By Kristina Reilly, Arctic Circle Finns

Phyllis Kalajian, based in Indiana, is a self-taught jewelry maker and designer who finds inspiration in her Scandinavian roots; she is half Norwegian, a quarter Swedish and a quarter German. Kalajian’s pieces are available on Etsy as well as at the Finnish School of New York’s annual Christmas Bazaar tomorrow, December 1st (83 Christopher Street in Manhattan). Look for them at Finland Center’s table.

 The artist herself, Phyllis Kalajian.

The artist herself, Phyllis Kalajian.

Q: What sparked your interest in making jewelry and connecting that with your Scandinavian heritage?

A: I’m a single mother and have two beautiful grown children, Michael and Cheri. When they were younger, I had them enrolled in a local Swedish culture group. The children’s group performed at many Scandinavian functions, including the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World exhibit. The Swedish culture group is what got me interested in all things Scandinavian. As far as creativity goes, for as long as I can remember I had to be creating something, from sewing to making jewelry to designing props for the performances put on by our Swedish group. I also have a regular day job, but only because I have to pay the bills. Now my remaining free time is consumed by jewelry making.

Q: How did your idea for Nordikreations take shape? 

A: I have been creating Scandinavian jewelry for about eight years. It started as a fundraising initiative for our newly formed Swedish club for adults. I thought we could all make and sell some Scandinavian jewelry. However, when I brought the samples to one of our meetings, no-one was interested in making them; they wanted to buy my jewelry instead.

Q: Many of your designs really capture the spirit of Finland. Where do you get your inspiration and ideas?

 Lakka earrings from the Nordikreations collection.

Lakka earrings from the Nordikreations collection.

A: In the beginning I only had a few designs. Then people began to request particular items and I started doing research to figure out how I was going to make them. Doing a little research on one item would lead me to another, and then to the next. I sometimes spent so much time reading about traditions and customs that I lost track of time. There are so many beautiful things in the Scandinavian culture: the jewelry, the folk costumes  and the artwork, both ancient and contemporary. I think Scandinavians have an inherent creative side.

Q: Which pieces do you like working on the most? Do you have a favorite design?

A: My favorite look is the Viking Knit earring, and the piece I love working on the most is the newest one I’m creating. I love thinking of new ideas and then trying to find the right pieces to create them. When I put the pieces together and it looks like I’ve successfully visualized something, I’m really happy. If I could afford it, I wouldn’t charge anything for my jewelry. If one of my pieces becomes special and meaningful to someone else, that gives me a good feeling and I want to create more. I also would like to say that I have met some of the nicest people through my jewelry making.

Q: What’s next for Nordikreations? 

 Viking Knit earrings from the Nordikreations collection.

Viking Knit earrings from the Nordikreations collection.

A: I’m working on more bracelets but haven’t listed them yet. The holidays are really busy for me, so I haven’t had time to take pictures and list the bracelets on my site. I’m using only the same colors that Viking women used. I’m also thinking about making bracelets with Scandinavian colors. I use memory wire, so there is no clasp; it just winds around your wrist. There are a couple of ideas for viking earrings that I have in my head. I will be making a Viking Thistle Brooch earring, and I would also like to make viking Runes out of black beads.

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