Crafting: Antidote to Iceland's Economic Woes?

iceland crafter bryndis sveinbjornsdottir
Designer Bryndis Sveinbjornsdottir and her clothing in her newly opened shop (Photo: Rabeika Messina)

Thanks to the collapse of the major banks, the ongoing economic crisis, inflation of the króna and escalating unemployment, many resourceful Icelanders living in the small island nation’s biggest city, Reykjavik, are turning to crafting to save and earn money.

"Those who can't afford to buy presents are making them on their own, and those who can afford them are mostly buying handmade Icelandic items because of the import limitations," says Helga Jona, owner of Nalin, a store on Reykjavik’s hip and trendy main shopping street, Laugavegur.

The government-imposed limit on foreign imports has forced many stores to stop ordering merchandise overseas, but that hasn't meant empty shelves.
In fact, stores are stocking more handmade items from local designers - often one-person brands - and the exchange rate has meant that more foreigners are coming in to buy Icelandic designs.

A quiet crafts revolution?
Though some of these local craftspeople are trained in arts and design, others are turning their hobbies into extra income. Others, like architects Johann Sigurdsson and Elin Gunnlaugsdottir, transformed their office storefront into a collective arts boutique after construction activity in the city slumped.

After contacting artist friends, they filled the space with clothes, indie books, homemade chocolates and designer accessories, opening up the Verslunin Herdubreid design shop after only three weeks. But how were they able to find all these people in three weeks?

"We're only 150,000 people here in Reykjavik, so that means each one of us has to know how to do everything," he explains. "And we really think we can do anything – arts and design included. Hey, that attitude is what got us into this financial problem. And it's probably what will get us out of it."

Sara Eysosdottir, owner of the psychedelic clothing store Naked Ape, puts it in another way: "In a sense, the financial collapse has gotten young people busy," she says. "They have realized that they can't just be on Facebook all day; that if they want to survive, they're going to have to use their creativity and start making things to sell."

It could be the start of a beautiful homegrown movement, borne out of leaner times.

Christian Science Monitor
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