katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

born in reykjavik, katrín thorvaldsdottir has been working with seaweed for more than three decades in her work as a puppeteer, mask maker and scenographer for theater productions. fusing art and nature, thorvaldsdottir uses raw organic kelp, which she harvests from the icelandic ocean, as a material for art and design. her fascination for seaweed can been seen clearly in her on-going ‘masks’ project (pictured here), which has spanned nearly 20 years, creating one-off pieces made from icelandic kelp that evoke comparisons to tribal masks and mummification.

 

seeking to expand and evolve her artistic work with kelp and other organic materials, thorvaldsdottir recently launched emblamar studio, a creative workshop and studio dedicated to research and development of seaweed as a material for use in art, fashion and design production. the studio will collaborate with a range of artists and designers from different backgrounds with a common interest in sustainable practice and organic materials. designboom spoke with thorvaldsdottir to learn more about the process behind treating seaweed so that it can be used as a material, as well as other projects she and emblamar studio are working on at the moment. read the interview in full below.katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic oceanall images by magnus andersen

 

 

designboom (DB): what has driven your interest in seaweed as a material for art and design?

 

katrín thorvaldsdottir (KT): it is the seaweed itself. how much closer can you reach to the core or source of life? the seaweed opens up all your senses – you can smell it, touch it, embrace it, and together with it you reach your zenith. you simply want to take it into your hands and feel the joy that radiates from the touch of it into your hands. when you come in contact with it, the silence is broken between you and the womb of the earth.katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

 

 

(DB): what is the process like behind treating seaweed so that it can be used as a material?

 

(KT): it requires a process of washing and preserving the seaweed using techniques I’ve developed over the years, and fine-tuned to get optimum results. the result is that it creates a more stabilised texture from the material.katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

 

 

(DB): do you harvest any particular type of seaweed for the creation of your pieces and why?

 

(KT): we tend to use laminaria digitata and saccharina japonica in our works because these are the most versatile and also the most durable of the seaweed types. there are many others that the process can be applied to – such as alaria esculenta – which can also be useful for tying and binding.katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

 

 

(DB): what kind of qualities does seaweed have after treatment? how can it be used?

 

(KT): seaweed is this humble herb from the sea, an ocean flower. you discover its munificence when you start connecting with it in your creative work. the texture before and after processing is like the texture of a leaf. before the process it is fragile but after the process it is strong and flexible. you can mould it, sew it, knit it, and weave it, and then you can combine it with other sustainable materials. it can be both easy and difficult to work with, depending on what you are attempting to make. that is what makes it so fascinating in creative work, you constantly discover new territories.

katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

 

(DB): when and how did you start working on your ongoing project, ‘masks’?

 

(KT): in my theater environment we were constantly looking out for the best and most technical material for our performances, that was intriguing and a way to explore new materials apart from the conventional, like paper mache and leather. I came upon seaweed in the mid 80’s and realized immediately that this was my material that I could use, and that it would help me in my mission to bring the awareness of natural synthesis into our everyday life. and in turn this was ideal for mask making.katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

 

 

(DB): how long does it usually take to finish a mask, and what is the longest you have ever worked on a single piece?

 

this depends on the seaweed itself and its harvesting time. the time factor is more or less the same as when you make a mask from leather using a prepared mould. the process is similar and the average time sequence is from four to seven days. the laminaria digitata in general is the most preferable due to its tissue strength. saccharina japonica is also very interesting to work with and explore mainly because of its tissue design structure – it is different- but both of them are challenging. when working on a mask with seaweed you never know what kind of a character will submerge from the mould which makes it so enjoyable to work with. seaweed is so unique!katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

 

 

(DB):  you recently launched emblamar studio, a creative workshop and studio dedicated to the research and development of seaweed as a material for use in art, fashion and design production. can you tell us a few words about it?

 

the studio is a space for us to experiment and develop design projects using seaweed but also to collaborate with other artists to gain other perspectives on how to utilise the material. the main goal is to further the interest in the use of seaweed as a material and to bring to peoples attention how beautiful and interesting a material it is to work with. the website is our showcase of these projects and a portal into the world of our seaweed art and design.katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic oceanstephanie steele, ‘transform design project’: nine international designers create fashion pieces using icelandic kelp

image courtesy of emblamar studio

 

 

(DB): what are some other projects you have created or are planning to create with emblamar studio?

 

we have just completed a fashion project using seaweed as the main source of material, collaborating with designers and graduates from different fashion schools, and we are planning a series of exhibitions in the near future which will feature these designs as well as the masks and other related projects from artists we have been collaborating with.katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean‘carry’: a collaboration with three designers from completely different backgrounds, each bringing their unique skill set and creativity to design bags using kelp

image courtesy of emblamar studio

katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

katrín thorvaldsdottir sculpts intricate masks using raw organic kelp from the icelandic ocean

 

 

project info:

 

artist: katrín thorvaldsdottir

studio: emblamar studio

creative direction and photo-assistance: charlie strand

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy

PRODUCT LIBRARY

a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

designboom will always be there for you

milan, new york, beijing, tokyo,  since 1999
X
5