It is difficult to give Vilmundur Þorgrímsson a title because he does so many things; geologist, artist, crystal hunter, philosopher, bone collector, curator, dog trainer, shopkeeper, raconteur… His combined house, gallery and shop in Djúpivogur is a local landmark, as his ever-growing collection of “sticks, stones and bones” draw crowds of tourists in the summer. Villi’s knowledge is endless and Max spent many hours in his company learning the history of the local geology and of the complex composition of the mountain slopes that dominate the skyline above the town. From these slopes we watched as the designer and geologist carefully selected samples to bring down from high on the mountain. Back in Villi’s workshop, Max cut and polished the samples to learn about their suitability for use in his project. Some were more successful than others but as Villi himself says, “the more you know, the more you know.”
In autumn a colony of grey seals live in the bay at Borgarfjörður eystra but they can be elusive; during a whole morning beach combing with Julia and Gero we went home disappointed having failed to spot a single one. Luckily for our next visit we brought a secret weapon – a harmonica. Seals are fascinated by the sound and as Karna began to play, a small group appeared off shore. By the end of the performance there were six seals arranged in a neat semi-circle and each one purposefully lifting its head above the waves to listen intently to Guttavísur and Undir bláhimni. If anyone can explain why seals like the sound so much please let us know!
Þórhallur Þorvalds has lived and worked in Eskifjörður all his life. He started work at Grunnskóli Eskifjarðar in 1972 and been teaching visual arts there for forty years now. For thirty of those years he has taught sjóvinna (seawork) as an elective subject, but every year the course is always fully booked. Þórhallur first started working with nets as a teenager, around the same age as most of his 9th grade students, and says the ocean has ‘owned his mind’ his whole life. During our workshops he had a new, slightly older, student; Þórunn Árnadóttir. In the classroom at Grunnskóli he began teaching Þórunn the basic knots and techniques that he has been using all his life, both as a teacher and as a fisherman, catching lobster and herring, either alone or on the trawlers. This passing of knowledge is an important part of the community and Þórhallur is now writing an educational book for future students to learn from and enjoy. We spent a whole morning at the school transfixed as a new student learnt under the patient tutelage of the master.
Þórunn Árnadóttir vaknar árla morguns í Jensenshúsi. Eins og risi í putalandi hún beygir sig undir dyrakarmana og fyllir uppí rýmið með því að opna arminn. Klukkan er að ganga sjö og hún kveður fallegt lítið húsið með litlu brosi og gengur til vinnu sinnar. Mannskapurinn er að týnast til vinnu í netaverkstæðinu Egersund á Eskifirði, einn á hjóli, annar á bíl. Hundruða-metra-langt net liggur eftir gólfinu, flúorperurnar syngja uppi í margra metra hæð og hillur með snærum í litum regnbogans teygja sig alla leið upp í loft. Litla útvarpið nær ekki að segja nema hálfar sögur og Þórunn er puti í risalandi.
Across the bridge from Egilsstaðir is the Bókakaffi, overlooking the shores of Lagarfljót. Bókakaffi is a café and a bookshop; you can try delicious soups with fresh bread or daily specials like fried lamb chops with rhubarb jam or salt fish waffles with swede and raisin salad, while perusing the eclectic selection of reading material on the shelves. Bókakaffi was the official canteen during the design workshops and we often met there to catch up on news and discuss the events of the day. Bókakaffi is a true community space and hosts all kinds of events, including concerts, poetry readings and recitals. These include lunchtime live music sessions by the owner, Gréta Sigurjónsdóttir, an Icelandic philosopher and 80’s popstar. It’s a favourite place in the East to meet friends or make new ones.