Tag Archives: Stykkishólmur


During a brief May visit to Stykkishólmur, we visited both a a ceramics gallery and a wood sculptor preparing a summer installation. The two represent the serious artists colony that is growing in the community.

Ingibjörg H. Ágústdóttir is a native daughter of the town. She is a woodcarver who specializes in interpretation of Icelandic folk tales. This year´s project is a series of island-based works, representing stories from the islands in Breiðafjördur, just outside of town. Her total production will probably be less than two dozen, but several of her works in progress were quite intriguing, even with their final coat of colorful paint incomplete.

One piece features a black and white ram facing off with an orca whale on one end of a small green island surrounded by blue water, while a small white lamb chats with a similarly proportioned seal at the other.

Another island was topped with several long-haired Valkyries in peaceful 1-P1020707swan maiden mode. Valkyries are best known as warrior-women who escort to Valhalla those heroes who have fallen in battle. In the sculptor‘s view of them, the blue-gowned ladies are resting with detached swans’ wings resting on their laps or arms.




A third carving with a vivid blue base shows a white polar bear — an occasional 1-P1020705visitor to these waters — on a low dark boulder at the foot of a steep island cliff. Above the bear is a large round stone stuck in a cleft. Legend had the rock thrown by an angry crone, trying to chase the bear away. The truth of the legend is supported by viewing the rough sphere which does not match the rest of the island, which sits in the bay not far from Stykkishólmur. It was probably delivered to the site by a volcanic eruption, but it is nice to have folktales providing interesting alternatives to dry rational explanations.

Ingibjórg´s work is on display in the Tang & Riis building near the Stykkishólmur waterfront June 13 through August 3, 2015, during afternoons Wednesday through Saturday. If you are in the area this summer, I recommend visiting the gallery and enjoying her work. For photos of her other carvings, see http://www.bibi.is.

A second venue we managed to visit just before closing was Leir 7 (at Aðalgata 20, on Stykkishólmur´s main road). It is an interesting ceramics gallery and studio, staffed by local artists a few hours each day and by appointment (phone 894-0425). The center was inspired by an urban ceramics artist who brought her craft to the coastal town about twenty years ago. She shared her enthusiasm for using Icelandic clay with local artisans and this attractive work and display space opened in 2007 as a result.

Lest you imagine heavy pottery dependent on colorful glazes in traditional Icelandic patterns, let me correct your expectations. The majority of the useful products here (cups, mugs, butter savers, sushi plates with tiny sauce cups) are amazingly delicate and light, while also appearing sturdy enough for frequent use. Another intriguing offering are sets of ceramic bone segments in two sizes and colors, brown and white. These could easily rest on a coffee table, inspiring assembly by adults or creative children while they share snacks and conversation.

On previous visits to the town I became acquainted with The Museum of Water, Eldfjallasafn Volcano Museum and the Norwegian House (historic home and eider duck husbandry display), all well established institutions that merit an interested visitor´s time. The addition of a permanent ceramics gallery and seasonal art shows provide a more balanced presentation of the community´s interests and talents, and diversify the opportunities available to visitors in this interesting area.


Modest houses of Stykkishólmur

Stykkishólmur is one of my favorite places in Iceland. It is a small town perched at the end of a peninsula that protrudes into Breiðafjörður, the ‘broad fjord.’ The town of about 2000 is composed of small homes with colorful roofs and a few hotels and museums clustered around a small harbor that is protected by a high rock outcropping. The older wooden buildings reflect its history as a Danish trading port, starting in the 16th century. In contrast, an elegant modern church sits on a hill above the town, with the sea clearly visible to the east and north. The broad fjord appears as a large bay, intriguingly splattered with islands of all sizes and shapes. A few islands support summer homes and one, Flatey, has a small permanent community.
On my recent visit to the area I learned that many of the smaller islands are inhabited by sheep, in addition to seabirds. According to a tour boat deckhand, the ewes are left on the islands permanently. In late May we saw ewes and new lambs on several small grassy islets near the town. The young man also shared with us the tale of a ram that swam from island to island, playing havoc with the farmers´ plans to manage the lamb birthing schedule. The farmers generally move rams from island to island and thus control when lambs are born by transporting rams to the ewes at the humans’ convenience. The unscheduled pregnancies meant the farmers were less likely to know when to help the ewes birthing their lambs, but the ewes didn´t seem to mind.
An unexpected feature of a boat trip through the islands was a dish identified as ‛Viking Sushi’ in the tour´s brochure. This turned out to be raw scallops, scooped from the sea while we cruised and promptly offered to passengers on the half-shell. Scallops eaten this way are a bit saltier than the cooked variation, but surprisingly similar to the taste, texture and appearance of freshly cooked scallops that have been obtained from a seafood store. I would offer my apologies to the squeamish, or anyone offended by this haphazard harvesting of sea life for the entertainment of random tourists, but scallops are one of my favorite seafoods, and these were surprisingly and truly delicious in this very fresh form.

Casual bounty from the sea

Casual bounty from the sea