- Nation: Saami
By Lizzie Davey
Per-Stefan Idivuoma is a craftsman who draws inspiration from a centuries-old history that originates in the northernmost parts of Sweden. The barren backdrop is often painted with snow flurries and herds of hardy wildlife, and it’s this connection with nature and the earth that has motivated Idivuoma and thousands of other Saami peoples for millennia. Not just a backdrop to call home, the impressive natural surroundings in this part of the world have been imbued in the Saami culture since the very beginning, where humans, animals, and the environment are all inextricably linked.
Idivuoma taps into this unfaltering connection with nature in his artwork, using natural materials like birch tree and moose and reindeer antlers as a base. These materials have long been a part of Saami crafts thanks to their abundant presence in even the coldest, most isolated regions of Scandinavia. With these natural materials, Idivuoma carves and creates incredibly detailed artefacts, including intricate knives, cups, pots, and bowls.
Like much Saami artwork that has been passed down from generation to generation, Idivuoma’s pieces are functional as well as easy on the eye. Creative Saami peoples believe that everyday objects and items can (and should) be beautiful to look at – something that’s important when you live in some of the world’s most isolated areas. But it’s not just pretty designs and functionality that drive Saami handicraft. Each piece is imbued with the traditional culture that is reflected in both the objects that are crafted and the ways in which they are made.
Styles and techniques have been passed down for years and years, connecting generations of Saami peoples to their forefathers. It’s this connection that motivates Idivuoma to produce the pieces he does – he sees what his ancestors have produced over the years and he creates his own, reflecting the current trends and issues of the Saami peoples. This is one of the main reasons the Saami culture has lasted so long – an in-built fascination with the history and traditions of the forefathers and the need to create artwork and handicraft that not only celebrates the Saami culture that once was, but also informs future Saami populations about what life is like now.
Idivuoma carves what he describes as “tools” which serve multiple purposes. Each one is carefully made to ensure it’s beautiful and smooth to touch, hold, and use. Tactility is an important part of Saami culture – objects need to be easy to handle and easy to use. Idivuoma makes these objects for his family as well as for exhibitions all over Sweden and Europe. This crossover begins to describe the relationship between functionality and beauty that Saami culture and art heavily relies on. One day, Idivuoma might make an eggshell-smooth bowl for his family to serve dinner in, whilst the next he could make the same bowl for a travelling exhibition.
Regardless of the handicraft’s end destination, Idivuoma prides himself on creating the smoothest finish. This is inspired by older Saami objects that are expertly crafted, but also by working with his own hands. “When I start to shape something out of nothing then the inspiration comes by itself,” he says, adding that he always seeks a smooth shape, whether it’s a knife, bowl, or cup he is making.
Though craftsmen are a huge part of Saami culture, it wasn’t by accident that Idivuoma fell into the trade. He grew up in Lannavaara, a small reindeer-herding village. Ever since he can remember, Idivuoma has been a part of the reindeer herding tradition, but found that as he grew older it was a difficult way to make money. He went on to a Saami handicraft school in Jokkmokk where he learnt traditional carving techniques and skills and, after two years soaking up all the practical experience he could, he ventured home and began to work on his own crafts to sell.
Since then Idivuoma’s crafts have been exhibited in numerous shows, from a Christmas display at Kiruna City Hall, to local exhibitions in Lannavaara, to travelling collaborative shows with other Saami artists.
Art and crafts are a huge part of Idivuoma’s life, but then so is the traditional ways of the Saami people and his reindeer herding background. Despite his chosen path in the arts, Idivuoma still helps with the reindeer herding in his community and he regularly goes out to fish and hike. Day to day life is based on the seasons and the harsh weather that can pummel northern Sweden. In warmer weather Idivuoma likes to be outdoors and at one with nature, just like his forefathers but, whenever he has time, he’ll be tucked away in his workshop crafting a new tool that might end up on his dinner table or at a world-class exhibition.
For Idivuoma, and for many Saami craftsmen that came before him, embodying the history and age-old traditions of Saami culture is of utmost importance. Combining creative talent and functionality is something that must be learnt and trained but, when it has been mastered, the result is very impressive – as exemplified by Idivuoma’s beautiful collection of pieces.