Designer interview with
Theodóra Alfreðsdóttir

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Theodóra Alfreðsdóttir was born and raised in Iceland. After studying at the Iceland University of the Arts, she left for London for her dream master's degree at the Royal College of Art. She still works and lives in England's capital, but she does not deny her Icelandic heritage, which is in her DNA and can be seen in various ways in her designs. Theodóra's Stainless Steel Mirror is a fine example of this, which has been part of the Vij5 collection since 2023.

Text: Daniëlle van de Haterd(Staaldraad Tekstschrijver)
Photography: Vij5& David Wilman

Iceland is a sparsely populated island state in the North Atlantic with less than 400,000 inhabitants. It is characterized by space and rugged nature. This has formed Theodóra's frame of reference and thus the basis for her product designs.

From Iceland to London

'It was my big dream to do my master's in London, but I love Iceland so the plan was that I would return after two years.'
Once settled in London, this idea changed; a new world opened up for Theodóra. 'I enjoyed being able to sort of anonymously blend in with the crowds; all these different people who are always working on something I found so inspiring. Although I didn't think of it beforehand, I found that this suited me very much, which is why I decided to stay in London.'

Appreciate what you have

Residents of Iceland have a very different mentality than Europeans. 'Living on an island is not comparable to living on the mainland. We really live with nature and to get stuff you depend on shipping. So you have to be patient and therefore learn to appreciate what you have. For example, when I was a kid, our house used to be furnished with temporary items when we moved in. Little by little the final furnishings came in, we could really look forward to that.'

"When I start a design process, I often don't know what I'm going to make at all."

Theodóra Alfreðsdóttir

Getting connected to stuff

Theodóra's heritage has thus made it important for her to use materials and products responsibly and respectfully, the throwaway society is far from her ideals. Her designs are made from the least polluting, sustainable or easily recyclable materials and with little to no residual waste. She also wants people to bond with items and she encourages that in various ways.

Creating connection

'When I start a design process, I often don't yet know at all what I'm going to make. I study a material and gradually discover what it can become. I like to take people with me into that story, through that extra layer they get a feel for the item.' Another of Theodóra's ways of creating connection already at the base is to make multiple versions of a product. 'Suppose you choose one item from ten similar options, then through that conscious choice you already have an immediate connection with that product and are more careful with it.'


Layering products is something Theodóra always chooses to do in various ways. As mentioned, she does this with her story, but also, for example, by working with differences in height and depth that create a play with light. Although this is not a conscious premise, she realizes during this interview that this may well be her trademark. 'How nice to hear that this is seen that way! Now that I think about it, I think it's true. Sometimes you are too close to your designs to still see things like that for yourself.'

"For me, collaboration quenches my hunger for discovery."

Theodóra Alfreðsdóttir

The power of collaboration

Theodóra likes to seek out collaboration. 'I think this is kind of my second nature because of my Icelandic heritage. I grew up with the fact that you can turn to someone else for help. For me, collaboration also quenches my hunger for discovery; the dialogue with others allows me to experiment with a variety of materials.'

"I always really like to see how someone can add value to something I designed."

Theodóra Alfreðsdóttir

Theodóra and Vij5

Although Theodóra's first product released under Vij5 's label has only just become a reality, the collaboration has existed for some time. 'I met Arjan and Anieke at an Icelandic design event in 2018. We recognized many of our ideas and views in each other and kept in touch. Over the years, we tried to make two of my designs fit for the Vij5 collection, but unfortunately we did not succeed. In both cases we had to conclude that the costprice would become too high for producing larger numbers. That's unfortunate, but also 'part of the job'. Fortunately, it is not that those designs are now lost, they are part of my collection, but mainly suitable as single pieces for exhibition, not for production.

Stainless Steel Mirror at Vij5

As perseverance wins out, in the end, it worked out; a design by Theodóra has been added to the Vij5 collection. Unlike the other products, the Stainless Steel Mirror ís suitable for production on a larger scale. In fact, production now takes place entirely in Eindhoven (NL) and partly even in Vij5's own workshop. 'I always find it very beautiful to see how someone can add value to something I designed. That feels like my baby is growing up and flying out.'

Product designer and teacher

Theodóra's career is broader than just product design. She is also a long-time senior lecturer at Goldsmiths University. 'When I was a student in Iceland, I had a fantastic lecturer. I became very happy with her energy and the way she inspired. She planted a seed in me, I discovered that I would also like to be of such significance to others.'

Theodóra as a teacher

Years later, during a show where she presented her designs, Theodóra talked to someone who asked her to give guest lectures in Iceland. 'I grabbed that proposal with both hands and from this a snowball effect was created.' What Theodóra loves about teaching is the open mind with which students look and the energy that comes from that. 'Often I also learn something from them. By letting them look at the story behind a design, I hope to make what is often a somewhat dry lesson material come more to life.'

"Of course I miss Iceland..."

Theodóra Alfreðsdóttir

The future

Theodóra does not really have dreams for the future, she is perfectly happy with all the different things she is doing now. Whether she will continue to live in London or go back to Iceland someday, that is not yet certain. 'Of course I miss Iceland. My family lives there, the nature is amazing, we have fantastic ice cream there and I like the way people interact with each other. It's just all a bit more relaxed there. The Icelandic mentality is that everything will work out, you start something and have faith that it will be finished. The contrast with London is great, but also the way work and life are there brings me so much that suits me.

Now that I think about it....maybe I do have a dream after all. I want to make so much money with the work I'm doing now that I can buy two houses. One in London and one in Iceland, that seems ultimate to me.'

Theodóra's products in the Vij5 collection