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Nottingham Design Overseas – Special Guest Blog from Sarah Davenport

You may remember Sarah as our Guest Blogger a few months ago, Sarah contacted me recently to tell me all about an exciting project she is working on in Iceland and offered to send us a few special one off blogs live from Iceland!  So in addition to this weeks Guest Blogs by Debbie Bryan, Sarah is kindly sharing her Iceland experiences with us.

Nottingham Design In Iceland Part 1

Firstly can I point out that they tricked me? When I arrived on my shorter visit in January to prepare for the longer visit I’m on now, the weather was hotter and sunnier than Nottingham. I smugly packed English weather clothes (and possibly the odd bikini in an optimistic moment) only to find when I arrived it was minus 10 and…well…erm… rather icy. I suppose the name gave it away…

I’m not complaining – its pretty awe-inspiring to be right here in the place nature uses to stretch her muscles. Earthquakes are normal, I am practically sat on a volcano as I write, literally have my head in the clouds, a tectonic plate is not far off and all around me geysers explode, waterfalls crescendo, the northern lights dance and the weather shifts its focus at the speed of Imelda Marcos on a shoe-changing-record-breaking mission. It’s magical, powerful and I find it interesting to realise that I normally go about my daily life in Nottingham completely oblivious to such beauty occurring only a couple of hours flight away.

What I found most unexpected about Iceland is that the city is by far the most unique I’ve visited. The crash chased off the big players we are accustomed to seeing on every street corner a while ago – and though some remain they are hidden away in the deep dark depths of a mall somewhere. In their place Reykjavik thrives with unique independent boutiques – original design, niche creative spaces, exhibition spots and studios all with something individual and fresh to shout about. There’s an energetic mood in the air and the main street, Laugavegar is like one gigantic Broad Street of bustling coffee houses and design bars. Amidst economic disaster, creativity has found a way to pioneer new solutions and it’s brilliant to see.

Right now I’m sitting at my little desk in the Reykjavik University. The building is designed around the solar system and I work in Mars! (Feel the force??!) I have been officially seconded here for the past few months on a research project with Nottingham University, Reykjavik University, an online gaming company from Denmark and a multimedia company from Birmingham, so we’re a real mixed bag and I’m enjoying working with people who are so passionate and focused in such different areas. When I’m not working or socialising, I’ve revelled in the opportunity to enjoy some luxury quiet time in my design apartment (Apartment K) which is located in the centre of the hippest area of Reykjavik. It has all mod cons (including English Satellite TV!), a healthy input of Dutch Design, free films, a power shower, a dishwasher and a gloss bright green floor – what more could a girl alone in a strange city wish for! I have heard mention of a Jacuzzi somewhere aroundabout which I’ll go hunting for once the novelty of the room has worn off.

Of course, we absolutely couldn’t resist but to create a challenging Nottingham Design project as a result of me being here. As I write, Queen of Corsetry Susi Henson of Eternal Spirits is vigorously creating a new signature collection inspired by Iceland and our resident photographer Marcus Holdsworth is booked on a flight over here to shoot it. The vision for the piece is ‘Eternal Spirits rising out of the ashes of a wasteland into a brave new World’ so it should be pretty spectacular. My colleague Fjola Bjork Hauksdottir and I have collaborated on co-ordination and yesterday we booked ubercool stylist Steinunn and a stunning icelandic model Maria .

It is near impossible to anticipate exact location as the weather is so unpredictable, but we have a few places in mind – black sand beaches, volcanic wasteland and mineral caves included. We are aware that however much preparation we do, on the day we will be consistently working to the mercy of nature, and the secret (so I’m told) is to remain flexible and embrace whatever kind of material we find we have to work with. I’ll be posting the results on my final blog so watch this space.

Meanwhile in Nottingham… whilst the cat is away the other cats are playing – there are no mice in the Davenport Shop of Originality. In-house Lionesses Miggi and Alichichi appear to have found an extra-special burst of energy and I keep hearing strange stories from the shop; creatives running amok, new designs in, an ever changing window… and more. I’m not sure I’ll even recognise it on my return! There is a tiny chance they might miss me a little bit so if you are passing the Flying Horse Walk please pop in to say hello… and if you tell them you’ve come from the blog they might even give you a chocolate biscuit 🙂

Some bits you might be interested to get involved with whilst I’m away…

1: In the midst of all of this, our hearts go out to those in Japan suffering the effects of the Tsunami. We will of course be organising a fundraiser when I get back. If you’d like to get involved or have any ideas please email

2. Icelandic colleague Fjola is moving to work with us in Nottingham for 18 months! She’ll be arriving in May and needs to find a two bedroom house/apartment near town (poss Carrington/The Park?) fully furnished, with garden and allowing two very lovely well-behaved doggies. Any ideas???

3: Whilst I’m here I really would like to have a cup of coffee with Bjork. Does anybody have her number?

My next report will describe what its like to swim in the Icelandic sea… if I survive it. Thank goodness I packed that bikini!!!

Signing out – all the beast!

Sarah Davenport 🙂 xxx

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