Interview with Nanna Salmi - The Story Behind the Collection

We sit in Nanna´s working room drinking coffee. I look around: there are horsehair bunches hanging on the wall, drawings on the desk. I see little plastic bags with names on them and in those bags there is always a small bundle of horsehair: tail hairs from the customers. Everything in a very precise order.

- I am very careful with the hair. I never handle two different customer´s materials at the same time. It´s the idea of the whole thing: the jewelry is made out of the customer´s horse´s hair and I want to make it absolutely sure that they really are! 

There are envelopes from all over the world. Some of them are decorated with the pictures of horses. 

- It´s always an exciting moment to open an envelope, Nanna says. Which colours, how long the hair is. Sometimes the content of the bag can be quite rousing... I have received hair with blood on and that tells me that something very sad and terrible has happened.

- Usually, when I receive the hair, I already know a lot about the horse: the name, the character, "the job" etc. People tell a lot about their beloved ones when ordering the jewellery. It is very rewarding to be in a close contact with customers. I hear a lot of stories and often it is discussed which pattern would both reflect the horses' temper and be the best for that spesific item.

The sun is shining outside. I see big, white flowers through the window. There is an appletree that spreads it´s branches to protect the small back yard garden. A lot of green leaves and white flowers.

- They are such wonderful moments when I take a break, go and sit there. Especially after rain when the water drops sparkle like millions of diamonds. That same feeling you can get riding in a forest after rain.

Gardening is for me a way to relax, a way to empty my mind for a while. It is something 
that I can control and still not! It lives, it changes, every day and every time of the year
 it is different, Nanna says.

Nanna´s little dog, Otto, seems to enjoy the garden. too.
- Otto follows me: he is in my working room when I work, he follows me to the garden 
when I take a break. He is a wonderful companion to work with!

So, gardening, a dog, working... What about horses?

- I wouldn´t say that having a pony was my biggest dream when I was a child. My dream was to be a Red Indian and I practised to build teepees and to tiptoe in a forest, Nanna says laughing.

- I started riding when we moved to the country and I got riding lessons as a birthday present when I got fourty. It was not love at the first sight, after every lesson I decided I will not come back to the stables never ever again. It was too scary, a horse seemed like a mountain high and it made strange movements. But after the seventh riding lesson even wild horses could not have kept me off from the saddle.

In the beginning Nanna rode the ridingschool horses but quite soon there was an opportunity to buy a horse: 18 years old oldenburg - hannoverian mare, Anitte StensgĂ„rd ("Nitte"), ex jumper, a real diva on her good days and bad days. Her owner wished Nitte to have a good place for her retirement years, Nanna did not have to think twice.

- I was happy, but also terrified!, Nanna remembers. I knew that a horse is a big responsibility, needs time and takes money... And I wasn´t that experienced horse woman by the time. But with the help from my friends everything went well and we, Nitte and me, spent several fantastic years together. She tought me a lot and we very much loved each other.

It was one of the saddest days in my life when I had to put her down, but I knew her last 
few years with me were good and happy. And, of course, she made me happy.

- I will never forget her, she was my inspiration.

We are sitting on the terrace with a view to a small garden. It´s still warm, though it is late September. I wanted to understand from Nanna when and how the idea of the horsehair jewellery came to her.

- The idea came very slowly but surely. Sometimes, while grooming Nitte and brushing her tail, I would hold her tail hair in my hand and wonder if it would be possible to make a strong ribbon using her hair, and that it would be interesting to try to do something that nobody had done or seen before. But I never tried, since there were so many projects I was already working on. The idea was like a wavering morning mist... it appeared and then disappeared again.

- Nitte stayed at the nearby farm together with fifteen other horses. The other boarders and I wanted to give something special to the stable owner for her 40th birthday. It just popped out from my mouth, without even thinking, that I could try to make her a piece of jewellery using hair from three generations of her mares. Everybody thought it was a great idea and so the gift problem was solved.

And there it was, a big promise and a beautiful vision.

Nanna has a background as a textile artist, textile artesan and designer. 
Did that grow your interest in material? 

- Yes, for sure. For decades I have worked with textiles and yarn. I have made 
applications and quilt work, I have made rugs. I have designed knitwear, embroidery, 
clothing and interior decoration textiles etc. But that is not all. I have also designed 
and planned gardens, interiors for private houses and even small buildings. But horsehair; 
that really caught me...

- The most natural way for me was to try to make a miniature textile with hair. I had seen 
jewellery made out of plaited or somehow twisted and twined hair, but I wanted to do 
something more lasting, sophisticated, configurable with patterns and colors.

But now, back to the birthday present. You had a ribbon ready, what was the next step? 

- I went to the goldsmith and gave him Nitte's olive bit and asked him to make it in a 
smaller scale. Then the tiny bit was attached to the ribbon and the first 
necklace was ready.

Nanna takes another cup of coffee, we are glancing through old photos.

- I will never forget the moment my friend got her birthday present. We were about 
a dozen of boarders celebrating her at the dinner table. At the dessert time 
she started to open her presents, looked at the necklace and said ”nice”, 
put the box away and started to open the next one.

- The lady beside her notified that the necklace ribbon is made of horsehair, 
she took another look and said ”really, wow”, and put the box away...

- When she was told that the ribbon was actually made of her three mares' hair, 
tears started to well in her eyes. It was truely an emotional moment full of amazement, 
happiness and joy. And I thought ”great, she really likes it”.

- Afterwords I realized that I have invented something unique, new and very special. The collection has evolved with a help of my talented goldsmith and is nowadays quite versatile.

- Since then I have woven hundreds of ribbons. I have customers all over the world: hobby riders, olympic riders and all kind of horse lovers in between. I feel fortunate to be able to offer them something meaningful and beautiful. 

- When I hold a hair bundle in my hand it starts to tell me a story. That is the inspiration
for every ribbon I make. And the genuine love for horses.

See the nannasalmi collection on her web page

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