Market Micro: Tipping the Scales
Karen D. Singh, Alexia Brue, Sheila Kim-Jamet, and Mark McMenamin -- Interior Design, 10/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
manufacturer Arndís Jóhannsdóttir.
product Fish leather.
standout Sturdy, dense, remarkably thin, and waterproof, aquatic hides can be spotted, scaly, or slightly iridescent.
The good thing about living on a sparsely populated island just south of the Arctic Circle is you rarely have to deal with Europe's scuttlebutts. Somewhat problematic, however, are those rare moments—some recent—when you're directly affected by the vicissitudes of the larger market.
Very briefly after WWII, Iceland found itself cutoff from Europe's already scarce supply of raw materials. Since plastics had not yet become a common production material, fish skin was tanned and used in lieu of traditional cow or horse hides. Nearly 40 years later, Reykjavik-based saddle smith Arndís Jóhannsdóttir unearthed some old fish leather in local cellars, and for nearly a decade, she used the skins. Eventually, however, the material became so well received that a fish tannery, shuttered for some 50 years, reopened.
While the tanning process remains a guarded secret, the resulting material is strong, pliable, and unique in texture and pattern. It's used most widely for shoes, purses, bowls, and wall coverings, but Jóhannsdóttir has a new application: tiles made from catfish. 354-8984925; kirs.is. circle 413