Hanna Dís Whitehead
"I am just alone with myself in paradise. I love it. I love coming to the studio – it is a luxury for me, having been mostly brought up in a city environment," says Hanna Dís Whitehead when asked about life in the countryside. She lives with her partner and three young children in the south of Iceland, just by Hornafjörður. Every morning, once the children have begun their daily routine, Hanna Dís cycles to her studio. She has two spaces, one for ceramics and another where she sketches and works with various other materials.
"I am always switching between materials – while one is on hold I go on to the next, and then take another round before I cycle home for lunch," she explains. I suggest that she certainly seems to make good use of her time in the studio through the diligent way she applies herself. "I love to work. That's probably why I'm so industrious – because I get so much from it. There are challenges all the same, but I know that the only way to overcome them is just to work," Hanna Dís says. When she lived in Reykjavík, her studio was so small that the size of the projects were determined by her desk. "I created on a much larger scale when I was studying, and for my final project, for example, I worked in an abandoned supermarket. I had to limit my scope for a while, but now, when I have the space and freedom to scale up again, I'm able to think in terms of spaces and furniture once more."
‘I find that I don't need to always be in the eye of the storm to be involved. My antenna out into the world is Instagram and I try to be active there.’
Her surroundings are spectacular and ever changing. So spectacular, in fact, that people come from far and wide to experience the unique landscape that provides the backdrop to Hanna Dís's daily life. "I, myself, am still: wow, how lucky I am! When I'm driving, for example, and the mountains are just crazy, I think how fortunate I am to have ended up here," says Hanna Dís and explains how a summer job at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon led to her meeting her partner, who has roots in Hornafjörður. A few years later, they moved here from the city.
Hanna Dís studied product design at the Design Academy Eindhoven and says that she sometimes misses the community that goes with that kind of environment. She regularly goes to design festivals and exhibitions overseas, but says she's always very happy to come home again. "I find that I don't need to always be in the eye of the storm to be involved. My antenna out into the world is Instagram and I try to be active there."
Playfulness, experimentation and a love of colour are characteristic of Hanna Dís's work, which covers a broad canvas and a varied use of materials. Currently, she mostly works with ceramics, textiles and wood, and though a certain idea may begin in textiles, it can end up being executed in clay. The process is untamed and fluid.
Hanna Dís says she is critical with regard to what she does, but avoids stopping herself during the process, it being necessary sometimes to simply be outrageous or make mistakes. "I say to myself: you're allowed to do this – at least try it!" says Hanna Dís and it's apparent that joy is a driving force in her studio – and that it manifests itself in a variety of ways in Hanna Dís's mind: "Joy can arise from the functionality of objects, and objects can also be something very impractical that just give you a huge amount of pleasure. People need joy and beauty, and function can include the simple act of providing joy."
“When I'm driving, for example, and the mountains are just crazy
I think of how lucky I am to have ended up here."