Trænas Artist/Business Residency proudly presents the next guest coming to Træna – Jamie Ramsay. Travelling all the way to Træna from Chicago, she is coming to Northern Norway with a certain idea – to develop organically-created leathers, by using by-products from fish.
We got some words with her before she arrives the 23rd of May.
All photos: Jamie Ramsay, https://www.jamieramsayphoto.com/contact
Hi Jamie, you are on your way from Chicago to Træna to stay at the Business Residency. Who are you and what brings you here?
I am an American photographer and artist from Chicago. By trade I am a photographer, working mostly in editorial, travel, food and product photography. I have always been a maker, inclined to use my hands, and a few years ago started learning leatherwork from a 40 year veteran of the handmade shoe-industry, Sara McIntosh at the Chicago School of Shoemaking.
A few months into learning the basics, I created the design for a leather hip bag, after never finding a suitable, practical, handsfree bag for travel. Friends seem to like them and soon I was churning out custom packs for them. A colleague, who owned a landscaping and floral company, also commissioned me to create leather plant hangers for a restaurant interior installations she was doing in Chicago. After a few big jobs for high-end restaurants, I decided to start selling more publicly and launched an online store of my goods through Etsy in February of this year. My company Life on Mars Goods was officially born.
What is your project in Træna?
I am coming to Træna to see if the kinds of goods I make are a good fit for the islands’ residents, Norway in general, and and tourists, and to see if I can expand my finished goods into also creating the source material leather from fish and maybe even seaweed.
In what way is the project relevant for Træna, Nordland, Norway or Europe?
When learning leather craft, I found that, though the leather begins as a natural, long-lasting material, much of modern production involves environmentally toxic processing. It got me curious if there were companies out there producing cleaner, more organically-created leathers. Unfortunately, I found few. There was one company I found in Iceland, that was tanning fish, which intrigued me as is made use of fishing industry byproducts. I worked with the fish leather a little in my bags and found it easy to integrate and friends were receptive. When I learned that Træna was the oldest fishing village in Norway, it got my wheels turning. Could something like that be feasible in Træna? Or would there be a market for quality, functional, handmade goods that were sustainable and involved fish leather?
How did you find out about applying to the Residency at Træna?
A few months ago, my good friend Linda, who is from Lofoton and lives in Oslo, told me about this fascinating artists program on the Norwegian islands of Træna. I come back and forth to Trondheim a few times a year to coach women’s roller derby, and have developed a deep affinity for the culture and society here – especially the connection with the land and sea. She knew of my love of Norway and that I had been exploring new avenues in my leather and sustainable materials-making, as well as my photography. She suggested I look into it. The stars aligned and my goals moving forward fit serendipitously with the new business-in-residency program that had begun in Træna.
What expectations do you have for your stay ?
I look at this a an exploratory expedition for both information and inspiration. I am hoping to learn a little about the life on the islands, the needs and interests of the people here – if they fit with the thoughts I have for Life On Mars Goods, learn from other businesses like the Northern Company, and find out the logistics of starting business in Norway, especially one that deals with sustainability and environmental concerns. My business has primarily dealt with creating and designing finished goods. I hope to develop ideas for some new products as well as investigate the possibility of expanding design to the actual creation of source material leather from fish, and maybe even seaweed. I am also hoping to do some photography of the island and its residents, as visual inspiration for my designs – maybe even a shoot of some of my goods with residents, if they’re willing!
What plans do you have after your stay?
Directly after my time in Træna, I will be traveling to Sweden to learn traditional fish-tanning methods from a woman outside Stockholm. After information and skills gathering, I will return to the States to analyze the findings, do what follow-ups I can with connections made during the stay – investors, businesses, etc, and plan any trips back, based on that.
What kind of results are you expecting?
I am keeping my mind open to everything. I hoping to leave Træna having made some quality connections with parties interested in my leatherwork, some inspiration to help and contribute to the residents of Træna, and with a better idea of the direction my work could best take in Norway.
Welcome to Træna on May 23rd!
Name: Jamie Ramsay
Project stay: Business in Residence
from 23rd of May to mid June.