One of the classes offered to the participants of the 2015 textile study tour at the Manndalen Husflidslag was the use of mica as a decorative element in the Sami folk costume. The materials used were felt, mica, wool yarn and fabric, and embroidery floss. First we used a leather punch to cut holes in a piece of fulled wool fabric backed with an interlining. I later cut mine to form a cloverleaf shape. The mica was taped to the back over the holes and then we sewed that piece onto a piece of hard felt. I then embroidered the piece, though others did the embroidery earlier. I sewed a piece of wool yarn around the clover leaf shape then covered it with the shinier embroidery floss.
The instructor, Gunn Isaksen, had some wonderful and very complex examples of this kind of applique and embroidery used in Sami folk costumes. After getting home I was able to find sources for buying mica online. I also came across a blog with amazing photographs, Folk Costume & Embroidery, that included an article on the Sami. As far as I could tell the Skolt and Kola Sami seemed to make the most use of mica. (I emailed the man who writes this great blog but haven’t heard back from him.)
With no plans to make a Sami folk costume or any part of one, it occurred to me that mica could be used in contemporary textile art to good effect. Its smoky color (and you can get amber as well as silver mica) and irregular surfaces are quite beautiful and interesting. Imagine incorporating mica in a felted piece with some embroidery. Perhaps a landscape where mica represents running water and then trees or reindeer are embroidered. Some of the simplified designs I saw used in contemporary art reminded me of the rock art we saw at Alta. There are lots of possibilities to explore with this technique.
Meredith Bennett worked in the publications department of the Institute of Textile Technology in Charlottesville, Virginia. She has been a weaver since the early 1970s, specializing in boundweave techniques.