A Conversation With Anita Arora Of SIGIL

I am so, so thrilled to be bringing this interview to you today.  Anita Arora of the jewellery and leather accessories brand SIGIL has been a friend of mine for several years, and I’ve been watching in awe as she has built her business up. In the circles I move in, it’s rare to encounter someone who hasn’t heard of Anita and the northern magic she creates. So, without further ado, let’s jump in…


Hello Anita! For MostNorthern’s readers, would you mind talking a little bit about yourself and your Nordic inspired jewellery and accessories line SIGIL?

Hi Katie! Thank you so much for having me on MostNorthern! I am a native Londoner, born and raised by Finnish and Indian-born parents. Our family immigrated to the United States during my childhood, but eventually returned to the UK. I opted to return in my late-twenties first to NYC, then westward to Seattle! I was lured by the mountains, ocean and lush rainforest, which I feel so fortunate to live close to.

The rugged nature is truly my muse, whether it’s in the Pacific Northwest USA or the Nordic regions and the Arctic, both of which have a strong calling and influence on my brand, SIGIL. The stark, rugged regions of the globe have always called to me, and it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I explored this siren song.

When I look back at my journey to now, I feel like all roads lead to SIGIL, in terms of what I’m creating, what my inspiration is, and how I work. For those new to my brand, through SIGIL I create unique leather bags, accessories, and raw mineral jewelry inspired by the windswept landscapes of Iceland and Greenland. My jewelry, even though it has become the primary focus in my product line, is a newer addition to the brand. In line with the journey of growing this brand by taking on new skills, the jewelry fits in very well and is a great accompaniment to my leatherwork.

What I think makes my jewelry style unique is how I focus it. Utilizing raw, natural crystals and minerals that are truly one-of-a-kind, I create one-off pendants that are intended to resemble the wild, rugged coastlines and terrain of many of the remote regions on the globe that have inspired me my entire life. When I decided to incorporate them into the brand, it was in response to the pure engineering I was sometimes experiencing sewing non-stop on my industrial sewing machine. I wanted something more fluid, less rigid than the square edges of bags. Through this need, I created a sculpting technique that I now use as my signature jewelry style.


I’m enormously intrigued by your brand logo. What was the thought behind its design?

The SIGIL logo was as you may have guessed it, my new personal sigil that I developed at the time I launched my graduate collection and the brand name just stuck. As my final line was intended to reflect outwardly our inner spirit, and to capture our true essence, visually, I thought it would only be right to create the SIGIL brand logo by reflecting my own internal spirit.

I achieved this through channelling the masculine/feminine divine; my deep respect and passion for the great outdoors; both my Nordic and Indian roots; and my love for discovery, growth, and travel. What resulted must have been a direct reflection of my subconscious at work! I have been told the SIGIL logo resembles to many a “compass” which makes me so happy. I’d like to think, that through focusing on the things that we value the most, we “come home” to ourselves and discover our true essence.


We’ve actually been in contact for several years, and in that time I’ve watched in constant awe as your one-woman-business has grown from strength to strength. Can you please take us back to SIGIL’s humble beginnings and talk us through how you arrived at where you are today – running a business that enables you to explore your deepest passions on a full-time basis?

SIGIL was started back in 2014 when I returned to college to study Apparel Design, here in Seattle. I was designing my final line graduate collection, and really wanted to create something true to my roots and passion – the Arctic and time-honoured, natural fabrics/hides. SIGIL was born as an outward representation of ones’ inner intent though this collection of womens’ outerwear clothing consisting of leather, wool and silk.

Having grown up visiting family in Finland all my life, I infused a dose of Nordic minimalism along with the very avant-garde “hunter” look. After graduation, I worked in the apparel industry for 3 years, while slowly growing and evolving SIGIL in its more familiar and recognizable leather bag & accessories brand.

During college, I had the amazing opportunity to study old world leatherworking techniques with designer Aykut Ozen, who I’m eternally grateful to. This valuable experience allowed me to infuse leatherwork into my bag designs and find my feet, and brand voice. After losing my job quite suddenly in 2017, I decided that was the time to launch SIGIL full-time. During this time, I had toyed with the idea of incorporating jewelry into the brand, and learned a technique that stayed true to the raw, Nordic feel of the entire product line.


Iceland is one Nordic country that has assisted you enormously in flourishing as a creative, a businesswoman and a human being. It’s been such a joy to observe you reap so much personal happiness and artistic stimulation from the land of fire and ice. Can you tell us about your impressions of Iceland and why it has had such an enormous impact on you and your work?

Iceland, simply put, is a breathtakingly dark, mystical, inspiring land that will change how you see the world, life, and yourself. I say this with the stark awareness that I may only speak for myself, yet the personal impact of nature on this scale is hard to ignore for most. Rarely do we witness such raw beauty to this physical scale in our daily lives. I was unprepared for how deep an impression it would have on me, and how profound a connection I would ultimately forge with its landscape.

After returning from 10 days encircling the island, and witnessing its natural diversity, I knew its impact would stay with me personally, yet also professionally. There was something in the dark, mysterious landscape that spoke to me as a designer. The impression of elemental grandeur immediately left its mark on my imagination, which was – and still is – my largest sourcebook for SIGIL design work. This is where Iceland and SIGIL were instantly connected.

To expand on this a little more, try to imagine this: You’re standing beside a pristine lagoon on the Southeast corner of the island. Past you lazily floats a glowing blue glacier, the size of a building, that has “calved” from Vatnajökull, the island’s largest glacier by volume. That night, after soaking in a natural geothermal pool, you witness the Northern Lights for the first time. You have never seen light play like this, on the blue ice, and in the night sky, and you can only imagine what early settlers would attribute this to.

After I began producing SIGIL jewelry is when I truly found a place for Iceland in my work on a piece-by-piece basis that grew into the brand as a whole. I gravitate toward out-of-the-ordinary minerals, like kyanite and fluorite, and uniquely shaped crystals, as a rule. This, to me, mimics Iceland’s rugged landscape and physical attractions, such as those I’d visited on my now yearly trips. This is really where the lightning struck and the Iceland influence was forged.


You’re easily one of the most prolific creatives and business owners that I know of, and I’m eager to learn about your working routine! Would you mind talking us through a working day and revealing what aids your productivity when you’re working?

Thank you so much! After I turned SIGIL into my full-time business in 2017, it easily took me an entire year to figure out what routine best worked for me. You have to keep trying new methods, and see what fits best for you and be flexible as your business grows. These days, I wake up around 9:30 a.m. and brew some coffee. My studio is in my home, so it took some time sticking to a schedule! I can’t stress how important this is for productivity.

Once I’m up and caffeinated, I immediately slip into production mode, taking advantage of my best energy levels, despite not being a morning person. Before noon, I generally create new SIGIL jewelry pieces, as the morning light in my studio is perfect at this time. I try to do all my work in natural daylight, and my administrative or computer work in the evenings.

When I’m working with leather hides, I switch to the westernmost part of the studio around 1 p.m., where the stronger afternoon light allows me to best examine the hides, and look for any natural imperfections to work around. Natural light really is my best tool when working on any SIGIL pieces, and knowing when to call it a night. As a business owner, especially working at home, it can be really tough to walk away from work to do anything fun. You can be your own harshest boss! Part of being successful is allowing yourself to have a little fun now and again, and also rest. I try to read a book, and feed my imagination a little every night. It’s so easy to burn out if you don’t, so finding balance is another crucial tool for success.


I have something of an obsession with the workspaces of creatives and would love to know about yours! Can you describe your working environment and how it has changed since SIGIL began?

It has gone from orderly to chaotic, to ordered chaos. I say this with a grin, as I seem to know exactly where everything is. In an ideal world, I’d have a white room with shelving and storage drawers labelled alphabetically for all of my necessary components. But reality rarely fits our ideal, at least in the SIGIL world. I focus too hard on the final product following my vision, so rarely do I spent time changing my set up, if it works.

The SIGIL studio consists of 4 rooms: storage and sewing/manipulation of leather, the cutting and patternmaking room, the space I reserve for creation of jewelry, and the overflow of crystals and minerals room. This last space is a bit of a grey area, as I sometimes hear gentle reminders from my partner that he lives there too. Fortunately, he too is a creative, and is understanding of my orderly chaotic environment.

Pale Lilac Amethyst PendantMedium Single Point Tessin Habit Quartz Crystal Pendant with Hematite InclusionsSkeletal Amethyst Quartz

Every time you upload a new jewellery piece, I find myself saying, ‘Now this is the most beautiful piece Anita has made…’ You’re forever surprising and wowing me. I’ve always wanted to ask from where you source your crystals, and is there a special process you go through before choosing your materials? For example, are the properties of the crystal important?

Thank you for your kind words! I’ll give you first a little background on my love for crystals and minerals. I have always been fascinated with the natural world, whether it’s geology, mountains, ocean, or on a smaller scale, as with natural specimens. There seems to me a small world that is very personal to everyone in each and every mineral. I have always been able to, in my mind’s eye, see immense structures in small specimens, whether it’s a basalt rock monolith in Reynisfjara, Iceland while peering at black kyanite, or Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in Southeast Iceland while working with fluorite minerals.

So, first and foremost, my interest in crystals and minerals is physical, although I have found myself really getting into the metaphysical aspects of the pieces, too. There is a lot to learn in this regard, and it really adds to the decision of which minerals to use, when.

As far as sourcing goes, I try to obtain as many as possible at local gem shows, here in the Pacific Northwest. Oftentimes, the vendors are the miners or work directly with the miners, so I have an understanding of where they originate and I learn a little more about the specimens this way. Lately, SIGIL jewelry has dominated my product line, but I still have an endless passion for leather goods and designing SIGIL leather bags and accessories. I will be creating new pieces at the end of the 2019 (more on that later). When sourcing my NZ and American deer hides, I have two shops I exclusively shop from. Both are mom-and-pop type small businesses and I feel good about supporting the local economies in their respective locations.

Rabbit Fur Trimmed Soft Leather Wrap Cuff with Metal Button Stud Closure

Slender Choker - NZ Deer Hide and Rabbit Fur Trim

SIGIL Medicine Bag with Quartz Crystal

You work a lot with fur, leather, and antler to craft your unique and minimalistic medicine bags, clutches, baby booties (the list goes on!) Can you talk about the experience of working with animal materials and the importance of using ethically sourced supplies?

As mentioned above, I am proud to be using the rare brick-and-mortar domestic businesses to source my leather hides, which extends to rabbit pelts. With big companies taking over so many small family-owned stores in the US, it feels really good to know I’m supporting these smaller companies. I also really like being able to telephone them and speak with knowledgeable staff who care about the products and will call you back if they need to find out answers to your questions, which includes where the animals originate from. One of the stores is right here in Seattle, and this allows me to walk in and physically select the hides/pelts and discuss any concerns with the owners. This makes me feel good passing on what I believe is a high-quality product that is sourced mindfully and with care.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Blue KyaniteSnowflake PendantVatnajökull Clear Quartz Crystal Pendant

As someone who is very much aware of the effects of climate change in the north, upcycling makes up an important part of the SIGIL ethos. Can you talk about your experience with upcycling and the importance it has for you and the rest of us in 2019? Do you have any upcycling tips you would like to share?

Climate change is something near to my heart, and we are really seeing the effects with smoke-filled skies here on the west coast USA for several months each summer. I’ve also witnessed it in the ice cap over Greenland when flying from Iceland back to Seattle. I am always looking for ways to reduce my footprint, and upcycling is one way. Particularly with leather, I aim to use all of the hide to eliminate wastage. I literally have strips of leather set aside waiting for an art project, so I don’t need to throw them away! So much energy has gone into each hide, that wasting any of it feels like a disservice to the earth, and the animal it came from. Leather is so versatile, and the raw edges inspired me to create raw edge pouches (they also remind me of the southern coastline and black sand beaches in Iceland) and the baby booties!

Whenever I use wool, such as in my wool/leather pouches, I also save my clippings and have created pieces that are smaller versions of original pieces, just by considering how to use what would otherwise be disposed of. I recommend to anyone starting out on a creative endeavour to consider less wastage and have a little fun conceptualizing how to utilize your “scraps”.


I’m madly curious about your life as a creative in Seattle! Would you mind telling us what it’s like to live and work there as a creative woman and business owner?

Seattle has always been friendly to creatives, even as the economy has recently changed with the expansion of the tech industry squeezing out so many affordable spaces in the city. The spirit of creativity is not easily extinguished when you live in such a beautiful region of the world. I am fortunate enough to share a personal space with my life partner, and our space doubles as a creative studio for us both. From my west-facing window, I can see the Olympic Mountains and beautiful sunsets over the Puget Sound, which ushers in ferries coming and going to the nearby islands and Alaska.

If you take some time to gaze out during the busy day, it’s easy to re-center your mind and find inspiration in the nature that is visible from countless places around Seattle. Taking a drive to a hiking trail is often only 30 mins away if you need to find solitude in nature. As far as being a business owner in Seattle, I have found some great resources for small business owners and also teamed up with fellow artists at many vending events. I do a lot of networking and bring SIGIL to new audiences at the many vending events that draw in large crowds. Having a solitary work life, it feels good to get out there and experience these fun events.


One of the reasons I love to follow you on social media is because it enables me to ‘come along’ on your adventures into the wilderness. I especially enjoy it when you post about the hikes you embark on! Can you talk about one of your all-time favourite hikes and what made it so special?

Chain Lakes Loop trail, in the Olympic Peninsula. If you stop by the ranger station, you can pick up a map and I recommend getting there early. The reason I love this trail is that there isn’t a lot of elevation gain but the visual rewards are high. Expect pristine alpine lakes and epic mountain views, particularly of Mt. Skuksan, which is one of WA state’s most photographed peaks. Don’t forget to fully charge your smartphone or camera, as you’ll be taking more pictures than you can imagine.

Nigredo into Albedo Tibetan Black QuartzStraightAlbedo into Rubedo # 1 Phantom Red Clear Quartz

As an experienced hiker, what practical advice would you give to someone heading out into the wilds to ensure they have a safe and unforgettably amazing experience?

Always pack the 10 essentials and plan on bringing more water than you think you’ll need. Stop by or call ahead to the nearest ranger station to learn about current conditions and don’t take risks for that amazing photo. Too many hikers have perished trying to take an amazing Instagram photo, so keep your wits about you. Always heed weather warnings, and let someone know where you are going. Never approach wildlife, and be aware of daylight limitations in the mountains. Where possible, read reviews online as rangers may not be aware of damage that hikers discover on the trail. And finally, always use sound judgement in sticky situations


For anyone making plans to travel to Iceland, what recommendations would you like to pass on?

Thanks to the popularity of Iceland as a travel destination in recent years, there are a lot of resources online for learning about where to go, what to do, and what to know before you go. I recommend booking your flight and accommodation 4-6 months in advance. Icelandair is the primary carrier, and with the demise of WOW air, their second airline company, seats are in higher demand, so book early when possible.

I recommend getting out of Reykjavik if you can rent a car, and driving east along the “Ring Road” (the main highway) and adding 1 or 2 hours extra each day for stopping to take photos. Always follow road signs and rules, not only to be a safe driver to others, but because Iceland driving is likely going to be like nowhere you have driven before. The country is the third windiest place on earth, and you learn this very quickly, especially in the Winter, Spring, and Autumn months.

If you don’t plan on driving, take the FlyBus from Keflavik airport and plan to explore the city on foot, but do allow yourself at least one tour bus trip to the Golden Circle. This is very doable even if you only do a quick stopover trip and have 24-48 hours in the country.


With your roots being in Finland, I’m ever so curious to learn about what aspects of Finnish culture you hold dearest to your heart, and how important is it for you to return home.

Finland is so much a part of who I am, that I am not sure where to start. It really is the one place I can call home, and I am close to my family over there. I was born in London, UK to a Finnish mom and Indian father, yet I grew up immersed in largely Finnish culture for much of the time, while visiting my grandparents for 2 months every year (1 month in summer and in winter).

Like Icelanders, Finns are a hardy people, who have had to work hard to gain their independence (only 101 years ago!) The aspects of Finnish culture that truly mean the most to me include how much the Finns value their connection to nature. Wherever they are, even in the capital city of Helsinki, nature is everywhere, and city planning respects this. Secondly, Finland’s education system is rated the highest in the world. Finns are flexible and believe in placing value in their people, and future generations.


Do you have any favourite influencers also inspired by the north that you would like to tell us about?

Yes! One of my fellow Pacific Northwest-based artists, Ravnvolk. Justin makes amazing wall sconces and one-of-a-kind candle holders inspired by the north. It’s immediately clear how much work he puts into each and every piece, embodying the spirit of old-world craftsmanship. Check out his work at: etsy.com/shop/Ravnvolk


What does the rest of 2019 have in store SIGIL?

This is a very exciting year for SIGIL! I am currently in the planning stages for my first ever Iceland-based photoshoot in Fall 2019! I will be creating more elaborate jewelry pieces in a much larger, statement size and more that are currently in the works – please keep tuned over the next few months!


In your opinion, what do you believe draws people to the north?

There has always seemed to be an intrinsic mystique that draws people to the north, whether it’s remote regions of the globe, such as Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, or any of the 5 Nordic countries. There is a yearning for “getting away” and seeing natural beauty that is largely untouched and breathing clean, glacial air and experience the solitude of a dark, Scandinavian forest. There is a closeness to nature that people of the north innately have, that I think draws many of us, too.


Finally, in three words, what does ‘North’ mean for you?

Formidable, dark, mystical.


All images courtesy of Anita Arora.


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A Conversation With Artist Alessia Brusco

The best types of Instagram accounts are the ones that leave you feeling better for encountering them. That leave you feeling as though, actually, life is good, and there are decent people out there doing brilliant things. One such precious account is that of  Italian artist Alessia Brusco AKA Skogens Rymd.

Although she’s an expat in Sweden, Alessia illustrates the north as though she’s never spent a day away from the deep woods and wide skies.

MostNorthern caught up with Alessia to get to know the woman behind the art. We talk about her career as an artist, her infatuation for the aurora borealis, and her experience taking Scandinavian Studies.


Hello Alessia! Would you mind telling MostNorthern’s readers a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and where you’re based at the moment?

Hey Katie and thanks a lot for your appreciation and your questions! I was born in north-west Italy, in a region between sea and mountains called Liguria. I lived there all my life and studied at the University in Genova.

It’s two years now I’ve been living with my boyfriend, Martin, in Skåne, southern Sweden, in a small village in the middle of  a beautiful countryside landscape.

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When I first saw your art on Instagram, it was obsession at first sight. I was gobsmacked when I found out you’re entirely self-taught. When and why did you first start to create art inspired by the north, and how long were you painting before you decided to share it with the world?

Yes, I’m self-taught and I’ve always liked to draw: when I was a little girl, I enjoyed to reproduce Disney´s characters and to draw clothes! When I was 14 and I had to decide for the high school, unlucky the art school was too far from were I lived and I chose to go to a school were I studied Latin, Greek, History, Literature and so on. I left my passion for art but sometimes I kept on drawing small things, like copying black metal bands´logos or covers.

I started to paint on Christmas´eve 2015 being home alone with my mom. I didn’t have nothing else to do and the day before I bought two canvas and some colours just for fun. I’ve always liked the north and I had already travelled there before.

I think I showed my first paintings just some weeks after I did them, receiving at once a very good response, not expected and super appreciated!

Can you tell us about the meaning behind Skogens Rymd?

This name has a double meaning: literally means ”the space of the forest.” It was actually my boyfriend to create the name for me and it suits perfectly: it refers to the connection between earth and woods with the night sky and cosmos, but it’s also thought to be the actual room covered by woods and nature.

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I can really feel, through your paintings and the way that you talk about Scandinavia, the love affair that you have with this part of the world. When did this passion first start to develop and how did you feed it? Did you always know that you would end up living in the north?

I think that it really started when around 12 years old I discovered Tolkien´s universe. Soon after it I started to read about Nordic mythology, fairytales (also from other places in Europe) and began to study a little of Norwegian language by myself, using lyrics from my favourite songs.

I could not imagine to actually live here but I think I’ve always wished for it.

You have this inspiring infatuation with the aurora borealis. What draws you to this phenomenon? Have you had the chance to experience it in real life?

Unluckily I’ve never seen an aurora in real life but I feel very fascinated by it and have been since I was little. I think it´s so elegant, majestic and mystical. I really would like to experience it not only for the visual part but also for the sounds they say you can hear!

How long does it tend to take to finish an art piece? Do you work on multiple pieces at the same time?

I’m not able to work on more pieces at the same time even if it happened that I stopped a work and took it again after some days, but it happens only for commissions. When I paint something from my own mind, I usually want and need to finish it the same evening I start. I usually work on evenings or nights and I can go on until 4 or 5 in the morning just to finish. But usually for small pieces it takes only 1 or 2 hours to be done, but still it takes a lot of energy for me.

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How would you describe your ideal working environment? Do you listen to music or prefer silence? Do you need daylight to create, or do you choose to work at night?

I like darkness to paint. Even when I studied, I preferred to do it in the evening or night, I can´t concentrate during the day. It can differ about music or silence: I can paint with my favorite music, a movie, a series or a TV program from the PC or just sitting and listening to my boyfriend playing video games, alone or with his friends.

I’m not bothered by other people speaking but I want to have my physical space on a big table in the living room or sometimes in the kitchen. Nowadays I got a hamster and his cage is on the table with me (and the dog at my feet).

On your website, you talk of having taken Scandinavian Studies in Italy. I’m intrigued about what aspects of Scandinavian culture your studies were focused on. Could you talk a little about your experience and what you got from it?

After I graduated in Medieval Literature and History in Genova, I really wanted to start a new degree in Scandinavian Studies so, under almost three years, I took classes in Swedish language and Scandinavian Literatures reading the translations of Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Danish literary works. Moreover we studied the history and culture of those countries.

I surely got a lot of info from my classes but of course the most about Swedish language, I’ve learnt living here.

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You’re extremely well read when it comes to Swedish folklore and fairytales and if you were to recommend a folk tale/fairytale, which one would it be?

Something from the collection of Hyltén-Cavallius.

One of your series of paintings is inspired by Swedish folkloric creatures. Which creature would you say intrigues you the most?

I think it´s Älvorna, the fairies who dance in the mist. When there´s fog on the meadows it is said that ”the fairies are dancing.” I love the concept and I find it very suitable for my art.

One of the series of my paintings it´s called De Underjordiske, and it refers to small creatures, sometimes identified also as trolls, who live in the underground and they are invisible to the humans. Sometimes, at dusk, once can see a light on the hills, and that means that they left a door open. I like this concept so much as well.

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What’s the furthest north you’ve ever been, and is there anywhere on your bucket list that you’re aching to visit?

I think the furthest north have been in Dalarna (Dalecarlia, Sweden) and somewhere south of Bergen in Norway. I really would like to visit Norrland and Iceland but also Siberia, speaking only about northern countries.

You have over 8,000 followers on Instagram. How does it feel that so many people are drawn to your art, and do you find that your interaction with followers helps motivate you to create more?

I really think it´s amazing that so many nice and kind people like my art. I could not imagine it and I feel grateful every time I think about it. When I read all your comments then, I really go super happy and many times this has given me the strength to keep on in what I´m doing!


Swedish artist John Bauer is one of your biggest artistic inspirations. How did you first discover his art and what are some of your favourite Bauer pieces?

I discovered his art randomly on the web: the first piece I saw what Tuvstarr riding the moose in the moonlight. It was love at first sight but I could not find anything in Italy about him.

I bought a book when I finally traveled to Sweden some years after and now I´m actually working on the translation of the fairytales illustrated by him in the beginning of 1900. The book is going to have an introduction about the artist, his life and style and so on to be able to give the Italian public an idea of his wonderful art and works.

I think that my favourite works include paintings from Tuvstarr, Svanhamnen and När trollmor skötte kungens storbyk.


Norwegian artist Theodore Kittelsen is another of your muses. How did you first encounter his work? Do you have some favourite pieces of his that you would care to share?

Yes, he absolutely is! I discovered him much before Bauer, always on the web and thanks to metal music. I love everything from him but now, if I’m going to pick one is the jumping squirrels from a snowy tree. Of course all the trolls and the creatures and the drawing with the moose are favourites as well!


As well as taking inspiration from the work of Bauer and Kittelsen, it appears you also find inspiration from music, in particular the Norwegian band Ulver. I’d love to know more about the series of paintings inspired by their album Bergtatt.

Bergtatt is my favourite albums of all times, I never go tired to listen to it and it gives me always the same fantastic feelings.

My series of paintings Blandt disse mørcke Graner is meant to be in honour of Ulver´s first works, a way to ”thank them” for the inspiration they gave me.

You’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of bands. How has this experience been? Is there any band or fellow creatives you would love to work with in the future?

It has been unexpected and fantastic! And thank to it, I had the opportunity to know more bands and talented musical artists!

I´m very happy with my collaborations but if I have to dream, I would like to make a cover for the band Otyg.

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Are you a full-time artist or do you need to hold down another job to put bread on the table?

I work some small jobs to be able to earn more: for example I take dogs for walks and recently I worked for some months for a dog breeder taking care of the puppies and their mums. One of the best experience of my life that I will do again in some months.

In your opinion, what draws people to the north?

The idea of wilderness, the connection to some kind of spirituality and the wonderful mythology.

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Do you have any favourite influencers inspired by the north that you would like to tell us about?

I´m not very inspired by nowadays stuff, I don’t follow any trends (maybe I did when I was younger but not anymore) so I don´t actually know. I mostly like past things, cultures and art.

Can you reveal what you have lined up in the coming months?

Of course! Soon, in august, I will have an exhibition here in Skåne where I will show some of my watercolours. At the end of October I will be in Stockholm for a three days exhibition and there will be other shows next year.

I hope to have time and energy to work on bigger pieces.


Finally, in three words what does ‘North’ mean for you?

Nature, Thule, Freedom.

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A Conversation With Marcus Eldh Of WildSweden

It was thanks to orangutans and a group of enthusiastic guides in Indonesia that Marcus Eldh had an ultimate light bulb moment and realized his mission in life – to become a wildlife guide in his homeland of Sweden.

Within a few days of setting up his website offering moose tours, Marcus had his first bookings with WildSweden and his career as a guide kicked off.

What started as a one man venture in 2003 is now a hugely popular, award winning eco tourism organisation offering dozens of, quite frankly, amazing opportunities for people to experience Sweden’s staggeringly beautiful nature and wildlife up close.


With just a few taps on your phone, you can book yourself on a small group moose safari, a bear watching day trip or a night in the forest listening to wolves howling. You can reserve a stay at the Kolarbyn Eco Lodge AKA the most primitive hotel in Sweden, or be dropped off by helicopter in Swedish Lapland and hike the Sarek National Park, with no marked trails but plenty of opportunities to be guided by the northern lights.

The day trips and wildlife expedition holidays offered by WildSweden will enable you to collect the kinds of memories you’ll never want to loose.

MostNorthern caught up with Marcus to dig deeper into the story behind WildSweden, to talk about his first moose tour, the value of Allemansrätten and how WildSweden helps with the monitoring of Sweden’s wolf population.

Marcus Eldh

Hi Marcus! Would you care to introduce yourself, and talk a little about WildSweden?

Hello! Well, who am I? Today I am a bearded-soft-adventure-nature-lover. I was born and raised in Blueberryland among moose and pine cones. I eat plants, drink oats and locally brewed ale. I spend a lot of time out in the woods, on wooden skis and in canoes on any of the thousands of lakes. I heat up in saunas and cool down in Lapland.

I share my days with my wife and I am also father to two little blond fairies. We live in a white wooden house in a village called Sundborn in Dalarna. I founded WildSweden in 2003 and it is the only job I have ever had. Although I have a handful of amazing guides and colleagues I still love to lead tours.

Jan Nordstrom

The story behind how WildSweden came to be reads like a dream. You set up in business on the day you decided to become a guide, and a few days later, had your first clients booked. What did you do that was so right and which led this immediate success?

I followed my dream and I guess people were drawn in to join me on my path. I made a lot of beginner’s mistakes, but I never focused on them. When obstacles showed up I just went slalom. I also had a lot of beginners luck. Crucial was that I offered tours that people were able to book. I am sure that one of my main success factors was that my tours were ready made, all inclusive, at set dates and with set rates. That made it easy for tempted nature lovers to just click and join me.

Jan Nordstrom

Can you take us back to your very first moose tour?

Hehe, yes I still remember that first Moose tour. I had never been on a moose tour myself but I had an idea how to see moose and how to make it a memorable experience for my guests. Three cool persons from Russia and Austria.

Luckily we did find some moose that night. We also stayed overnight in an abandoned forest worker’s cabin far out in the woods where we grilled sausages over an open fire. The next morning I woke up in the cabin and two thoughts came to my mind: 1) Wow, I am now a moose guide. 2) I will never do this again!

Glenn Mattsing

WildSweden can boast that it’s one of the most prolific eco tourism companies in Sweden, having won several awards, including Eco Tourism Company Of The Year (2009). Did you visualise your company becoming the roaring success it is now? Are you happy with the current situation, or are there any grand plans to expand the services you provide?

I don’t really make plans… I just go for whatever feels right at the moment. I already live my dream and I have what I need. But of course I still like to evolve. I love to find ways to improve our tours and to create new tours. How can we create better experiences for our participants? How can we make life better for our guides? How can we contribute to the local society? And how can we preserve and rewild nature?

WildSweden will never grow to become a large company. Small is good. But I know that there is an increasing demand for nature based experiences. I also see that a lot more people could get involved in leading guided tours. But instead of growing WildSweden I would like to share my experiences to help other ecotourism businesses get up on their feet and to take off.

Jan Nordstrom

On every tour, for fifteen years, you and your team have provided tourists with sightings of moose. How do you stake out the places where you’re going to take your visitors?

Well… last week we actually had our first tour when we didn’t see a moose 🙂 But we still have a fantastic track record. Our guides are local and they know where and how to find wild animals. Our strength is not that we know how to find wild animals, but that we know how to create memorable experiences around wild animals.

When I introduce new guides I tell them that finding wild animals is actually one of the easiest things with being a guide. We always know that Moose, beavers, wolves and bears are. They are in the forest! Our participants however… they are from all over the world, stay at different guesthouses and hotels, they all have high expectations and different reasons for coming on our tours. And when they arrive they are not used to being out in these forests. I can easily say that it is more difficult to find participants than to find a moose 🙂

Jan Nordstrom

For those who don’t know about Allemansrätten, could you explain what it is and why it’s valuable for WildSweden?

Allemansrätten is just common sense. It states that the land is open for anyone to enjoy. It states that noone can buy land and close people out. I can’t understand why Allemansrätten is not global. For our guides and participants it means that we can walk and canoe in nature wherever we like. I wouldn’t be able to run WildSweden without the freedom to roam.

Vargsafari i Skinnskatteberg
Vargsafari i Skinnskatteberg / WildSweden

Does one tour in particular stand out for you?

We have wolves here and our wolf tours have provided me with lots of unforgettable memories. I remember this warm Summer night some years ago… We had found fresh tracks of wolves and I knew they were probably nearby. We had set up a tented camp with a family from England. As it got dark we went up on a small hill to listen for the wolves’ howling.

We waited for about an hour and then heard the wolf family howl together. When we got down to the camp and the lake we realized it was full moon and the moon was reflecting nicely in the still water. We lit a fire and then we all went for a swim in the dark lake. To swim under the full moon with a family of wild wolves nearby was an amazing experience. I felt truly rich.

Kolarbyn / WildSweden
Per Groth

Have you had any terrifying encounters with moose, wolves or bears in the Swedish forest?

Nope, never.

Camp in the Sarek - Nationalpark in Sweden, Lapland in autumn
Sarek Lapland Kungsleden Camping / WildSweden

You taught yourself how to howl like a wolf. How did you do this and how would you describe the feeling when wild wolves respond to you?

I recorded their howls and then listened to the recordings and practiced while driving my car where no one could hear me. I have then tried different types of howls and pitches to see how they respond. Hearing wolves howl is definitely ones of nature’s great wonders, but I am honestly more fascinated by how silent and elusive they are. People say wolves howl. I would say they are extremely silent and just howl once or twice each night.

Serek Wildlife Expedition / WildSweden

As well as being an important contribution to the life experiences of thousands of people from across the world, WildSweden provides valuable information to researchers to assist in the monitoring of Sweden’s wolf population. How do you gather your findings?

Throughout the years we have reported lots of wolf droppings that rangers and researchers may collect for DNA-testing to monitor the population. We have also reported howling pups which has contributed to find new litters.

Marcus Westberg

WildSweden holds tours all year round, but do you have a favourite season?

Personally I love winter when I can play in deep snow, ski across frozen lakes, breathe the crisp air, dress up to stay warm. September is also a favourite time of year when the forest explode in colours and the forest floor is covered in lingonberries and autumn chanterelles.

Lapland / WildSweden

Have you ever seen an albino moose?

I suppose you mean white moose… there are about a hundred white moose in Sweden, but they are not albinos. I haven’t seen them.

Matti Holmgren

You recommend people to turn off their phones to truly disconnect when they’re on a WildSweden day trip or holiday. Do they mostly listen, and do as you recommend? Also, do you find because of your line of work, and the passions that you hold in life ordinarily, that it’s easy for you not to become trapped on your mobile?

It is difficult to keep away from phones. Some guests do and some don’t. Most guests are taking pictures, and some take pictures all the time, with their camera or phone. Sometimes I get the feeling that they are not actually experiencing nature at first hand, but rather taking pictures to enjoy later, again watching them in their phone or computer.

I remember this one time when a woman filming a bear that was just in front of us outside our hide. After a few minutes of filming I asked her… ”Have you actually seen the bear?” She didn’t understand my question as she was watching the bear in the iphone at that very moment. I pushed her hand and the iphone aside gently and when she saw the bear at first hand she twitched, and then she put down her phone.

I have to admit I use my phone a lot and sometimes more than I want. But the positive side is that I can keep in contact with friends, family and colleagues even when I am out in the forest. I can also manage all parts of my business like emails, bookings, social media, manage evaluation forms and much more. I don’t have an office. It is all in the cloud.

Marcus Westberg

Being so attached to nature, what’s it like going out into the city?

Haha, I only live three hours away from Stockholm, but I go there less and less. Sometimes when I read a status update on Facebook where friends are asking if there is anyone who wants to go for a beer or concert tonight… Well… I can’t even if I would like to.

On the other hand, Sweden’s countryside is amazing… This evening I just got back from the sauna where me and my daughters plunged into a fresh water lake surrounded by forests and hills. This is where I want to be.

Lennart Pittja Camp / WildSwden

For this year’s Midsummer, you posted on Instagram a famous painting by the late Swedish artist John Bauer, and called him ‘The Great Master of Dark Forests’ – such an apt title! Can you talk about your relationship to his artwork?

When I was a small child my grandfather gave me a big book with John Bauer’s paintings in it. I fell in love with his art. I am fully aware that most people prefer to lay on a sunny beach on a warm summer day, with endless views across the horizon.

I can appreciate that too (if not too hot and with plenty of clouds). But for some reason I have always been more attracted to dark forests with old growth conifers and large rocks covered in moss and lichen in all shades from grey to green. John Bauer didn’t seem to prefer sunny beaches either 🙂

What’s the furthest north you’ve ever been, and where do you ache to go?

I’ve been in Northern Norway a few times and in Northern Sweden many times. Some weeks ago I went to Alta in Norway’s far North to attend an adventure travel conference. 15 hours by train + 8 hours by car driving through an amazing landscape.

I went along with some friends. We were camping by a fjord and went backcountry snowboarding under the midnight sun. That is my ultimate holiday, very inspiring. I have always wanted to go to Svalbard, but I avoid flying, and there are so many places I still want to visit on the mainland.

Lapland / Boel Engkvist

What do you think draws people to the north?

I guess the north is exotic to most people as most people don’t live in the north and it is not a rather new tourist destination. There is wilderness, wildlife and inspiring culture.

Serak National Park / WildSweden

In three words, what does ‘north’ mean for you?

#natural #freshness #adventuretime

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