Þórhallur Árnason

The dear reindeer

The reindeer is a beautiful looking creature and it moves in a graceful way, when they run in groups it seems as if watching at a slow motion fairytale but the fact is that they cover great areas of land and they do it fast. Despite their destructive, and at times self destructive, behavior with sheep fences, forested areas and private gardens, we can all agree that the reindeer is an important feature for the image of East Iceland. And who doesn’t like waking up to a reindeer in the garden, even though it might mean a damaged tree or two?

Organic sculptures

The reindeer is rich of resources and it offers many products such as soft leather, grandiose antlers and bone, some of those which are being utilised in East Iceland and others which have not been employed. Perhaps, because they are products which need to be hunted for. The antler crowns fall off the animals every year, carefully organized by nature the male and the female lose their antlers at a separate time of the year. Working with reindeer antlers therefore does not require the animal to be killed, but in return it requires the artisans to stroll the mountains searching for fallen antlers.

This is precisely how Mr. Þórhallur Árnason started working with reindeer antlers. His work requires him to spend most of his summer in the highlands of Iceland and this is where he finds much of the material he works from. In autumn, after the hunting season, Mr. Þórhallur returns to a stack of antlers from the mountain as well as other material, such as legs and hoofs, which he collects from locals and hunters. When winter kicks in he produces a variety of products out of this precious material.

It all started when I found a piece of antler that looked and functioned like a back scratcher, ready made by the reindeer itself. After mending it a little it became a useful object and I started developing back scratchers and other objects from reindeer products.

Initially the scratchers were made of two pieces of horn, handle and scratcher, attached one on each end of a copper pole. After attending a course in product development focusing on East Iceland materials Mr. Þórhallur swapped the copper out for local larch which he has much experience handling. The final form which the objects take is always lead by the organic shapes of the material itself. The back scratchers are a good example of this, each of which have a unique shape and perform the function slightly differently from the other. Þórhallur also makes grand candle holders of a whole horn which he selects carefully in order to mend it as little as possible. He approaches the larch in much similar way to the reindeer material, allowing the natural features and form of the material to come forth and create the final form.

Mr. Þórhallur makes a variety of objects and is constantly developing new ones. His collection includes scratchers, shoe horns, key rings, wall hooks, sculptures and recently he started creating jewelry out of reindeer hoofs. Þórhallur has also made coiling needles out of reindeer leg bones, those which are used by Droplaug hið Fljótsdælzka handverksfélag for needle coiling a lost mitten.


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