So-called ‘puffin shops’ in downtown Reykjavík have long been synonymous with cheesy tchotchke and concessions made to the tourism market, but two Icelandic illustrators are now giving the concept a makeover. Rán Flygenring and Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir opened Nýlunda this week, a puffin-themed popup in the East Iceland village of Borgarfjörður eystri selling nothing but a good vantage point to watch the birds in real life.
Nýlunda—which means ‘novelty’ in Icelandic and is also a play on the words ‘nýr´(new) and ‘lundi’ (puffin)—is temporarily operating from Borgarfjörður eystri’s birdwatching house.
“The puffin, in its Viking hat, has become the face of tourism,” remarked Rán in a recent radio interview. “[The phrase] puffin shop has almost become an expletive. Which is why we thought there was an opportunity right now to have the space to investigate this phenomenon. To make a totally Icelandic puffin shop in the middle of a puffin nesting ground.”
While the more common puffin shops aim to sell souvenirs, Nýlunda is no slave to capitalism, as Elín Elísabet explained to Iceland Review. “We’re in the process of developing our products but the process is what’s important. During this process, we’re researching the puffin and trying to find ways to let the puffin be a puffin on its own terms, not swallowed whole by the market. We’re expanding the concept of a puffin store.”
The birdwatching house is only two meters wide—the distance, it might be emphasized, that people are supposed to keep from one another in this time of social distancing—which means that only a few people can visit in person at a time. Indeed, in-person visits aren’t actually encouraged: “Due to the virus,” reads the sign on the outside of the shop, “it is best visited on Instagram.”
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This will affect the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled later today. “It’s just going to be the two of us,” says Elín. “But everyone’s welcome to join us online.” The pair will be sharing their puffin research and adventures on Instagram until August 16th through photos, videos and live-streams from their bird-watching cabin in east Iceland.
Nýlunda will have its official opening at 5pm GMT, which can be watched on the Nýlundabúðin Instagram page.