In this post I would like to feature the superb craftsmanship of Fredrik Prost of Kiruna, Sweden. Fredrik makes traditional Saami knives and other objects. For more information or to contact him visit his website at http://www.fredrikprost.com/ .
“I became interested in knives as a small child when I saw the beautiful knives people had in their belts during hunting and reindeer herding. Both practical and beautiful seems to be a theme in our handicraft. When I was 14 I made a knife with the help of an old man in our village who was a knifemaker. The knife was really ugly (even I could see that) so I wanted to make another one and another one after that. I had just simple hand tools and worked in my father’s old shed. I am glad I had that start and still use some of the tools from back then.
One of my first influences was Per-Anders Hurri who was an old Saami handicraftsman from my village. He had the traditional knowledge of our handicraft traditions and was very glad to share his knowledge with me, I still admire his style and the feel of the knives and other objects he made. My grandfather’s brother, Niila Prost, is also a big inspiration to me. He was completely blind and still made knives, cups and all sorts of Saami handicraft with simple hand tools out in the wilderness.
I went to the Saami school of traditional crafts in Jokkmokk which is in the north of Sweden. I applied on the encouragement of Per-Anders Hurri and he even wrote a personal recommendation letter for me. I went there for three years and at the school I learned from the best Saami handicrafters of all fields so it was really rewarding and the only proper school that has ever given me anything useful.
The art of forging damascus blades I learned from Roger Bergh who is a world renowned blade smith from Dalkarlså in Sweden. He was kind enough to take me in for a short period to show me the craft and his workshop. Damascus blades are not part of the Saami traditions but something that I wanted to try to introduce with my knives because it’s possible to continue the design with the blade.
My favourite knife is the Saami wooden knife which has a sheath made entirely from a bent piece of wood and covered with soft leather at the top. It is without doubt the best utility knife there is. It is my favourite for hunting, fishing and reindeer herding.
I like to use all natural materials. I use all sorts of wood I can collect myself from nature including reindeer and moose antler of course. So in that sense I am very traditional. We use the antler and the skin from the reindeer and moose too and wood from the forests of our ancestral lands. All the knives I make are traditional Saami knives but if I were to chose one it would be the wooden one which is most common amongst hunters and reindeer herders.
I try to be pretty free in my designs and never have a finished sketch or anything like that in advance, so I go a lot by feel. It is crucial for me though to still stay within the borders of the Saami traditions which can be a bit tricky. I can spot a “fake” Saami knife from miles away. Non Saami who make Saami style knives don’t have the cultural knowledge to make them properly so to us Saami those knives, however well done, are almost always a mish mash of a lot Saami patterns and design of things, I guess you could say that is what people who make “Nordic” knives mostly do.”
Doassu. A small box made of moose antler. Top and bottom made from Birch Wood with inlayed reindeer antler.