The skull art work of Petra Shara Stoor – a Finnish artist based in Sweden – is quite unlike anything I’ve ever come across before. I contacted her moments after stumbling across her Facebook page, and to my absolute delight, we’ve put together an interview that will hopefully work as an introduction to her unique art.
Can you please talk about Skulls & Bones Artwork, why you founded it and the artistic services it provides?
It all started a few years ago. I was out in the woods taking a walk when I just happened to stumble upon a moose skull, all covered in moss and leaves and all. At first I didn’t think much of it, but when I picked it up I realized its potential as raw material for a future artwork. I don’t know what it really was that attracted me. The fine line between life and death? The forms, the shapes? But it was definitely something.
Anyway, the skull followed me home that day and as I cleaned it up I got more and more attached to it, which in turn lead to the idea of painting it. And somewhere around that point the skull was no longer just material, it came alive. Sounds strange, but that’s the way I felt (and feel) about it.
I posted a picture of Aruaa – my first skull, on the web and the interest proved to be huge. To my delight, I might say, since I had lots and lots of ideas just waiting to happen.
The ideas were soon outnumbering my available spare time ten to one. Realizing I needed a vehicle for all these ideas and plans, me and my better half, Fredrik Fernlund founded Skulls & Bones Artwork.
Skulls & Bones Artwork has since then grown into being a place where various kinds of events, art exhibitions, skull painting courses, music festivals etc all could be joined under one big “umbrella” concept. The living artwork and the living dead artwork.
Your work is specialised and unique. It must be an absolute joy to wake up every day knowing you’re going to be creating something that’s one of a kind. Can you talk about your feelings towards your daily work?
To be honest, I cannot remember the last day I woke up not thinking about doing something creative. I come up with ideas by the hour. Skull art, outfits and costumes for myself, mask work for music videos, makeup and styling, and, of course, skull artwork. It’s all there all the time and part of who I am.
I so much love to watch the actions and reactions of people getting exposed to my artwork. That’s one (of many) purposes that my artworks serve: To move people.
You’re a native of beautiful Finland. Can you please talk about the environment that you grew up in, and how this fed into your desire to do what you do today?
I grew up in a small village called Malax, in East Botnia, Finland. It’s a rural community and our house was surrounded by nothing but fields and trees. My childhood play mostly consisted of exploring the nature, building treehouses, searching for treasures etc.
I guess nature connects one to life in a very special way and that has defined me as an artist as well as a human being. Nature is in constant change, reinventing itself, forming new shapes and colours. My “child’s eye” was caught by that paradigm. In everything I come in contact with I also see so much more. And there’s a magic in it which can’t be lost. Just like energy, it’ll just change form. The little girl in me will never give up the treasure hunt.
In the past, you’ve spent time living in the North East of England. I imagine this would have been a really dramatic contrast to life in Scandinavia. Did your stay in the UK feed into your creative passion or crush it?
I’m not much of a city girl, but I look back at my 3 years in Newcastle with fond memories. I’m glad I spent so much time on the road up there in the north since that made me discover some phenomenal landscapes: The castles, the big open fields, the beautiful coast line…
I also loved the job I had back then. I worked in an art gallery where I was surrounded by beautiful art every day. Can’t have too much of that.
Your career appears to be extremely varied, with you being involved in a wide range of artistic occupations, including make-up artistry, mask work, hair design and props as well as, of course, your skull art. What is your secret to finding the time to fit all of this in?
This is a question I get asked a lot. To be honest, I don’t know. Some days are just crazy and everything is piling up everywhere, but I guess the secret of handling stress is to really love what you do. Then nothing is impossible.
I’m also glad to have a partner such as Fredrik, who fully supports what I do and who is also very much involved in the process of my creative journey.
Fredrik is in charge of our representation in social media and the Skulls & Bones website. He’s also a sounding board for my creative ideas, catering to the big picture, as opposed to the details I’m obsessing with.
I feel that being creative really feeds into my emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. What are your thoughts on how being creative can assist in keeping us healthy?
Being creative is basically what keeps me going and I don’t know if I’d wake up in the morning without it. It allows me to venture into other worlds and dimensions, to explore what life is about, to communicate with people on many different levels.
I believe in doing what your soul tells you to do and not to stifle those “calls for freedom” that emerge from your soul from time to time. All people are creative in one aspect or another. Find your very own brand of creativeness and it will maintain your health, body and mind. Happy people create, stifled people destroy!
The effort that goes into each piece of skull art must be extraordinary. Can you talk us through the process and how long it takes?
First of all, I do not hunt. I work with skulls I find in the forest or those that are given to me. I start with the cleaning process, which involves boiling the skull in a big outdoor kettle. All skin and flesh must be purged from the bone.
When time is right the creative process sets in (which is the time consuming part). It’s a matter of “listening to the skull” – finding out which concept the skull itself calls for. The concept then decides colour schemes, ornaments etc.
The amount of time spent differs greatly from skull to skull and, needless to say, I don’t let the clock interfere. Time must not exist, therefore I can’t give a positive answer.
You must develop a strong attachment to each skull that you work with. Is it hard parting with them?
It is extremely hard. We spend a lot of time together, me and the skull. We share the process and we walk the distance together. It comes “alive”.
Some skulls I can’t bear to part from. I keep them for myself and they can never leave my place, since they were meant to forever stay with me.
Your art really is unlike anything I’ve come across before. Are there any artists that influence you?
I cannot namedrop any particular artist, since inspiration comes to me from all over the place. Mostly from non-human sources, though.
I really love the fact that with each skull comes a little poem. Can you talk about what inspired you to collaborate with a writer?
It was simply a matter of taking things to yet another level. So many thoughts surface during the creative process. I came to realize I needed some fine-meshed “net” that could capture those thoughts then turn them into words that could go with the skulls, thus strengthening the impact of the final artwork.
Writer/composer Leo Flavum has this sort of abstract mindset. That makes him able to grasp the impalpable, so to speak. No matter what twisted thought you may come up with, he finds the core and embellishes it, adding even more “harmonics” to it.
He also introduced me to his Xhaimeran conworld, which includes this huge constructed language with 15-16000 words. Most poems he actually writes in Xhaimeran first, before translating them into English.
Your gallery in Sweden looks absolutely stunning. Can you talk about this space, what it’s function is and what it means to you on a professional and personal level?
Me and Fredrik were looking for a place that had the magic, the spot that could BE Skulls & Bones Artwork. We found it in march, 2012. Immediately we fell in love with the beautiful house, the barn, the brook running through the yard, the big field… It felt right and the atmosphere was as Skulls & Bones as it could be.
In the rustic barn – almost a hundred years old, we’ve set up a gallery that I run during summer time, exhibiting my skull artwork. We also organise all the events here.
I was enchanted by a series of photographs of yourself at the Arctic Circle. Can you please talk about the motivation behind this trip, and the effect that it had on you?
I love to travel, to explore, to meet new people and see how they live and maybe get inspired by them. We organised an event here at Skulls & Bones Artwork, called “Midwinterglow”. That event attracted the interest of a group of people from the Arctic Circle , who then drove all the way down here to take part of it.
Amongst these people was photographer Fredrik Broman. He took some photos of me at Midvinterglow and, as things turned out, he invited us up. So in December, 4 of us and one of my skulls embarked on a trip to the Arctic Circle. It was me, my man Fredrik, Anton Jacobson (our graphic Designer), his girlfriend Johanna Mörk and special skull guest “Dhe´lulaa”. We had the trip of a lifetime! Seeing and experiencing the Arctic Circle, visiting the Aurora Safari Camp and the ICEHOTEL, the Treehotel etc.
In the photos I was wearing my “Folklore” inspired creation. I also had my skull artwork Dhe´lulaa with me and nothing but pure wilderness, snow, forests and beauty surrounding us. The effect it had on me was profound. On all of us, I would say. It brought visions that may be part of future steps for Skulls & Bones Artwork.
What does the future hold for Skulls & Bones Artwork?
We never run out of dreams and visions here at Skulls & Bones Artwork. There are plans for turning this into a public place where people could stay to experience the artwork, see artistic performances, take part of music festivals and recurring events such as Midwinterglow. Also to make it a hub for alternative art – local, national and worldwide.
Where can Skulls & Bones Artwork be found?
Skulls & Bones Artwork is based in Jättendal in the Hälsingland region. From Stockholm the journey by car is about 3,5 h, and it takes about 2,5 hours with train. If you want to come for a visit, send and email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will organise this!
You can find Skulls & Bones Artwork by following these links: