Product designer Valdís Steinarsdóttir, alumna and part-time lecturer at the IUA has, despite her young age, had quite the success as a designer. Since she graduated in BA Product Design at the Iceland University of the Arts in 2017 she has been active in her work as a designer and been noticeable in the field of design. In her design, Valdís has mostly focused on material researches as well as formulating creative solutions to environmental and social issues.
Valdís has now been nominated to the Dezeen Awards 2020 as the Emerging Designer of the Year. You can vote for her through Dezeen website here, and we certainly encourage all of you to do so and support Valdís, you can vote until the 12th of October.
Sigrarnir hafa verið margir hjá Valdísi undanfarna mánuði, en hún hlaut meðal annars titilinn Hönnuður ársins 2020 (e. Nordic Designer of the Year 2020) hjá Formex Nova. Þá tók hún þátt í Hönnunarvikunni í London (e. London Design Week 2020) með verkefni sínu Just Bones og kemur einnig til með að sýna á Hollensku hönnunarvikunni (e. Dutch Design Week 2020) upp úr miðjum október. 
Valdís Steinarsdóttir


Storytellers rather than product designers 

When asked about the field of product design, Valdís claims the name product design is in fact misleading. “The old image is that product design is only limited to creating beautiful products, that have no greater purpose other than being beautiful. I’d rather explore and stress the fact that we, as designers, can affect society in many ways. Perhaps, you could say, that product designers are actually storytellers, both in a contemporary and futuristic sense. Storytellers that can, in a tangible way, direct the focus to urgent social issues.”
Among projects that Valdís has worked on are Just Bones, Horse hair, and Bio Plastic Skin. The first project began when she was working on her graduation project for IUA, looking into by-products of the meat industry in Iceland. Horses in Iceland, as most know, are slaughtered for human consumption, we eat the meat but a large part of the animal is thrown away, including the bones. With her project Just Bones, Valdís developed methods to use the various qualities of the bones. She burned the bones, crushed them into dust, and created a bone-glue with the so-called bone-ash. By doing this she managed to create a material that has both considerable strengths and is easily malleable at the same time.
Following Just Bones Valdís worked with fashion designer Kristín Karlsdóttir on researching the horse's skins and fur. Horse fur tends to be very irregular in thickness, some places being very thin and others much thicker. Valdís and Kristín decided to look into how to use this feature to their benefits, both in clothing and in a sculptural way.
Valdís then began working on the project Bio Plastic Skin. There she produced bioplastic from animal skins. The bioplastic is produced as packaging for meat. The main goal of the project is both to create a natural material to replace the undegradable plastic, as well as raising awareness about fully utilizing meat products when consuming them. In an interview with IUA from 2018 Valdís talks about how the ambiguity of the packaging disturbed many people she talked to. “It’s in itself a poetic happening; I am placing the animals in their own skin again after their death, and serve it that way to the public. Many people I talk to about the project that eat meat, think this way of serving meat is kind of disgusting. I think it‘s an interesting paradox, people thinking it’s normal to eat some parts of the animals but are horrified by the thought of using other parts.”


Valdís has been busy lately, as described above, and she tells us how the opportunities actually come to exist when you really pursue them. „It‘s a little bit like a snowball, you give it the first push and then it just expands and grows.“ But pushing the ball doesn‘t happen without effort, and there is a great deal of work that lies behind the recognition Valdís has received. “This is in itself priceless, and I am so humble about the whole thing. When you‘re situated in the eye of the storm, it‘s so easy to ignore the work you‘ve put into things and feel as if you aren‘t doing enough. So this recognition is a serious motivation to keep going and create new opportunities.”


International success during a pandemic

We are all experiencing odd and isolated times due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and in that context, it is interesting to watch an Icelandic designer celebrate such a success on an international scale. Valdís, for example, exhibited at the London Design Week this autumn, but the exhibition was completely virtual. She also received the Formex Nova awards as the designer of the year in Iceland via mail after participating in a virtual award ceremony. “When I won the Formex Nova 2020 awards, it was bizarre to receive the awards online in my own living room. On the computer screen, I just watched the back of people’s heads in a big hall, and then a video of myself on a big screen on the stage. To add to that, everything I saw had a five-second delay because of the whole streaming bit, so I kept looking at my past self. I have to admit it was all a tad surreal. I then received the award certificate later, it was mailed to me, it wasn’t until then that I really felt this whole thing was real, and again, I celebrated in my living room.


Valdís tells us that this year has in fact been very unusual. “I meant to be exhibiting at design weeks in Milano, London, Spain, the Netherlands, and other places. COVID has really affected my plan, either the festivals were postponed or moved to a virtual platform. Valdís showcased a project during the Icelandic design festival, DesignMarch 2020, in June, that talks directly to these different perceptions we have when experiencing something in reality versus virtually through our computer screen. „It’s been an interesting challenge to rethink people’s relationship with exhibitions and physicality. With my project ASMR U Ready? that I exhibited during DesignMarch, and will be showcased at the Dutch Design Week, I’m researching and using the ASMR phenomenon to mediate my projects to the viewers, by stimulating other senses than touch.”
You can dive into the work of Valdís Steinarsdóttir on her webpage, and virtually, during the Dutch Design Week 2020.
We again remind you that you can vote Valdís Steinarsdóttir as the Dezeen Emerging Designer 2020 here You can vote until the 12th of October.