D is for Duodji

Anessa Andersland is the guest writer for this post. Anessa is the North American marketing agent for  ČálliidLágádus / Authors’ Publisher, a Sámi  publishing company. She helps coordinate our annual Sámi Day at Ingebretsen’s, which is this coming Saturday. In this post, she will explain some of what you’ll see there. 

Duodji (doy – gee): the Sámi name for handcrafted items made by the Sámi with both an aesthetic value and a practical use. This long tradition uses materials derived from nature such as reindeer hide and antler, wood, and wool.   Duodji items include clothing, accessories, household items, and tools.

Before and after: A tenntrådsbroderi cuff bracelet made by Nils Gransberg


As a reflection of a living culture, duodji interprets the Sámi way of life, the traditional patterns, colors, and shapes are presented in both old and new ways. Sámi handicraft utilizes both the old traditional methods while fully using new technologies when applicable. “It represents cultural continuity with our ancestors.” Author Ellen Marie Jensen states, “There are creative and functional adaptations over time, and the individual duojar has room for individual creative expression. Duodji is both functional and beautiful.”


Tanned fish skin can also be used for duodji.  This skin was shown by Diane Noble of Ingebretsen’s Stockholm, WI.


Duodji represents the artistry and style of the duojar, (the duodji artist) and in the case of clothing called gakti, the region that the wearer’s family is from.


Ellen Marie Jensen wears a gakti called “Loppa kofta” in Norwegian. It’s the coastal Sami gakti representing the Kvænungen, Loppa, and Alta municipalities of Northern Troms and Finnmark provinces. The detailing on the shoulders and cuffs is similar to other coastal designs, but the yellow zig-zag is its distinctiveness.

In the United States, members of the Sámi Siida of North America (SSNA) are taking up a variety of duodji. Many knit and hand sew, some, such as Nils Gransberg of Oklahoma, practice tenntrådsbroderi, an intricate metal embroidery. Minneapolis resident Ed Kopietz works with wood. One of his recent projects features cherry wood from a fellow SSNA member’s yard.


In progress: Ed Kopietz’s cherry wood spoon

Once again, the SSNA will meet at Ingebretsen’s for our Annual Sámi Day on December 5th, from 11am – 3pm.  We will be gathering to visit and some of us will practice some duodji. Stop by for a cup of coffee and say hello!