Last time Irish design studio Superfolk featured on I Like Local, they were showing a range of simple, thoughtful products at Stockholm Furniture Fair in 2010. Last month they returned to northern Europe to exhibit at Iceland's DesignMarch, and Jo Anne and Gearóid got in touch to tell us how they got on. Read on...
How did Superfolk at DesignMarch come about?
We had been looking at what was happening in the Icelandic design scene since their economic crash. With the setting up of the Icelandic Design Centre, the formation of DesignMarch and some really innovative design collaborations, such as the Designers and Farmers project and the Designs from Nowhere project. Really interesting and timely things are emerging from Iceland. It is a small, remote country, with very little manufacturing industry and a strong overlapping between its craft and design community, so there are a lot of unexplored cultural affinities between Ireland and Iceland and a lot that we in Ireland can learn from what is happening there. The team at the Icelandic Design Centre are really thinking in a very fresh, holistic way about what design is for and how it can be used. We simply got in touch with them, told them why we interested and they welcomed us in.
And what did you get up to?
We exhibited a collection themed around spring-time and outdoor exploring. Our new homeware range includes a folding camping stool made from leather and oak, a wooden tablecloth made from oak and rope, table-top trivets in beech and oak. We also launched a collection of hand-burnished, direct lino prints themed around spring-time wild food foraging. At our launch night we served dillisk seaweed crisps and foraged botanical infused cocktails from a menu devised for us by the America Village Apothecary from Connemara. The food and drinks were served in hand thrown vessels by Icelandic ceramicist Kristbjörg Guðmundsdóttir. We were also really proud to hold the first international screening of Irish folk-life film The Seasons from 1935 with special permission from the Irish Film Institute and Archives.
What was it like to show at a design festival in a far away place?
Iceland is not as far away as you think! Maybe in the past we weren’t curious enough about Iceland but this is really changing. There were no big challenges arising from distance or cultural differences. We deal with our own relative remoteness from our customers and market everyday: Superfolk is a design and make studio selling products through international retailers but based on the west coast of Ireland. The DesignMarch team were really generous with their time and paired us with a group of Icelandic textile designers who really looked after us. We also received an International Fair Fund grant from the ID2015 so this helped us with our travel, shipping and accommodation costs.
How was Superfolk received at DesignMarch?
The show was really well received. Visitors really responded to our work in a very tactile and instinctive way. People loved the botanical cocktails and almost everyone thought that the film was old footage from Iceland. So they were very surprised when we told them that it was the west of Ireland in the 1930s. The folding camping stools in particular were really, really popular. Many visitors commented on how the collection of elements in the exhibition came together to tell a story and this opened up lots of conversations about connections between where we live in the west of Ireland and life in Iceland. In Iceland people are sharply aware of the power of weather and are instinctively connected to nature and seasons on a deep level, in a way we have never witnessed before. So Icelandic people recognised the influence of these elements in our work.
Any good DesignMarch finds?
Having your own show at an event like this means that it can be difficult to find the time to visit other shows which are spread around Reykjavik. Added to this was the extremely bad weather (hurricane force winds for two days). So disappointingly we had little time to see other shows and work. Þórunn Árnadóttir meets 66ºN was a nice collaboration. We also both enjoyed the type design exhibition Can I have a Word with You by Or Type, the first and only type foundry of Iceland.
What's next in the calendar for Superfolk?
We have some small projects lined up for over the summer. In May we travel to New York to do an event with Makers and Brothers in the Standard Hotel during New York Design Week. Beyond that we are really focused on September when we will be launching new products at the London Design Festival – so we are working hard to refining and develop new products for this.
Images courtesy of Superfolk