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Erika Honig Brings the Art of Traditional Nordic Jewelry to Mill Valley Fall Arts Fest

Originally from the rugged and beautiful landscape of northern Sweden, Erika Honig moved to Mill Valley in 1999 and brought the authentic craft of Nordic jewelry making with her.

After moving to San Francisco from Sweden with her husband, Erika Honig fell in love with the landscape of the 94941 after taking a bike trip in Mill Valley. She splits her time between her native homeland above the Arctic Circle and Mill Valley, where she continues to hone her unique style of jewerly making based on ancient traditional Swedish hand craft. She'll be showing her work at the , set for this weekend, Sept. 15-16, in , from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Mill Valley Patch: Can you tell me a little about the place where you grew up?
Erika Honig: I grew up in northern Sweden, about 400 miles north of Stockholm. The area is still considered the middle part of northern Sweden, it's not all the way up there. I was born and lived there until I was about seven, then we moved close to the Norwegian border. My grandfather was part Saami (a semi-nomadic tribal group also known as Lapplanders) and had a lot of stories, arts and crafts to share. He was a woodworker himself as a hobby and he would show me some little things that he remembered from his childhood. He never spoke the Saami language, but I did get to experience being part of that culture through him in northern Sweden.

MVP: How did you learn the technique you use today?
EH: There was woman that I worked with at a summer job who was making the type of bracelet. I took weekend classes, got some more instruction, and from there I’ve just been making bracelets and trying to create my own designs while still using the authentic materials I get from Sweden. I use reindeer hide and antlers that I get from herders in the north. It's very common in northern Sweden and has gotten very popular there. It's getting more poplular in the United States as well. Everyone creates their own style, I use mostly original brown and black colors. 

MVP: Your handcraft is pretty unique. How would you explain the techniques you use to someone familiar with North American arts and crafts?
EH: When I make patterns, it’s a combination of braiding and embroidery. I embroider patterns with a metal coil and then wrap it into different designs and stich it onto a hide by hand. It's very intricate sewing and embroidery work. It’s braiding too. I sometimes use a six strand braid, like you would braid hair, but with a coil and then sew it on the hide.

MVP:  Do you smuggle reindeer hides through customs?
EH: That's tricky. I visit certain outdoor markets in northern Sweden when I travel there each summer to scope out new materials. Otherwise I call or email the reindeer suppliers, I've been working with the same people for 17 years. One supplies pewter coil, others the antlers and others the hide. It's a hassle to bring through customs, in the beginning it was expensive to have it shipped. Now it's way cheaper.

MVP: How do people ususually react to the jewelry you make?
EH: I think people who have never seen the work before can see it's from somewhere else, it’s a very Nordic kind of style. The materials are different than what you normally see in jewely.

MVP: Do you incorporate ideas from other artists or stick to traditional styles exclusively?
EH: I think I get inspired and get ideas from what I see when I'm out and about. It's always fun to get new ideas and as an artist, that’s how you get ideas. You get inspiration when you see something that might work and then make it in your own way. I try to keep designs a little more in-fashion, in terms of color and patterns. I don’t normally do traditional only but I try to stick with that as much as possible. I don't want to make things that people see everywhere, or make things that resemble what's currently selling.

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Rebecca Chapman September 13, 2012 at 06:06 PM
gorgeous!!! i wasn't planning on going to the festival this year, but maybe now i will...

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