even have to leave your house, it’s all done through the internet with a click of a button,“ says Stína. Check out their website: www.grafiskmidlun.is

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