So, why the fascination with all things Norse?
Over a thousand years ago, people from the most westerly Norse settlements came exploring to Newfoundland and Labrador. The old sagas spoke of these voyages, but it wasn't until the 1960s that archaeological evidence supporting their claims was discovered in L'Anse Aux Meadows .
My interest in Norse history and culture began in my childhood when I first saw drawings of Norse longships. I was fascinated with their dragon-headed boats and marveled that people traveled from so far away in open ships to explore the unknown.
In the 1990s, I became interested in nordic runes, the Elder Futhark in particular. I carved my own set and taught myself the basics using Leaves of Yggdrasil by Freya Aswynn. This gave me new insight into their mythology and how they viewed their world.
Later I spent five years in northern Newfoundland near L'Anse Aux Meadows. I walked the same beaches and fields that they did 1000 years before. I wrote a one-woman play about Freydis Eriksdottir and for several years performed as part of dinner theatre at the Norseman Restaurant and Gallery in L'Anse Aux Meadows.
I also had the opportunity to be present in the summer of 2000 for the anniversary celebrations and witnessed the first flotilla of long ships to arrive in that harbor in 1000 years. I also met a direct descendant of Leif Eriksson, Gunnar Marrel Eggertson, Captain of the Islendingur (pictured in the white t-shirt above) which sailed from Iceland to Newfoundland that summer.
When I started making jewelry, I began by painting images from Norse history onto disks of caribou antler. I was interested in working with metal, but was unsure how to begin. Then I learned about Viking wire knitting. Having been an avid knitter for years, I felt this would be a good place for me to start, but life got in the way and it would be 15 years later before I picked up my first piece of wire.
When I finally did, I realized I had become part of a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. I was quite proud when I designed a particular pendant, feeling it to be one of the more "original" things I've ever made. Then I saw a picture of a piece of jewelry that had been unearthed in Birka, Sweden. While the execution of the piece was different, the concept was strikingly similar. That was a humbling and exhilarating moment for me.
While I do other styles of wire knitting, Viking wire knitting will always be at the heart of what I do. I like to think that by branching out into other wire techniques, I am adapting and learning, much as Norse explorers would have done as they traveled the world and incorporated their new experiences into their day to day lives.
The Purple Raven Boutique is not just my creative outlet, but also my attempt to honor the spirit of a people who came to this place over a millennium ago.