Special feature: nannasalmi, artisan jewellery for equestrians.
To a dedicated horse lover, sometimes it feels like our equine friends are not on this earth for long enough. Our time together is short, even if the memories last a lifetime.
nannasalmi is a boutique jewellery company with a difference. Designer Nanna Salmi creates rings, bracelets and necklaces from her studio in Lahti, Finland. She has a background as a textile artist but has also designed gardens, interiors and small buildings. However, nannasalmi custom pieces are made using a unique material: horse hair.
When I hold a hair bundle in my hand it starts to tell me a story. That is the inspiration for every ribbon I make.
Nanna didn’t ride as a child, but after moving to the country in her 40s she decided to take lessons as an adult. While she was nervous initially, she fell in love with horses and riding. After learning on riding school horses, she had the opportunity to purchase Anitte Stensgård (‘Nitte’), an 18 year old Oldenburg-Hanoverian mare. The first inspiration to make horsehair jewellery came from Nitte.
I would hold her tail hair in my hand and wonder if it would be possible to make a strong ribbon using her hair, and that it would be interesting to try to do something that nobody had done or seen before.
Nanna’s first piece of jewellery was a necklace, a birthday gift for the barn owner where Nitte was kept. The hair was taken from three mares, representing three generations of breeding. A local goldsmith created a tiny snaffle bit to complete the piece. The barn owner began to cry when her gift was presented – it was a very emotional moment. Everyone who saw this first necklace admired it, and several people expressed interest in having their own custom jewellery made. Nanna realised that her idea really struck a chord with other horse owners, who loved the idea of such a unique memento. Sensing that she could create something very special, Nanna started to use her expertise with textiles to refine her designs.
The most natural way for me was to try to make a miniature textile with hair. I had seen jewellery made out of plaited or somehow twisted and twined hair, but I wanted to do something more lasting, sophisticated and configurable with patterns and colors.
From a necklace intended to be a one-off gift, nannasalmi was born. Nanna soon discovered that horsehair is a challenging medium.
As fibre it is like a spiderweb, fragile but strong at the same time. Horsehair as a material is fantastic but quite demanding to work with. When I start to work with hair sent to me I have to find the strongest ones from the bundle. If only one hair gets broken while working, I have to start the whole process right from the beginning.
Precious metals and gems are used in these custom pieces to complement the horse hair. Nanna considers herself fortunate to work with the very best Finnish gemstone wholesalers and metalworkers, combining traditional craftsmanship with contemporary design. nannasalmi’s unique designs have been displayed at prestigious events such as WEF, the Hampton Classic, CSI Amsterdam and the Longines Royal International Horse Show. Customers range from international top riders and European royalty to amateur horse owners. They all have one thing in common – they want a unique keepsake symbolising their love for horses. Through her work, Nanna comes to know customers and their horses. This is a part of the job she finds most rewarding, although some stories have clearly ended sadly.
I get to hear a lot of stories about horses and what they mean or meant for their owners. It´s always an exciting moment to open an envelope - usually, when I receive the hair, I already know a lot about the horse. People tell a lot about their beloved ones when ordering the jewellery. I have received hair with blood on and that tells me that something very sad and terrible has happened. I feel so fortunate to work with such meaningful items full of emotions, feelings and touching stories.
Nanna has now been creating jewellery for 15 years, but some customer stories have stayed with her over time. A young husband ordered a surprise gift for his pregnant wife, so she could keep a part of her beloved horse with her while caring for their new baby. A young girl who loved a horse next door to her home, but couldn’t get permission to take the tail hair required to make a bracelet. Refusing to give up, she collected tail hairs from fence posts all summer and saved all her pocket money to afford the bracelet.
nannasalmi is now a flourishing business with customers from all over the world. Nanna continues to find new inspiration developing new patterns and styles to highlight the natural beauty of horse hair. Her daughter Minna (marketing and social media) and son Sami (graphic designs) are very involved in running the business, making nannasalmi a real family affair. Minna describes her mother as having a ‘strong vision’ when it comes to anything design-related, but she is clearly proud to be a part of a company creating pieces which will be treasured for a lifetime.
This is the point of the whole collection: you can have your dearest with you all the time – forever.
You can see more of Nanna's incredible creations at nannasalmi.com. Style My Ride is now the official USA distributor for nannasalmi jewellery! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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