The beautiful Sarah returns to Drunk in a Graveyard with her enchanting Dark Ladies column and today we get to meet Dajana Heremic.
1. You do craftsmanship and fine art. It is a combination that is same parts down to earth and abstract. You combine two worlds… tell people a bit more about your work.
My name is Dajana Heremic, 27, artist and woman of the crafts in northern Netherlands. I am an illustrator and painter and I work with the ancient craftsmanship of wool – felting, spinning, needlework, weaving and dyeing with plants. I make woolen clothing like my felted collars, bags and Viking hats, that are inspired by nature and the ancient world of mythology, folklore and the occult.
My work breathes my profound love of nature, her rhythms and the powers that work within. The images I create derive from the old meaning of the word ‘nature’: ‘to be born’ or ‘the essence’. Thus I am in search of our origin. I create archaic images steeped with wild nature and the passing of time; in which animals and gods tell the story of our ancient past. In consequence I am creating a world in which humans and animals are related to one another, belong together, and thus seal their bond and ancestry.
2. How did you get into doing what you do now?
My work and passion comes forth from a love I had discovered in my early childhood. My heart would radiate whenever I was drawing, working with wool or in touch with animals. Drawing – I discovered I had a talent for it – allowed me to go into my inner Kingdom and create a Universe of it’s own. Ever since I was a little girl, my grandparents taught me old crafts they had learned when they were children. My grandmother Smilja initiated me into the practice of a woolwitch – knitting, crochet, embroidery, sewing, spinning and doing old and simple forms of magic – giving me my first set of knitting needles and yarn when I was 6. My grandfather Stojan is a photographer, beekeeper, a crafter and used to be a shepherd when he was a boy. So in his footsteps I stepped becoming an arts & crafts woman, beekeeper and a shepherds apprentice, unifying my creativity and my love of animals.
After finishing the Academy of Arts – where I specialized in classical painting and illustration – I felt a strong urge to pick up the thread and needle again, to dig even deeper and to bring together the things I love most. And the creations that had been fueled by my passion for ancient history, art, books, botany, witchcraft, folklore and mythology of Old Europe just poured out of me. The archaic images I paint and illustrate, and the wild woolen clothing I create came together so solemnly.
3. You make beautiful felted collars. Can you tell us a bit more about the process?
Felting is an ancient craft – applied thousands of years ago to make tents, rugs and clothing – basically using only wool, warm water, soap and muscle power. The wool I work with most is from the Dranthe Heath sheep – an ancient Dutch breed that is held by local shepherds and shorn annually. The woolen furs I use to create my felted collars and other wild clothing are organic and animal friendly. Every sheep and it’s fur is different, thus every piece I create is unique.
I’ve always loved hair and fur. Only the ones most close to Mother Nature are gifted, honored to wear Natures art on their skin. The pure beauty of animals has always fascinated me, and ever since I can remember I longed to look like them and connect. Our ancestors had the same love and wore their fur, not just for warmth and beauty, but also to connect with their spirit. But my love for animals prevented me from taking a life for skin or meat, and resulted in becoming a vegetarian early on. Discovering the beauty of wool and learning how to felt furs made it possible to create and wear this Natures regalia in a sustainable and animal loving way.
Also it made this ‘abstract’ world of drawing and painting the spirited world of animals, plants and men – tactile and close. The felted collar embraces this world when you wear it, feel it’s warmth. It simultaneously creates this wild and rooted being to behold. Like a scepter or a crown, the collar gives you power and welcomes you in it’s warm natures embrace.
4. In your pictures, illustrations and videos we can see that you have a strong bound with nature. How do you channel that into your work? Do you have a philosophy?
Nature is my religion. I worship the ground we walk upon and the air we breathe. Everything I do is to feel the Source more closely & deeply. To be in touch with my core and to be in touch – like with an umbilical cord – with the Earth and the Divine flow. It’s intertwined with my daily life, it’s all part of it. Every day I learn more, life is like a great School where you gain knowledge, love, awareness and focus. My tools are desire, wonder, ways of magick, silence (haha that I’m still practicing!), absorption (I love reading!), and Creation! Art is a very strong tool of Creation I partly received and partly learned – apart from being a way of going inward, it’s also a means to communicate with others, or to teach. The same with Crafts. Creation is a great part of my life, it’s something I Desire to do, so I’ve made it the ‘motor’ of my life’s vehicle.
Depicting my imagination and creating slow fashion – from shearing wool to a finished piece of garment, like in the olden days – makes perfect sense to me. When I work with wool (spinning yarn or felting in the garden), animals (the sheep or my bees) or when I paint and draw I feel most connected to an ancient way of being, connected with my body and the rhythm of Nature. I feel at peace. It embraces my past, my worship and my desire.
5. What is your take on darkness and light in relation to your work?
The darkness cannot be ignored, not in philosophy, art or spirituality. It is where true beauty resides – or in subtler words: it is required of true beauty, to have a depth, a shadow or a scar. For beauty is that which glows within the inner darkness. My work requires a certain darkness, for the light to be seen. It is part of the contrast that makes art interesting and life worth while. And for true wisdom to immerge, we have to pass through darkness. And even go back to it for advise and silence once in a while. I see the dark forest, the dark of the night, dark archetypes, dark emotions and the dark side of the Self as a place where we can be most honest with ourselves and listen to our gut. Darkness is not ugly nor beautiful, it’s rather the inside of the universe. It can be a dangerous space to dwell in, but with a clear mind in darkness we can find depth of field, in shadows a truth more bright.
Folklore and mythology have a very dark nature. They tell stories from the beginning of time, where darkness embraces the universe and from within light is something that slowly grows, like in a womb. They are stories where the ugly, twisted and crooked or the gay and fair are not evil and good, but caught in a thousand shadows of existence, where light and darkness collide to create the space in between – the edge, it is very important – and where life and death walk hand in hand. If you truly listen you hear the story of the Self evolving, you learn of people and gods, and all the high peaks and murky woods within you. Maybe that is why I have always loved it and made it a part of my work: I find balance, knowledge and spirit in it.
When darkness arrives in peoples lives, it always has meaning, for you can make it your teacher. My man and I have both experienced darkness in our own unique way – he faced death up close, watching it slowly take his mother – my family and I escaped it, surviving war in former Yugoslavia. These lessons are not chosen, but it’s in the way you perceive it that it can bring wisdom and strength. I’ve learned that I am a Bear and a Wolf and can move mountains if I need to. Darkness made me ignite my own strength from within. And though I consider myself still young and fertility and creation are major themes in my life right now, I listen and learn as I visit the dark Crone in my mothers mother and within me.
The link to the video:
All photographs are copyright Dajana Heremic and shall not be reproduced without her express written permission.