Being creative can come to anyone but it's how you use that opportunity you are given or how you express your creative side is what truly set aparts the greats from those who keep it as a hobby. This Month I sat down with Icelandic designer Anna Þórunn to see where her journey began and how she has developed herself and her designs over the years.
Let's start by getting to know your brand a little better. Could you explain what Anna Thorunn is?
“ANNA THORUNN “ is both an interior and lifestyle brand. It stands for a company that designs and manufactures products that have a very strong personal and passion-able touch.
My products immensely, reflect my character and passion.
What inspired you to start this brand?
After graduating as a Product Designer from Iceland University of the Arts, my initial passion was always, to work as an individual and product designer and this marked the path that I have followed to this day. My strong sense of individualism developed early in my life where as I lost my father when I was only 8 years old and during the first years after my loss I grew up fast and became a matured thinking juvenile way ahead of my friends and school mates.
Most often a newly graduate designer entered the working market with fierce ambition and drive and luckily I have kept that spark alive and its still growing, 15 years after my graduation
Upon deciding to start your own business, was it always the intention to name it after yourself?
No, not at all ! It took few years to come up with a brand-name that I was comfortable with. I even got some well known local brand consultants to assist me but the brand names they suggested did not ignite a spark within me,so In the end I decided to have my brand bear my name. In hindsight that was one of my better decisions. My name Anna Thorunn comes from my fathers mother who I was named after and she was a remarkable women that I loved and admired. She was extremely creative. All her life she painted, sewed and knitted with great passion but sadly her true talent never got taken to a higher level as she got married and became occupied raising her three children and running the household and that was the case on those days that women sacrificed everything for their family. Today I truly believe I am creating for both of us.
Your brand features many designs across different products, where do you find your inspiration from?
My Creative ideas come from various places. Some time they just pop-up out of no-wear . An idea takes over and I follow it with a gut feeling that I cant explain. I often get a feeling for a fabric or a fabrics texture and work on with that. Other times I bring along something from my surrounding nature and develop my ideas further. The end result often combines all of the above. I often get very excited during this phase because the final prototype often surprises me and I love when that happens.
Did you always aspire to be a designer?
No. My dream and ambition, up to 21 years old, was to be a professional ballet dancer. I l studied and practised ballet from a very young age to 21 years of age or until I accepted the message that my body gave me that I was not physically built for such a battle. With a broken heart I quit and left the ballet world. My eye for beautiful items, forms and shapes did however intensify at that point in my life so I got into IED in Rome in jewellery design and fundamental jewellery making. After studying and working in Italy for 5 years I moved back to Iceland and enrolled into the Technical Collage of art and design and there I felt really strong that I was on the right path. After gradation from Technical college I enrolled into The Iceland University of the Art where I graduated as a Product designer in 2007.
You say you would like your products to bring 'Joy and Happiness' to its owners. As the designer and the brands founder and owner how do you imagine you do this?
I truly believe that the most important thing that is designed, built and manufactured should give its owner as well as any onlookers a feeling of admiration and enjoyment. I emphasise designing items that are timeless and can therefore be past on through generations. Most living quarters mirror the mind of its owner so beautiful items in a home bring enjoyment and happiness to the person living in that home.
When it comes to designing, do you plan a new 'collection' or do you just feel inspired to create a specific product with a specific design?
In the beginning of my carrier as a designer I often got an idea of a certain item that popped into my mind and would get my prototype into production. However as I get more mature as a designer and my production company grown bigger I am forced to being more selective in choosing which idea to produce for example I have now introduced some textile items into my line that I find extremely exciting.
Do you find your creative processes remain the same when creating something new or change from piece to piece?
I find it very important not to be stagnant in my design. Finding new or different things to work on fulfils my need to move on and develop. A typical development path is that an idea pops up and I carry that idea in my head for some time. Then I move on to sketching the idea on a paper and most often I develop the idea to a more material stage like making a prototype in clay so I can see a 3-D prototype and at the same time I get to relieve my creative urge that d'vells in my hands. A 3-D prototype work shortens my development time and when the result is final I hand it over in a 3-D technical drawing to the mould maker as well as to the production company.
What would you say if your favourite piece you've designed?
This is a difficult question to answer. It is like asking me which of my two sons I love more. All my pieces hold a special place in my heart, but if I have to give you an answer I would select my first item that got manufactured and that is my magazine and paper stand that I named „RÚDOLF“. The stand is on 4 wheels and in the front there is a 3-D imitation of Reindeer's horns and below comes out a string so the owner can drag the stand next to his chair or sofa and select his reading material from the stand next to him. Here I am putting the magazine stand in a role as a faithful “PET“ that follows his owner wherever he goes At first the stand was manufactured out of Plexiglass but later I switch to veneered Teak or Oak. The stand is quite a unique piece where both childish fun and play is combined with an adults practicality.
An other item that holds a big place in my heart is a side table that I gave the name 70% because it looks like the most popular 70% chocolate bar made in Iceland and is used in every household in Iceland for making hot chocolate during the Christmas season, and it´s also mandatory in all Icelandic hiking trips during summer. Another reason I cherish this design so much is that the chocolate factory making this chocolate was next to my ballet school so every time I entered my favourite activity I inhaled this glorious chocolate aroma that came from the factory.
Being from Iceland, a country with such beauty, do you think you incorporate this in your pieces?
I believe that growing up in a country where a child is exposed so much to nature and the country´s volatile weather that is has a strong impact on a child and that reflects in my work. In Iceland's one only has to drive for ½ hour to be surrounded by Iceland´s unspoiled nature. There is a saying in Iceland if yo don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes. As a young girl going to school I walked back and forth, as most kids did at that time. I experienced many winter days where I was prowling the snow to my hip or had to hold tight to a street-light pole to prevent the wind from lifting me of my feet, not knowing where I would touch ground again.
This environment shapes and makes the character of most Icelanders.
Upon Launching your business, what did you find was one of your biggest testing moments?
The biggest challenge and one that was extremely hard for me was to ask for my first loan to be able to build up my company and be able to start the production process of my first production that had to be done abroad.
What advice would you give to any inspiring designers who might be reading this?
From my experience the best advise I can give any one starting his/her carrier, is always listen to your heart and be true and honest to yourself. If you dont belief in your self how can other´s belief in you. Dont listen to pessimistic people that say to you „This you cant do or make“ These people dont share the vision you have. Often it is better to talk less and do more. When a person has a strong passion there is no limit how far you can go. My mantra is „Keep on going“
Can you tell us about how you imagine the next 5 years to look personally and for Anna Thorunn the brand?
The next 5 years will be, without doubt be very exciting and I can sense it in my bones that I will have a lot of love and happiness both for me personally as well as for my brand „ANNA THORUNN“ I know „ANNA THORUNN“ will becoming stronger and better every year where increasing sales in stores and online calls for increase in production and thirst for ongoing innovations . An old dream that I have had on hold is to move on to furniture design and manufacturing and I am sure that it is just around the corner. To make this all happen I know there needs to be a good balance between work, family and play so I will make sure I will keep on practising Tango with my wonderful husband which is my best supporter and admirer.
Anna, Thank you for your time.
Thank you Curtis
You can check out Anna's work over at www.annathorunn.is.