Welcome to Travelling Stories, an online exhibition of artist commissions responding to some particular museum collections. Over a series of blogs, we are sharing newly made work with you – you might not like every piece. That’s OK – you looked and thought about. But you might like the next one…
In 2018, the Derbyshire Schools Library Service closed. The collections had been assembled since the 1930s and needed new homes. With the help of the Esmee Fairburn Collections Fund and the Museums Association, staff at Buxton Museum have been finding their custodians.
More than 2,000 items have been allocated to nearly 100 museums, libraries and publicly accessible collections from across Britain and some items have been restituted to communities in North America. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery were pleased to add to their world cultures collections, including material from Australia, New Zealand the Pacific islands and South America.
Lockdown meant that we were unable to engage with new communities in these museums quite as we planned. Instead we offered some of the receiving museums a modest commissioning fund to work with artists to respond to the work. You will be surprised, as we were, with the worldwide reach of this engagement and the quality and thoughtfulness of the resulting pieces.
Arctic and Sami material
For the indigenous peoples of the frozen areas of the North, utilising material around them, and ensuring that nothing is wasted, is a matter of life and death in this harsh environment.
For the Inuit, the animals of the oceans have been their source of food, clothing, shelter, tools and objects of spiritual significance; indeed the phrase by one Inuit hunter “The sea is our garden” sums up the importance of this environment. Bone and ivory have been worked into animals that play an important role in their everyday life, as well as creatures of the otherworld, such as the Tupilak. These carvings reveal cultural complexity and sophistication, as well as a necessity to survive against the odds.
For the Sami, the indigenous people of Northern Europe, reindeer play a central role to their lives. Again, nothing is wasted and their lives are dictated by the seasonal migration of the animals. A Sami’s wealth is measured by how many reindeer they own, and it is of the utmost importance to respect the animals and treat them well. To mistreat these animals would bring shame on an individual, and often the displeasure of the gods.
Central to the beliefs of both the Inuit and the Sami was the shaman and an animistic world view. Over the centuries, this was steadily eroded by Western values and ideologies, but in the emergence of renewed cultural identity and pride, these beliefs are forming the central pillar of their worlds once again.
Ingrid Katarina Karlsson I. The Circumpolar North mixed media
Ingrid Katarina Karlsson II. The Eight Seasons mixed media
Ingrid Katarina Karlsson III. Children of the Sun mixed media
To a narrative mixed media artist, telling the stories of objects appeals, and from my first visit to Buxton Museum in November 2020, a small collection of Sámi spoons called out to me. These are hand carved from antler in the traditional way by the Sámi, nomadic reindeer herders living for centuries in the most northern area of Europe. Named Sápmi, this area covers parts of arctic Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. I am Swedish and grew up in the coastal part of Sápmi, amongst often stereotypical views of ‘The Lapps’, whose lifestyle became threatened by colonisation, state intervention and climate change. The ancient Sámi calendar has eight seasons following the needs of the reindeer herds. Like the Inuit, the Sámi negotiated with climate, weather, nature and animals for survival. Their reciprocal relationship with nature reflects their adaptability as well as innovative technical skills in using resources like antler horn, skin, bone, fur and wood for clothing, protection, tools and equipment.
The history and life cycle of the Sámi is best described as a continuous circle without a beginning or an end, which I have attempted to visualise in a triptych looking at the circumpolar north, the calendar and the Sápmi flag.
Ingrid began her journey as an artist by drawing all over her father’s meeting agendas and business papers as a child! As long as she can remember she has practised art in some form, from stitching to photography; painting in a range of media from oils to gouache and acrylics; working in graphic design and illustration.
Now, inspired by storytelling, her work combines the magical scenery and ever-changing seasonal colours of the beautiful Peak District where she lives with inspiration from her Swedish roots, enhanced by regular visits back home. As a versatile mixed media artist, she believes art should tell a meaningful story to the beholder. Her narrative style of work aims encapsulate personal memories and experiences, illustrated in a way that can be interpreted individually by the viewer. Favoured techniques include collage, mono-printing and crystalline watercolour enhancing the work with a luminous quality. She builds three-dimensional visual representation in her work with machine stitched for mark making and texture,
“My lifelong love of words has always influenced the way I work, hence the narrative element; quotes and lines of words are often incorporated into the piece of art work. Words can inspire the concept from the idea stage through to finish.”
A member of PEAK VISION ARTS, Ingrid is also a member of the prestigious Peak District Artisans exhibiting at the award-winning annual Great Dome Art Fair, part of the Buxton Festival Fringe.