TRADITIONAL WORK (Draktsølv)

Parallel to my contemporary work has been my commitment to a traditional craft. As an undergraduate I became intensely interested in ethnographic and European folk jewelry: the scale of it, the strangeness of it, its lack of restraint. It defied everything I had learned in art school, in terms of design and aesthetics, and this enthralled me. Following my BFA, I trained as an apprentice to a master silversmith in Norway, one of the few places in Europe that still has a living, unbroken folk jewelry tradition. The aesthetic and technical knowledge, as well as the folklore, has been passed from master to apprentice since the medieval period. This tradition is not about producing historical replicas, but is akin to learning a complex, visual language, where one must become fluent in order to produce new iterations. Working within the boundaries of this language, one must not only understand the grammar and syntax in order to communicate, but also acquire a sufficient vocabulary in order to fully express oneself in an idiosyncratic way. One might consider this framework as limiting, but in reality, it is actually de-limiting, when one considers the depth and breadth of expression that is possible within any language. It is, however, like many traditions around the world, a fragile ecosystem, which is why many are protected by UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Knowledge. The Trump administration has recently announced its intention to withdraw membership and support from UNESCO. Formally and aesthetically, this traditional work is the polar opposite of my contemporary work, but conceptually they operate in much the same way. Both rely on a participatory mode of making and activation, and both work from the premise that, in its deepest sense, ornament is about a completion and extension of self, with a magical and metaphysical dimension, as well as instrumental.