Sunday, April 28, 2013

ROVANIEMI.......HORNWORK, Traditional Lappish Crafts.

Another 2 week roundup....

Yes, two weeks since the last post, the regular Sunday post is not so regular these days. There are a few reasons for that, internet availability being one and post and article content being another. I've been gravitating toward posting less frequently but posting more content in my articles.
The weekly Sunday post is actually quite a large amount of work, as I put a lot of time into each article and it takes up over half of my week. It may not seem like it, but it does. So partly from lack of internet availability and partly out of trying to put together a more interesting and larger post or article I'm trying this 'every other week' post schedule out for a bit. Each article will have more content in it, maybe 2 articles in one post, which is how I prefer to write really.
Thoughts and feedback are welcomed in the comments section at the end of this post.

The 2013 Wherethehellismurph sticker sets are now on sale.
Each decal set contains 3 stickers. 
1 large 2013 sticker, 1 small 2013 sticker and while supplies last, 1 small 2012 sticker, mailed right to your door. 
I could only afford to get a limited number of the 2013 decals made, 250 to be exact, and I'm already down to 200 sets left, so don't wait too long to buy them. Besides, I need the money to cover my printing and artwork costs. 
The rest will go to help with fuel bills so I can keep traveling to get great photos to put up here on
Your support of my efforts here on the blog that you read are important to me. I know that $14 + shipping may seem like a lot for a few stickers, but they're my stickers that I got made for my travels and mail to you from whichever country I happen to be in at the time. It's one of the few ways I have of trying to support my travels. 
So when you buy a sticker set from me, you really do help me stay afloat and help show your support and appreciation of my photography and articles here on the blog. 

PS, if you need to order more than 1 set, please email me and I will work out a multiple set discount for you.

Thank you all in advance.

Ounasjoki Ice Road. Rovaniemi, Finland.

As I was crossing over the Ounas river ice road on the way to Ari and Irene Kangasniemi at Hornwork, I stopped in the moddle of the frozen river, probably for the last time, to take in the view and the snow clouds in the distance.
One of the last times I'll be able to ride the ice road I guess, since the ice over the Ounas river is already melting fast. Only a few weeks ago there was snow on the ground, it was still in the -5° range and just a hint of Spring. This onset of warm weather has come on really quickly, most of it in the last two weeks. I don't really like it that much, especially this slushy dirty stuff thats all over the roads. Makes a mess of things. All of the nice white snowbanks piled up on the sides of the road only a few weeks ago have now been turned into a disgusting looking dirty black and brown color. Gross.  Nasty stuff. I want my white fluffy snow back please. I guess I'll just have to wait until next October or November, depending on where I am.

Ari and Irene (Irene shares the same name as my Mum) Kangasniemi live and have their workshop, Hornwork, about 12 kilometers outside of Rovaniemi right alongside the Ounasjoki or Ounas river. 
It's just a short drive from Karu MC here in Rovaniemi to reach them, if you happen to decide to come to Rovaniemi that is.

Irene and Ari Kangasniemi.

Meeting people, local people, wherever I go is what this trip, my whole journey, seems to be all about. They shape my life, my travels, my destinations, in so many ways. I am finding myself lately planning (and I never plan) on where to go based on interesting encounters I have already had or may possibly have.
Ari and Irene are two wonderful and talented people and I've been out to their house and workshop to visit them a number of times already.
I was first brought there by Heikki, the Karu MC president. I've always been interested in the old ways, the traditional crafts people, and up here in northern Finland, the home of the Sami people, I wanted to get a few traditional handcrafted items, not the ones they sell in the tourist stores. And as soon as I walked in to Ari and Irene's home and workshop, I knew I was in the right place. You could feel it in the air.
There were good spirits there.

Ari is a self taught, and mainly uses reindeer antler as working material.
Back in the 60's, making handicrafts was not a profession, but a way of life, an integral part of Lappish life, where tools were made out of necessity and also made by hand. 
Irene was taken on as an apprentice with bone work master Veikko Piipponen in Rovaniemi in 1981, and continues on the old traditional ways with her husband Ari. Irene's grandparents were reindeer owners, and apparently, Irene's grandfather was famous for castrating reindeer with his teeth. Ok.

These pieces Irene show at crafts shows and fairs all around Finland and Sweden.

A beautiful Burlwood Shaman drum.

Traditional Sami Shaman drums.

Traditionally, the Sami pre-Christian religion was a belief that all life was dualistic, spiritually and physically, and that people should live in harmony in their lives without disturbing nature. Wonderful concept, isn't it?. Words and thoughts to live by.
So, alongside the material world, there was the spiritual world, saivo, where everything was more whole than in the material world (which is quite possible) and where the dead continued on their lives.
There were shamans, noaidi, that could communicate with the spirit world and practice healing. In order to do this the shaman had to get into a trance, which was done with the help of the drum and the yoik, the traditional sami form of song. Interestingly, most of the sami shaman drums that ever existed were burnt in the late 17th century, since Christianity was the preferred belief then.
The painted symbols on the drums are a representation of the "known world" and life of the Lapps. Each drum tells it's own story, and the drums are usually divided into three or five fields. The upper fields correspond to the spirit world, the lowest one to the underworld.

One of the things I had wanted to get myself since I saw one was a traditional Kuksa, a wooden drinking cup made from hand carved birch burl. What's a burl you ask?.

Big burl...

...little burl.

A Burl is basically a cancerous growth on trees, usually caused by some sort of stress, and Burls are highly prized amoung woodworkers for their rarity and beauty.
That's what a traditional Kuksa is made from, a burl. Ari starts with what you see in the picture above, and by the time he's finished, it's a beautiful Kuksa.

Once the wood is cut into the rough shape of a Kuksa, it's dried for a period of months in between the heating ducts in the ceiling of Ari's workshop. This drying process makes sure the finished Kuksa doesn't crack.

I came to realize not only the beauty of a Kuksa, but also how practical they are when I first rode up through Sweden last October and the temperatures dipped down to -10 or so. I had to take my water container inside the tent at night, otherwise it would freeze. Next morning when I was having coffee, the ceramic coffee cup I had was so cold, my coffee cooled down in less than a minute. By the time I got to Alta in Norway I had seen a Kuksa, but still only thought of them as interesting wooden cups. Then one week, when camped out in Snowbrick here in Finland, Jukka, the owner, made some hot Glögi and served it to me in a Kuksa, and then I realized just why they are so useful. Since they're made of wood, their insulating properties are much better than cermaic or porcelain, which stops them from freezing and enables hot drinks to stay hotter longer in extreme cold. Perfect. The ultimate camping mug which will last you a lifetime. So while in Finland and Sami country I wanted to get myself my very own Kuksa.

And Ari is a wonderful craftsman. 

Since the number 17 is such an important number in my life, Ari incorporated this into the Kuksa by carving out 17 stars in the reindeer antler handle, right where it meets the cup.

Irene also decorated the reindeer antler handle with my name and some traditional Lappish designs.

The "parts" shed.

Here Irene explains to me how every part of the reindeer is used, absolutely nothing goes to waste or is thrown out. The tendons in the lower leg and foot are used.... stitch the drum skin onto the burlwood shell.

While we were out in the storage shed that Ari and Irene keep and dry the reindeer parts, I saw a pile of moose antlers. So I asked Irene does she have a small set, I had always wanted to give my outfit that "Norseman" look.

So she grabbed a set, took them out to the bike, and then gave them to me as a gift.

Kiitos Irene, and Ari too.

I've been out to Hornwork a number of times since, and each time I am treated to such warm and wonderful hospitality and generousity by both Ari and Irene.
My neck wallet that I used to keep my passport and money in was a cheap plastic one that I got from a friend in Sweden last year, and was starting to disintegrate. So I asked Irene would it be possible for her to make me something similar. Irene went over to the cabinet and came back with a beautiful  pouch or wallet made of reindeer skin that was exactly what I was looking for.
"A gift for you" she said.

And then Irene wrote a little message on the back to remind me of the Kangasniemi's and Rovaniemi, Finland.

Another 'gift' from Irene was this lovely reindeer skin pouch.....

...which was preceded by the gift of the Standard stove pictured above, given to me by Timo Happonen.

Timo, you may remember, is the owner of the 1934 Harley Davidson sidecar outfit I photographed a few weeks back

Timo is a craftsman.
A goldsmith by trade, Timo now teaches fine metalworking at Lapin ammattiopisto, a Vocational school here in Rovaniemi.
Just how much of a craftsman Timo is can be seen on his website, A much more in depth feature of Timo and some of his work is upcoming here on my blog, as there's too much to Timo and his bikes and craft than I can fit in this post. Besides, he deserves his own article, he's that good and that interesting. But for now, back to the stove he gave me.

From the little research I've done, near as I can tell it's a Høvik Verk Standard #43 camping stove, made in Norway. 
Timo and I were talking stoves one day and I was explaining about the 2 MSR stoves I carry with me on my outfit.
One, the MSR Dragonfly, is my main stove for daily use. The other, the MSR XGK, I have as a back-up and also as an engine warmer for the bike in Winter when temperatures get below -15°C. So in the course of conversation, Timo mentioned he had an old camp stove somewhere, "I'll dig it out" he said. "I'm not sure if it works or not, but you can have it, I never use it".
So Timo brought the stove to his school with him one day, cleaned it up by sand blasting it and rinsed out the old stinky 10 or 20 yr old fuel in it and gave it to me. He said he had it on a table in a garage sale many years ago and had a price of €8 on it and nobody wanted it, so it was waiting for me to come along.
Well, with the help of Timo's brother Matti we were able to get the old Standard stove fired up.

So when I was over at Ari and Irene's, I brought the Standard stove in to show them. I just thought they might like to see it. I was like a little kid with my new toy. 

The stove seems to be missing the lid, but that's a project that I'm going to see if I can, with Timo's help, make myself.

When Irene saw the stove she looked over in the corner by her cabinet, reached down and took out this reindeer skin pouch, took the stove and put it inside the pouch. Perfect fit, like a glove. Like it was made for it. Another wonderful gift from the Kangasniemi's.

Meanwhile, back here in Rovaniemi the days are starting to stretch out, soon to be a 24 hour day or Land of the Midnight Sun.
And since all of my travel plans have pretty much not gone according to plan, I'm taking the down time here in Karu MC and Rovaniemi and using it to catch up on very much needed photo and "bit's 'n bob's" organization. Not my strong point, organization, but I try.
I was supposed to be going to Italy to meet John Nikas of DriveAwayCancer, but that now looks like it's gone awry too. John still has no concrete news of Grace, the 1953 Austin Healy, and the progress with her new engine, so a 3600 km and 6 country ride down to Brescia in Italy is not a trip I want to do as a last minute thing. I just don't want to blow through 6 countries and all they have to offer in such a short amount of time. 
We'll see, you never know what will happen, which is why I try not to make plans anymore. 
It also gives me time to start to "plan" my trip to Russia and specifically Winter. Thats a trip that needs to be planned, mainly because of the Russian visa. And also because of how severe the Siberian winters are. Reaching temperatures of -50°C and below is not something I relish, notwithstanding the fact that my outfit and motorcycle engine just won't be able to function in those temperatures. So I have to try to figure out just how and when to reach there in order for me and my outfit to be able to function reasonably well.
And I'll need to raise some sponsorship and extra financing, which is where my sticker and merchandise sales come in. It's why merchandise sales will take on a much more important role in the coming year, and why your continued support is important to me.

Back at Karu MC, my 'temporary' home, the snow is but a distant memory, all gone now save for a few piles on the embankment. Club members and their bikes are emerging from the long cold winter and looking forward to actually riding their two-wheeled steeds for a change. And while it's warm and the temperature is above freezing.


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Canajun said...

Amazing craftsmanship and great people. Thanks for sharing.

Charlie6 said...

That's good stuff Murph! The stuff about the artisans, it had "National Geographic" quality pictures! Very nice.


Anonymous said...

I love this, you've got yourself a new fan.

Anonymous said...

Hey Murph. Stupid question but do you think (since youre still kind of close) you will at any time be in Haparanda or Tornio?

IRISH Murph said...

Hi Cajun,

Yes, they were both very talented, and hospitable too...


IRISH Murph said...


Thanks for the compliment, but they weren't that good, otherwise I'd be on their payroll !!..


IRISH Murph said...

Good to have you along anon,

Thanks for stopping by,


IRISH Murph said...

Hey Pirita,

I don't make plans, so I really don't know. I may be. Any particular reason you ask?.


Connor M said...

Hi Murph, saw your video on Motortrend and must say that you piqued my interest!
Finland is an extremely beautiful place, and definitely somewhere I'd like to visit some day. Love the pictures you've taken, really captured the essence of the people!

Very much looking forward to reading your further travels, regards from Australia! :)

Emelie Lundgren said...

Personally, I'm completely on board with the concept of fewer post more content. Or, possibly, a "life-sign", a teaser if you wish every now and again during the week and the full blown post every other Sunday?
Loving this post, speaking of which. I bet you know more about Sami culture than me by now...

Take care big guy.

IRISH Murph said...

Hey Emelie,

Thanks for the comments. Since you're a city slicker, I bet I do know more about the Sami then you..... :-)



IRISH Murph said...

Hi Connor,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Finland is a great country for sure, a little flat, but lovely in Winter.

Appreciate the kind words for my photos, really glad you like them.