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Growing up in a small seaside town near the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, Ragnheiður was influenced by the U.S. Naval air base on the outskirts of town and the lingering impact it had on the town’s residents, giving them access to American candy and other things that were not imported to Iceland in the 80’s and 90’s. Spending time with her family in the USA as a child also brought with it an awareness of the power of consumerism at a very young age.
An avid collector, obsessed with unique and interesting objects, Ragnheiður, enjoyed looking for patterns among her collections:
[It is] these relationships with objects, the exploration of finding patterns in things, along with spending time with my creative grandparents is what eventually sparked my interest in designing objects and is still what influences me today.
Ragnheiður Ösp Sigurðardóttir – The designer of the Knot Cushion
The Knot cushion began its life as the tubular legs of a teddy bear. Ragnheiður was looking for a way to manufacture them rather than crochet them by hand. What she ended up with was a knot like cushion - the Knot Cushion was born!
She says she does not have a particular design process, being more interested in the research part than the creative part of the process.
I’ve always been fascinated by people’s behaviour and how they interact with, experience, and react to their environment. This is the part that comes naturally to me: doing the research and getting lost in rabbit holes.
The Knot cushion was a creative reimagining of an everyday object, which Ragnheiður says is her favourite way to design: “There is a concept in psychology called functional fixedness, where our minds get fixated on using objects only for their meant purpose and not seeing other ways of use and function. In design studies, we learn how to question and challenge these biases.” She says.
The idea that there could be more to this world than meets the eye gives life a little more excitement and purpose.
The Knot Cushion starts life as a long, knitted tube that is stuffed and then tied to form the unique knotted shape.
When discussing the birth of an individual design piece it is hard to ignore the influence of the studios that bring these items to the forefront. Design House Stockholm, the design studio responsible for backing the Knot Cushion has a unique relationship with their designers.
Established in 1992 Design House Stockholm quickly made a name for themselves within the Scandinavian design scene with quirky, modern pieces such as Harri Koskinen’s Block Lamp as well as the Knot Cushion to name just a couple.
Distinguishing themselves as publishers of design rather than conventional producers DHS aims to work with designers in the same way that publishing houses work with authors.
We look at Scandinavian design as a nature resource
states Anders Färdig, the founder of Design House Stockholm. “We are always looking for new ideas coming from creative people who can play with basic values of Scandinavian design. Many of our classic designs like Step Ladder , Knot Cushion and the were born in the designer's studio. (The Knot Cushion we found during a visit to several design studios in Reykjavik on Island many years ago)”.
It was the combination of fantasy and function that first spoke to them when they decided to publish Ragnheiður’s design states Anders, plus “it gives the perfect support for your back” he continues – this playful functionality is something that is apparent in many of the designs available from Design House Stockholm.
Playful, functional and the perfect back support!
Available in 3 sizes, the Knot Cushion makes a unique pouf in the office or in your home.
The landscape of design is constantly evolving. It is no secret that even as we approach the end of 2022 many industries across the world continue to be dominated by men. Iceland and its Nordic neighbours all enjoy a particularly good reputation when it comes to gender equality but as Ragnheiður points out “we can always do more”. Whilst men still dominate at the top of the design industry, statistics suggest that other genders now make up over half of the industry as a whole.
“The Icelandic design scene has always been made up predominantly of women so I can’t say I’ve felt a shift here” says Ragnheiður “except maybe in the other direction. We are seeing a little bit more of other genders designing objects and teaching product design than before but still it’s for the most part women that make up the scene.” Although she is quick to point out that there has been a bigger shift in other areas “in the graphic design scene in Iceland [for example] with a lot more women studying, working, and teaching in the field than back when I was in design school.”
The Knot Cushion is a creative reimagining of an everyday object reflecting the transformations that are taking place in all aspects of design.
Compared to many other industries the world of design has come a long way. Women as well as men have always been a part of the history of design and this changing design environment opens a new world of possibilities whether it is an everyday object that has been reimagined and conceptualised like the Knot Cushion or the transformation of a design studio into a publisher of design.
Photography: Angeliqa Daldorph, Design House Stockholm