Musings on Sámi Handcraft and Life
I think in every person’s life, there will always be that one person who inspired you to be where you are today.
For me, that person was my grandfather, Algot. I remember him sitting at the table with his sturdy muscular frame, greying wavy hair, and hard working hands that were always busy taking care of the house or at work in his woodshop creating beautiful things. I followed him around like a shadow, watching him carefully and repeatedly asking him what he was doing.
My grandfather embodied strength. He grew up in a time where it was frowned upon to be indigenous. His parents' families were forced to move by the Swedish (and Norwegian) state, far away from the place they called home and the areas they were familiar with. They had to pack up, leave everything by foot, and start new.
But they were survivors, harnessing strength and peace in nature. My grandfather was the person who taught me how to love and survive in the wilderness. And in the arctic cold! He showed me how to make a fire, how to catch and gut a fish using a sharp knife, what berries were safe to pick and eat, and how to drive a snowmobile through the harsh winter weather conditions. My grandfather grew up truly loving the kind of life that they had in Juoksuvaara, far away in the forest alongside the reindeer and old forest trees. It sparked adventure and courage in my own heart.
Becoming A Sámi Handcrafter
When I first saw the skills of sámi handcraft, I was amazed. How could they braid with that many metal threads? How could they make the braids float like that on top of the reindeer hide? My uncle’s wife Lisbeth was so good at it. I studied her in detail and tried to figure out how she did it. I tried to make some for myself, but it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t until 2015 that I started to refine my own braiding and sewing skills with help and advice from Lisbeth, driven by the intention of maybe sharing it with the world.
Watching my grandfather create useful beauty as a child, like engraved wood and reindeer bone knives, or guksi cups (made from birch burls and bones), is what inspired me to become the creator and maker I am today. Sustainability is crucial to my designs, as well as the hard work and determination it takes to build a successful business and do my part in keeping our handcraft alive. I’m creating from a place of deep passion and love, which I hope the wearers of my jewelry can feel when they receive one of my pieces.
When I started this craft business in early 2016, I dedicated it to my grandfather and our ancestors before us. I’m truly inspired by the women of Sámi heritage too; the ones who kept going, survived, were independent, never complained, and weren’t afraid of hard work - just like my mother.
When wearing a piece of my jewelry, I hope you feel the beauty of the raw materials and reconnect with nature. I hope you feel empowered with the strength and fire of the Sámi people who fought to survive (and are still fighting), and proud to celebrate our differences and culture.
What is Sámi Handcraft Jewelry?
My jewelry is traditional Sámi handcraft: hand-spun silver and pewter thread woven on a wristband of reindeer leather into patterns that could bring to mind ancient Celts and Norse warriors. The buttons are hand carved from shed reindeer antlers and the leather was originally stitched with a piece of reindeer ligament. The craft is infused with the no trace, zero waste ethos of the Sámi.
It’s my mission to fuse old sami traditions with contemporary design. To me, sámi bracelets are an amazing way for the modern man and woman to celebrate Sámi culture in their everyday life. This style of traditional and timeless jewelry pairs beautifully with today’s style, and it is a great symbol of Sámi culture.
Before I go… I’d love to know. Who inspired you to be where you are today?