Iceland’s  limited production capacity shapes the reality of Icelandic designers, and ultimately, the number of Icelandic products available. Yet 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.

First up, Málmsteypan Hella is a foundry for custom objects made from aluminium and bronze. One of the few companies of its kind in Iceland, Hella covers the whole production process from the development of casting molds to prototyping, material experiments and the finishing process.

The Icelandic general public knows Málmsteypan Hella best for their pancake pan. A part of every Icelandic kitchen since the 1950s, the pan is made from aluminium. For DesignMarch 2012, Málmsteypan Hella teamed up with Kraum for a limited edition of pancake pans by five Icelandic designers. 

Florian visited the foundry and interviewed Gretar Már Þorvaldsson, the mold maker at Hella.

 

web_Hella-2

How did Málmsteypan Hella start?

My grandfather started the company in 1949. There were hardly any casting companies in Iceland at that time. The business has stayed in the family since then.

Who is your typical customer? 

We produce for different fields of the Icelandic industry like the fishing industry for example, but also for private persons. When somebody comes here and needs something, we try to figure out how we can do it. Our products are highly customized. We do everything inside the house, also the finishing of our products.

web_Hella-1

web_Hella-6

Are you using aluminium from the local smelters as a material?

Yes, of course. We are buying about 10 tons of aluminium from Nordural annually. In addition, we use a lot of recycled aluminium, for example old car wheels. The sand comes from Denmark and Sweden. It’s a special sand with clay in it.

Many locals say that Iceland doesn’t use the aluminium that is produced here, that it is all exported.

But actually, we ARE making something out of it.

web_Hella-5

What are the challenges in running a business like yours in Iceland?

Shipping things to Iceland is really expensive. We weren’t that affected by the recent financial troubles, but it seems that quite a few companies have decided to produce more of their products in Iceland instead of abroad since the crisis.

It got a bit more local, perhaps.

That’s good for us, as we are small company with a small market and just a few competitors. Hardly anybody in Iceland can do the things we do.

web_Hella-7

Are you training your staff by yourselves?

Yes, we have to. There are just few people that possess the skills and the education we do in Iceland, so it’s very important.

I am the only one in Iceland working in my specific field,

which is model-making for cast molds. So I am also working for the other foundries in making models, too. There are a few others that are educated in this field, but I am the only one actually working with it. So I am quite expensive. (laughing)

Are you currently working with designers?

Yes, we are constantly doing some projects, most recently with Gardar Eyjólfsson and heklaíslandi.

web_Hella-9

Tell me about your logo.

This is a guy that is casting – and Hella means ‘to cast’.

web-Hella-12

web_Hella-10

web_Hella-11

Stay tuned for more Icelandic producers!

Images and interview by Florian Lohse