Iceland’s limited production capacity shapes the reality of Icelandic designers, and ultimately, the number of Icelandic products available. But there is a handful of fantastic companies that produce anything from Icelandic woolen sweaters to pancake pans and high tech prosthetics. Our fantastic intern Florian Lohse took a tour around some of the most interesting local producers.
Founded in 1930 and thereby one of the oldest industrial companies in Iceland, Burstagerdin, produces custom handmade brushes.
Florian visited the factory and talked to Frederick Hróbjartsson, who manages the company.
When was Burstagerdin established?
My father started the company in 1930.
The economy in Iceland at that time was terrible. Everything was so restricted!
You had to get permission for importing materials for production, so we were often short on materials. And it was the same for money, as it was very hard to get a loan at that time. I still remember waiting for the bank director when I was 16 years old, to ask him for some money for our company (laughs).
We once needed some material for custom brushes, to be used exclusively by the fishing factories. When our first material request got denied, I wrote them a letter, saying the factories would have to stop their salting processes, if they would not get our brushes soon. I got the approval the very same day!
Things started to improve in the 1960s.
What do you do today?
Our core business always was the production of custom brushes by hand.
We produce them for the fishing industry, for example, that needs very specific brushes. When they pull in their nets on the trawlers, the ropes run through brushes made by us.
We also produce brushes and brooms for the aluminium smelters. They have to be very resistant to high temperatures. We use natural materials for these, mostly horse hair. It’s much more high-temperature-stable than the synthetic options.
We started to import other cleaning equipment from abroad. Later even machinery for street cleaning, especially for airports. Actually, the supply of the Icelandic airports is now our largest business, measured by volume.
How are you managing the transfer of your knowledge to younger generations in you company?
That’s an important question. Our main brush maker is very skilled, an absolute expert in his field. He is 73 years old now and we are searching for a new trainee, though we hope he will stay with us for a long time. Actually, at 109 years of age, his mother was once the oldest person in Iceland!
Images by Florian Lohse