A whimsical Viking greets visitors
at a craft shop in Reykjavik
Iceland's arts and crafts are proof of the theory that the colder the climate, the more creative the people.
While Icelandic hand knit woolens are one of the most familiar products that people bring back from a visit to Iceland, vibrant arts and crafts can be found from a wide range of materials.
There are artists who specialize in drawing beauty from lava rocks, glass, clay, fish skin, wood and even silk.
Artist's workshops and studios - most open to visitors and shoppers -- are found throughout Iceland, welcoming tourists to come and appreciate the charm of handcrafted Icelandic fashion and folk art.
Browse these shops and you might find small visual works or whimsical pieces that will find a cozy home on a shelf or mantel (check out the little Viking, above.)
Other pieces capture the stark wildness of nature. Driftwood pieces and ceramics can be found mixed with framed paintings and sculpture. Fashion, too, is an art form in Iceland, and it's easy to be drawn into local fashion clothing stores even if you're only window shopping!
Many artists have formed co-op groups where they take turns working and the decor is a collection of everyone's creativity. A visit to these shops may find a resident artist or crafter at work while others mingle.
While prices in Iceland are not low, the cost of the works for sale are actually quite reasonable. We found that the cost was lower than we'd expected - definitely not as high as New York or Paris and of comparable quality. If you do make a purchase be sure to ask about a VAT refund which can mean a 15% discount for any tourist who shops in Iceland.
More about Icelandic arts & crafts around the Web:
Crafts and Design - The home site of a project established in 1994 by the Icelandic Prime Ministry to support Icelandic crafts showcases the variety of artistic expression in Iceland. Links to exhibitions, museums and craftspeople includes plenty of pictures.
The Álafoss Wool Store - A visit to the Álafoss factory outlet and art gallery is a must for anyone interested in Icelandic crafts. Word is that they have the best prices on woolens if you're looking to bring home a blanket or gloves and there is also a great selection of artistic crafts on view in the gallery.
Þjóðbúningaráð, National Costume Board of Iceland - While the national costume of Iceland may not technically be an art object, the National Museum has a fine collection of traditional clothing. This site has good descriptions, plus pictures and other interesting facts on the traditional dress of the Islanders.
Shopping in Iceland - This piece from the Icelandic Tourist Board focuses on shopping, but does a good job of covering the best places in and around Reykjavik to pick up bargains or shop for fashion and art pieces.