Wednesday, August 31

Way way back in Lapland

Oh the memories! Digging through all these photos of the old objects of creation, brings back alot of them. I studied from '99 - '03 in Inari in The Sámi education institute, and I wanted to share some of the gems that I made during that period. The title I now possess is Artesan of Sámi handicrafts, and it took a good three years to become one.
I for one wasn't too enthusiastic about the education to begin with, but was rather dreaming of becoming an music instrument builder. With the handicraft education I merely wanted to learn basic craft skills, since I had none. That's right, none. I had only been drawing before crafting, exploring different techniques.
The first year was pretty boring, with a minimal focus on actual crafting. I felt fed up, since I didn't even have any favourite material nor real inspiration to focus on. During the second year, nonetheless, everything changed: I discovered the possibility of sculpting the reindeer antlers, and a completely new dimention opened. I could actually create small objects that were sculptures! In a frenzied hurry, I started making necklaces for friends and as gifts. Slowly I moved to bigger projects, and this all climaxed in my diploma screening: I had made a board game with 25 individually shaped small characters as playing pieces. Each character took about 6-14 hours of work and designing.
So the main materials for Sámi handicrafts are all natural, reindeer leather/fur, reindeer bone/antlers, wood and special woods. We even made our tools by learning the art of blacksmithery.

Let's take a look:
Left: A kiela which is used in the lasso of Sámi people, called as suopunki in finnish. I really grew fond of the bear design and made many variations of it in different objects.
Right: A traditional wooden cup kuksa which is made from a single piece of a wood burl. It was made by my teacher and master Ilmari Laiti. There's a story behind it: He had the cup almost ready, and he came to me saying: "Otso, you think yourself clever when it comes to design, so draw me how this antler piece should look on the handle", and gave the cup to me. So I drew a curvy line that really was a joke on my behalf. The next day he came with a ready inlaid antler on the handle, exactly like I had drawn, and said: "So now you can finish the decorations". :D Ok... I sat the whole weekend in my dormitory room with my pencil and tools, and this was what came of it :) I'm very pleased with the celtic themed swan carving as it's just perfect for the shape. Still on my top 10 of all the handicrafts I've done.

Left: A close up on the previously mentioned kuksa project.
Right: A matchbox...Well, more like a matchtube :) One of the latest works,  an order received from a friend as an anniversary gift for his wife. There's an hindu god Ganesh sitting in meditation on the lid. Love it <3 The engraving on the bottom part is also my own design.

The matchtube opened with a scratching surface glued to an antler piece inside it.

My diploma screening subjects: 16 of the 25 character pieces, each of them about 4 cm tall. Can you see my love for the detail? ;)

A close up on the finnish group of four mythological characters: (from the left) Kouko the ancestral bear, Väinämöinen the celestial hero of the finnish national epoch Kalevala, Joukahainen the young Sámi warrior also from Kalevala and Kokko an celestial eagle aiding in the creation of the world.

The irish mythological gang: (from the left) Aengus god of youth and love disguised here as an old man, Lug the deity of light holding a sword, Lia Fáil the coronation stone and Ethaun the fair maiden playing a harp. I used 0,5mm thick silver wire for her harp's strings and during the drilling of the middle string the drill broke so I couldn't attach it.

Oh, look at that skinny young hippie! :D It was the highlight of my studies, as at the end of my last year in Inari I was selected to be one of ten finalists in Paulig's tahto & taito (translates: will & skill) crafts competition! There were about 300 participants from all over the country, so this was a huge honor! The judges were long line professionals and teachers from the design/prod. field. Paulig is an old finnish coffee brand that's been adding focus on craftsmen and women for decades in their advertisements. Luckily I was smart enough to take a copy of their web pages, because they're non existant now :)
Here's a translation of the part "The judges arguments":
In this jewellery-like, tradition styled object one can clearly see the precision of craft
and the will for details in the ornamentation. The box was held as an perfect example
of the vanishing, detail respecting tradition which invokes stories with it's history.
This object that represents "great craftmanship" is decorative carving/sculpting
at it's finest.

And here's the box :) Funnily, I was the only one who hadn't given it any fancy name, so all around in the magazines and internet it read: "wooden box". :) I still think that's funny. What's it for? See the next pic.

It's a small box to keep a chanter reed (the long one in the middle) for my irish bagpipe (Uilleann pipes). There's also a compartment for guitar picks (right side) and another for swedish styled bagpipe reeds. Yup, that's right: the swedish have their own ;) The shell is from willow burl, and the rest are just engraved decorations from reindeer antler.
A detail of a decoration that I designed, though it's heavily styled after celtic ornamentation.
Whoa! That took some time :) There's lots and lots of pictures and stuff I've made through the years, and like I said before I just wanted to show you all some gems :)

Ah näitä muistoja! Ja niitä riitti kun kävin läpi tuotoksiani Inarin saamelaisalueen koulutuskeskuksen ajoilta '99 - '03. Poimin niistä parhaimpia; saamelaisen lasson osa kiela, mestarini Ilmari Laitin tekemä kuksa johon hän yhytti minut tekemään kaikki koristeet, hääpäivälahjaksi tilattu tulitikkuputkilo (perinteinen esine, muttei design :), päättötyönäin tekemän lautapelin käsinveistettyjä hahmoja sekä kermavaahtona vuoden 2003 Pauligin Tahto & Taito kisassa ollut puurasia joka vei minut kymmenen finalistin joukkoon.
Kyseessä on siis perinteiseen saamelaiseen käsityöhön (sámi duodji) pohjautuvaa ei-niin-perinteistä taidekäsityö esineistöä joista olen kaikki omin kätösin suunnitellut ja tehnyt. Noh, niin, paitsi sen kuksan mikä tulikin jo aikaisemmin mainittua.


  1. Omg I fell in love with the bear design you made for the kiela! You have to make something new with it, it's awesome! I honestly think it has the makings of a national classic or some such thing, it is so beautiful and delicate and.. <3 You continue making me proud. :)

  2. Thank you Saana <3 You pamper me with your sweet words <3 I too have a soft spot for that teddy :)

  3. The reed/pick case is wonderful and fun...seems like something I'd do..spend countless hours on creating a piece of art for a simple reed case! Lovely work on everything!
    David from