Rani Stigsdottir is a Pōneke-based artist, otherwise known as Banshee the Valkyrie. Specialising in jewellery with an otherworldly, esoteric vibe, she has recently joined The Learning Connexion as a tutor. We have a chat with Rani about her creativity and art.
Kia ora Rani. Tell us a bit about yourself and your art.
Kia ora, I'm a half Kiwi, half Icelandic jewellery designer and metalsmith. I sell my work through the nom de plume Banshee The Valkyrie and have a number of successful collections with eclectic themes and styles. I sell my work through my many stockists around New Zealand, through Etsy and my website.
I love learning about new techniques, female deities, history, science fiction, and hip hop – all of which inspire me greatly. I've taught jewellery for years doing adult evening classes for Workspace Studios in Wellington. I am also an alumni of The Learning Connexion and am feeling very chuffed to circle back around to the place I studied and come back as a jewellery tutor.
And it's great to have to here! Tell us, how do you sustain your creative practice?
I'm lucky enough now after years of making to have a jewellery business that pays for itself, but I still need a part-time job to pay for all the essentials like food and rent. The goal is always to have a self-sustaining art practice that I can live on. For the last year, I've been able to call myself a full-time jeweller as my part-time job was working for a goldsmith and I will be able to continue to be able to say that this year as the Learning Connexion's new jewellery tutor. Previous to last year I worked at The Dowse Art Museum for six years as a host. Which was fantastically educational. I learnt so much about New Zealand art, historic and contemporary.
Do you have a creative project you are currently working on?
I always have multiple projects on the go, this may mean that some ideas get put on the back burner as new ideas pop up but eventually I always get back to them. Sometimes they get sidelined because halfway through a project I realise I have to learn a new skill before I can carry on, and learning skills take time and patience to perfect.
At the moment my main muse as far as creating new work, are worms. I'm obsessed with them as creatures and feel that they deserve to be valued as much as the most expensive diamond and more than the cost of gold. One of the ways they intrigue me is how people can perceive them in totally different ways. They are often described as yucky, and gross. These people don't see them as magical transformers who are integral to our agriculture and food. I like how this response can show how deeply a person thinks. The negative response to me is a metaphor for engrained prejudice and completely thoughtless base responses like sexism and racism.
Although unlike some of these ingrained prejudices it's quite easy to explain how amazing these creatures are and change a person's perspective and being able to change your perspective once is the first step to changing your perspective again.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
On reflection my work seems to be very taken with the idea of equality, I really want us humans to be empathetic to each other and the rest of nature. I also feel that jewellery is a powerful tool for expressing culture, it can help show the beauty of an individual's identity and their chosen place in one of the many tribes of this world. I have described a collection of my earrings as complement catches.
I love the idea of complete strangers spreading goodwill, because they can't help but admire someone and say it. I think we will be a truly empathic world when people have the freedom to dress and adorn themselves in any way they please in all situations of their life, and have the only judgment be 'a complement'.
One of my collections that I want to highlight is my Cuisenaire block necklaces, made in an art deco style. I was fascinated with the Cuisenaire rod, an object used all around the world, to help teach children how to understand the universal language of mathematics, which then became a tool used by First Nations peoples to help teach people to speak their native tongue. That a simple colourful wooden block was, and is used to help and heal so many humans across the world is breathtaking.
Are your skills and approach to creativity transferable into other fields in your life?
The short answer is hell yes; the long answer is my skills as a jewellery maker and business person are the skills to expertly problem solve. To be Zen when working with highly technical equipment and projects. To be creative and innovative, to research and design till the project is perfect. To be an administrator, a photographer, a marketer and sales person among many other hats. Basically, I'm bloody skilled and can do anything.
Tell us about a highlight, a wow moment of a recent work or creative experience.
I was very thrilled to have four of my silver worms showcased in the Sarjeant Gallery Arts Review last year. In the same cabinet as one of Frances Stachl's rings and a Rick Rudd Teapot work from two very amazing New Zealand artists that I personally admire.
How did studying at The Learning Connexion transform you?
TLC was a pivotal part of my development as a young adult. I made lifelong friends, and learnt lifelong skills. My self-esteem skyrocketed. Remember how I said I can do anything? Well I wouldn't think that if I had not studied at TLC.
What advice would you give people starting out at The Learning Connexion and wanting to pursue a creative pathway?
There is no art without craft and no craft without patience. Making art is just as stimulating as taking drugs. It's all right if it doesn't happen straight away, this is a life path – don't eat yourself up if you don't achieve as quick as you think you should. The goal is to get better not be the best, you're winning against yourself not others. It's great to love what you're doing but eventually, everything you do becomes a job. Practise good routines – you will have to know how to do your taxes. keep dreaming and thinking big because coming up with new dreams takes a long time. Write down big goals as if casting a spell then hide them away, you'll be pleasantly surprised in a few years when you stumble across them and they all happened. Find people you can talk art with, keep them close.
Have you been involved in any recent external creative activities, exhibitions, collaborations, presentations etc?
I'm very lucky to have recently moved to the creative lil city of Whanganui and I've had many great creative opportunities come my way because of the very supportive arts community. I have four stockists in Whanganui which is huge as I only have three in Wellington. I've put work in the Sarjeant Review, been involved in a number of group shows at the Orphic Gallery. I've been in three Whanganui open studio events and had mentoring with local curators and artists. I also had the opportunity to work for a goldsmith for a year which was instigated by Whanganui and partners, a local business and innovation NGO affiliated with the council and the government