There are so many features of this craft that are unique. Some people are specifically attracted to the intricate braiding and hand stitching that go into a bracelet or necklace. Other folks want to identify appreciation for their Scandinavian and or Saami roots by wearing tin thread jewelry to show cultural pride.
Butdid you know the materials used in this tradition also appeal to people who can’t wear regular jewelry?
We all have friends and clients who have jewelry allergies and these poor souls are pretty limited as to what they can wear even if they love silver and gold. The most common allergy is related to the nickel content in sterling silver jewelry. I’ve even had clients who react badly to wearing gold jewelry based on prescriptions they may be taking for a chronic illness or condition.
However, I’ve had people who are attracted to these bracelet styles purely on the premise that they are (for the most part) hypoallergenic!
Traditionally the Saami people of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia tanned their own reindeer skins using bark from a variety of trees.
Our black reindeer hide is organically dyed using the bark from the alder tree. Our coiled tin thread is comprised of 96% tin, 4% silver and is nickel free. Reindeer antler buttons and cord take the place of metal clasps on regular bracelets so no metal is touching the wearer’s skin.
So, if you have a friend, family member or client who always says ‘I love jewelry but I’m allergic to metal!’ introduce them to the special beauty and wearability of these handcrafted bracelets.
I have always been fascinated by how people are attracted to a particular craft or art form. For me, I developed an obsession with jewelry by the age of four and would beg my mother to let me “organize” her jewelry drawer. I would pile on as many rings, necklaces, bracelets and pins my toddler size frame could hold. Of all of the pieces in my mother’s collection her Norwegian brooches stood out the most. The fine silver filigree designs with their delicate disc shaped drops tinkled and sparkled like small waterfalls.
I was born in Decorah, Iowa, home to the Vesterheim Norwegian- American Museum where I would spend hours looking at the silver jewelry and bridal crowns. After graduating from the University of Iowa, Iowa City with a Master’s Degree in Metalworking and Jewelry I later traveled to Norway to study traditional “bunad” silver jewelry.
I attended Raulandsakademiet Folk School in Telemark where traditional crafts like rosmaling, weaving, acanthus carving, etc. are taught. It was there I first saw a Swedish woman in my class wearing several unique braided bracelets. She explained to me the technique was a craft associated with the Saami, Scandinavia’s indigenous people.
Our daily jewelry class was very intense and at the end of the day I would relax by watching her weave the pewter thread into different designs and sew the finished braids to strips of reindeer hide. Needless to say I was hooked and I am as excited about teaching this craft as I was 15 years ago when I made my first bracelet.
I can say with certainty my Norwegian heritage was the spark that influenced my interest in traditional and contemporary craft today.
What draws your interest about this particular craft?
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