Katarina Spik Skum

Artist Spotlight: A Sámi duodji practitioner explores the traditions behind three Lule Sámi costume elements. 

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A close-up image of the corner of a gerak (Lule Sámi embroidered headband) in blue, yellow, and red fabric, with embroidered details in tin thread.

Katarina Spik Skum was born in 1971 and lives with her family in Jåhkåmåhkke (Jokkmokk), Sweden. Ever since she was a child, she has been surrounded by people who make Sámi handicrafts and she started creating herself when she was young. Spik Skum started weaving Lule Sámi shoelaces in her early teens. She has since provided shoelaces but also collars and pieces of clothing for her family and relatives, as well as for sale. 

She has a deep knowledge of traditional Lule Sámi duodji (Sámi crafts) that she masters, but she is also among those who challenge and renew Lule Sámi handicraft. She does this sometimes by using new textiles and colors, but roots her designs in traditional knowledge. Her creation is based on Sámi tradition and much of her inspiration is taken from  Sámi culture and nature in Sápmi. In her creation, she mainly uses natural materials and tanned reindeer skin, which she produces herself. This is her favorite material.

A close-up image of the corner of a gerak (Lule Sámi embroidered headband) in blue, yellow, and red fabric, with embroidered details in tin thread.
Katarina Spik Skum, Mujttit! (detail of a gerak) (2022).

Katarina Spik Skum has completed a BA and MA  in duodji at Sámi allaskuvla (Sámi University of Applied Sciences) in 2015. This makes her one of three people in Sweden with a higher education in duodji.

“I make everything by hand and have been doing so for as long as I can remember. Reindeer skins from the area’s reindeer are tanned with hand-picked bark from the forest. Every stitch is sewed with joy, every product is unique. This traditional way of working lets me be in control of every step of the production chain. I have learned my craft from my mother and grandmother, who in turn learned from their parents. Thus, the tradition lives on.” 

– Katarina Spik Skum

Asa Kitok Exhibition

Since 2005, the Sámi Handicraft Foundation Sámi Duodji has awarded a work scholarship in memory of Asa Kitok. Asa helped to spread knowledge about the craft of root-weaving—a knowledge that was close to disappearing in the early 20th century. 

The work scholarship can be applied for by all Sámi craftspeople and artisans active in Sweden, with the exception of those who participate in basic handicraft or artistic education. Craftsmanship and artistic quality are the basic criteria for the distribution of the scholarship. 

In 2021, Katarina Spik Skum received the Asa Kitok scholarship. In February 2022, Katarina had an exhibition at Sámi Duodji. The exhibition was called Mujttit! (Remember!) and focused on three Lule Sámi costume details; gerak (embroidered headband), silbbagoahkka (silver collar) and njálmmefáhta (wind collar).

Credit: This video was originally published by Sámi Handicraft Foundation Sámi Duodji on February 2, 2022. COURTESY SÁMI HANDICRAFT FOUNDATION SÁMI DUODJI. 

This story is part of the Sweden Spotlight. View more content from the Spotlight here.