Introducing: Þórunn Árnadóttir

Kitten candles designed by Þórunn Árnadóttir have just received an Icelandic design award for Product of the Year 2013.

One week ahead of the start of DesignMarch in Reykjavik, we met up with Icelandic designer Þórunn Árnadóttir, whose cute candle concept (or not-so-cute, depending at which stage you look at it) caught our attention as soon as we heard about it. It is only once these cute-looking products are in use that their dark side comes to light and it becomes clear as to why they are named PyroPet (originally known as ‘The Devil’s Pet’). The quirky nature of melting wax that reveals a demonic feline skeleton also caught the attention of the judges at The Reykjavik Grapevine Design Awards when PyroPet was announced as ‘Product of the Year 2013’ this week.

How did PyroPet come about and who is behind it?
I made the first prototypes while studying at RCA in 2011. I was interested in exploring objects that are made for the user to change or destroy. I remembered this sight of a candle in the shape of a chubby Santa Claus, melting and deforming after it had been lit, and I thought it was actually rather creepy. I found this common ritual of melting candles in various forms in fact a bit bizarre. Why make them into elaborate shapes when they are going to be all deformed when they are in use? I saw potential in there to make something more out of this experience. Last year, I teamed up with product developer Dan Koval to bring this product to life for real, and together we founded the PyroPet Candle Company.

What is the essence of PyroPet?
PyroPet creates a new storyline to a very familiar product. Candles are usually in the area of some sweet and cute home decorations. It’s a very romantic product. PyroPet is more like a romantic film that turns into a horror satire!

What was the process for creating the first PyroPet Kisa? (Icelandic for kitty)
It was a very quick prototype, thrown together for a school project. I made everything by hand, shaped the cat in clay and even cut out the skeleton out of a metal sheet with clippers. It looked very different from what it is now. I later refined the shapes, using 3D programs and have done numerous prototypes and tests to make everything work well together – the production, melting and aesthetics.

What future animal designs are in the pipeline?
A little bird is now ready and will be released very soon! And yes, there are more animals in the pipeline, but that's all top secret for now.

What other projects are forthcoming from your studio?
I'm premiering a brand new project to launch next week, during DesignMarch in Reykjavík, at Spark Design Space. This group exhibition Austurland: Designs from Nowhere will explore the possibilities for small-scale design and production in East Iceland, using locally-sourced materials and skills. I have designed a collection of products for play and sport activities, such as skipping ropes, bags and hula hoops. I'm also currently showing another new product in the same gallery: Tea Sir is a group exhibiton of Icelandic designers designing around the ritual of tea. I have designed a teapot, that’s specially designed for two people enjoying tea together.

City of residence Reykjavík, Iceland
Age 31
Education MA Design Products from the Royal College of Art, London (2011); BA Product Design from Iceland Academy of the Arts, Reykjavik (2007)
Motto ‘Just do it’
Favourite quote ‘Style is the physiognomy of the mind. It is a more reliable key to character than the physiognomy of the body. To imitate another person's style is like wearing a mask. However fine the mask, it soon becomes insipid and intolerable because it is without life; so that even the ugliest living face is better.’ Schopenhauer
Best advice received ‘Don't follow other people's advice’
Best tip for designers Be an explorer, enjoy the journey, don't focus on the end destination
Three things every designer needs Space to think, curiosity, bravery
Newest addition to your studio Speakers – I always listen to music while working
First design that inspired you The human body

Photos by Ziegler & Sigurðardóttir (except where indicated).

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Árnadóttir’s latest products – including a prototype of PyroPet Kisa – can be viewed now at Spark Design Space. The Designs from Nowhere exhibition will open on Tuesday 25 March. Next week, don’t forget to watch this space for more details about this inspiring project, ahead of the start of DesignMarch. More information about Reykjavik’s annual design event (27–30 March) is available at the festival website. If you missed it, we spoke to the curator of the opening event a couple of weeks ago and you can read the Q&A with the DesignTalks curator here.

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