Profile on: Anna Lengstrand of Simply Sámi 

Meet the Pemberton jewelry maker who's keeping her family tradition and heritage alive

click to enlarge Local artisan Anna Lengstrand models some of her Simply Sámi bracelets. - Photo submitted
  • Local artisan Anna Lengstrand models some of her Simply Sámi bracelets. Photo submitted

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended life for everyone in our community, and local artists are no exception.

Starting this week, Pique is launching a new series to highlight one Sea to Sky creative—from artisans to painters to jewelry makers—so you can learn more about them, their work and how to continue supporting artists during mass closures and cancellations throughout the community.

First up, meet Anna Lengstrand, the talent behind Simply Sámi.

What kind of art do you do?

Anna Lengstrand: I hand make Sámi bracelets. They're known in the world sometimes as Swedish bracelets. It is our [the Sámi people's] traditional way of making jewelry. I've been taught by older family members ... so this is like a family tradition I do. It's basically pewter and silver reindeer bracelets with woven thread that I hand weave into different patterns. Then I sew it onto plant-dyed reindeer hide.

I get all the material from back home in Northern Sweden. I want to support my people back home that hand make thread, and plant dye the leather.

How did you get into it?

AL: I worked at Whistler Brewing Company for many years and everyone would ask, 'What are you wearing? Where did you get those?' So I thought, 'Maybe I should make some.'

When we bought the farm here [in Pemberton] I wanted to try to work for myself so I didn't have to commute the whole way to Function and I could be home more—I had two horses at the time and three now.

For about four years I've tried to make it my full-time job. It took a while. The demand was there and I wanted to teach people what these bracelets really represented.

I started this company because I was so inspired by my grandfather and wanted to honour him. He was like a father figure, such a strong mountain man. He taught me everything I needed to know about life. That's what got me going. He got to see this develop [before he passed away] and he was so proud. I even made them back home on his kitchen table. He was very involved in my business until the very end.

What is unique about your art?

AL: It's the fact that it's my heritage. You have to be of Sámi blood, which I am. My family is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. I'm honouring an art form that's been with my family for so long that I really don't want it to die. I make it in a traditional way, I've learned from the elders.

How has this pandemic impacted your art?

AL: It's super slow right now. No stores are taking orders. Everyone has closed the doors and can't take anything else for we don't know how long. It's a waiting game. I just hope if people have the money themselves, they keep shopping local and support everyone they can around. I feel small business owners and artisans will be very, very affected by this.

The good news is I don't have to stop. I'm isolated at home on the farm and the post office promised to keep going. I'm in the situation where I can keep going.

How can people buy your work?

AL: On my website, Simplysami.ca or instagram.com/simplysami.ca.

Any other artistic endeavours you'd like to highlight?

AL: I got into photography in my late teens, around 2004. Then in 2009, I started taking photos around Sweden. I was doing a Masters in another subject, but I studied photography on the side. That became my art form. That was everything I did for a long time. But then the jewelry took over. I have a website—I model, take photos and make jewelry—annalengstrand.com and it covers that all.

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