They have eyes, ears and noses, wear wellies, show their tongue and hold hands, or more precisely, sleeves. The jumpers by Icelandic artist Ýrúrarí, as they are referred to, are true works of art, created in the spirit of sustainable design from recycled materials. They defy consumerism and the clothing industry, which has long been desctructive of the environment. At the same time, it is impossible not to smile sincerely at them.
Ýr Jóhannsdóttir (Ýrúrarí) learned to knit as early as primary school, as it was a compulsory subject in the Icelandic curriculum. She further developedher knowledge oftextiles in her later years at the Reykjavík School of Visual Arts andlater at the Glasgow School of Art. She is keen to stress, however, that the greatest influence onher work has been her homeland – in Iceland, there is a strong feeling of freedom towards unusualideas and above-average creativity
What is most important in her work is humour, colours, body movement and the everyday. Her designswander on the border between casual wear and costume. When the covid-19 virus hit Icelandin 2020, the artist created colourful knitted masks with a sewn-onexposed tongue. This project allowed for a little more smiles during this difficulttimeforeveryone, and thanks to the uniqueness of each mask, people were happy to wear them evenwhen government restrictions were no longer so restrictive. Today, Ýrúrarí focuses mainly onworking with recycled garments and wants to give each fabric a new life. She is inspired by whata particular jumper has experienced with its previous owner, as well as what lies ahead .In the spirit of sustainability, she is also often involved in repairing andmending damaged jumpers, often in a playful way – sewing handmade embellishments and body parts onto them. The creation of each jumper is an artisanal and lengthyprocess that lasts from a few days to sometimes a few weeks. If the artist does not have a visionin mindfor a particular jumper, she puts it away in the wardrobe, only to return to it with a newidea. This makes each piece unique and unrepeatable
Ýrúrarí has a master’s degree in art education and is qualified toteach textile design with students. She emphasises that it is important to be able toshare her approach to working with textiles and her awareness ofsustainable approaches to the garment industry and recycled clothing with the younger generation.For the past 8 years, she has been an active contributor to arts and culture giving lectures and meetings onknitting techniques, working with textiles and also upcycling. This year , theMuseum OfDesign And Applied Art in Gardabaer hosted an exhibition in which the artist presentedher new works. Part of the exhibition was interactive in the form of a workshop, where participants could create their own jumpers using textile waste.And during the Icelandic DesignMarch festival, there was a live demonstrationwhere visitors could purchase freshly knitted pizzas by the artist made, of course, fromremnants of the Icelandic wool industry
Ýrúrarí currently lives in Berlin. In an interview with Creative Boom magazine, she says thatthe most important aspect of her work is that it brings her joy. If it stops, it ‘s a sign that something else needs to be addressed, for the time being, however, she tries to bring some humour andcolour to her audiences of all ages
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