Emblamar studio was founded by Katrin Thorvaldsdottir to develop products featuring seaweed and other organic materials. It includes collaborations, commissions and special projects that celebrate our connection with the natural world.
Katrín Thorvaldsdottir began artistic work when she moved to Barcelona in 1983 to study puppetry and mask-making for 3 years at the Institute del Teatre. In 1986 she worked as a puppeteer with the “Centre de Titelles” in Lerida and by 1989 she moved back to Iceland and sought out interesting and unique materials to work with. Through her long time connection with the sea she discovered a fascination with seaweed which became her passion and the main focus of her work for the next 30 years.
At the beginning there were no methods for preparation and processing of seaweed so she collected different kinds of seaweed and began to experiment. She started to find ways to preserve the seaweed and use it in her puppetry and mask-making, and by 1993 her first exhibition of puppets was shown to the public at Portið in Hafnarfjörður, followed by in an exhibition of puppets inspired by “Völuspa” a beloved poem from The Sagas, at “Sala Gaudi” in Barcelona in 1994
In 1997 she spent three years creating masks and puppets from seaweed, and creating scenography and costumes with the “Icelandic Takeaway Theatre”. In 2003 Katrín had an exhibition BORÐHALD Gerðarsafni, in Kópavogur showing larger masks and puppets made from seaweed. There she met an algologist who she went on to collaborate with to refine the process for treating seaweed to be used as a material.
By 2005 she began working in the Faroe Islands and with Sámi Theater Beavvás in Norway, as well as making masks and costumes for The Icelandic Opera. Then followed a collaboration with Nýsköpunarmiðstöð Íslands (Innovation Center Iceland) and The University of Iceland between 2012 and 2015 working with chemists and algologists developing the process further.
Katrín continued to collect and harvest seaweed across the Reykjanes Peninsula learning which locations provide the best seaweed and when to harvest, noting the tide times, the current and how the seaweed was effected by weather, times of year and exposure to rocks and other elements.
During this time her focus moved to kelp as a material in design. She had already used seaweed in her masks and puppets, and this expanded to include headpieces, sculptures and abstract pieces, as well as combining seaweed with fabric, which became the beginning of more detailed studies of seaweed in fashion design.
2015 saw a collaboration with two scientists from Keilir Institute of Technology for research into seaweed properties and further refining of the formula used for the process, as well as preparation for registering patents for the process which Emblamar studio has the rights to.
Katrín held an exhibition titled “The Sea Around Us” at Þekkingaarsetur Suðurnesja (Sudurnes Science and Learning Center in Sandgerð) in 2015 which is still being exhibited today.
By late 2018 she set up Emblamar Studio to explore and push the boundaries of seaweed as a material, and to build collaborations with like minded creators.
Katrín sought out crafts-makers who were specialised in working with unusual materials, (such as fish skin) to see how their techniques would work with seaweed. This was very productive and led to the establishment of the design team consisting of fashion designers from different fields and backgrounds all working towards a greater understanding of possibilities of using seaweed in design.
Under Katrín’s guidance Emblamar Studio exists as a showcase of innovation-based projects involving seaweed, and also a testing ground for new ideas and techniques using seaweed.
One of her main objectives is to contribute to a sustainable and profitable industry with seaweed, ready to be taken over by future generations.
Katrín continues to harvest all the seaweed used in the projects carried out under Emblamar Studios.
Charlie Strand has worked in fashion for over two decades, beginning with a position at Katherine Hamnett and evolving into a career in styling, fashion photography and creative direction.
During this time he has worked on editorial projects, exhibitions and produced a magazine and three photography books. As Creative Director he guides the studio through project management and oversees communication and marketing.
Thorlakur Jonsson is a European patent attorney, and holds a Ph.D in biophysical chemistry from University of California at Berkeley. He has over 25 years experience in research and development in academic and industrial settings.
His speciality areas include biotechnology, chemistry, and diagnostics, through which he brings unique insight to the studio in areas of process development and intellectual property work.