8 months ago

This Wonderful Little Place … Lofoten Islands, Norway

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Stockholm-based Irish jewellery designer Michael O’Dwyer makes an annual trip to these islands

I’m lucky to live in Stockholm, which has an easy pace of life and is so close to nature. I originally moved here with my Swedish wife over ten years ago and although our marriage didn’t work out, I had already fallen in love with the city. It’s built on an island and surrounded by large, untamed forests, which lie a mere three kilometres from the heart of the city. When you love the outdoors as much as I do, it’s the perfect place to live. 

How I got here is a long story. I graduated from UCD in Art History, before studying diamond gemmology and colour gemstone gemmology, which ignited my passion for jewellery design. Consequently I was accepted onto the Design & Crafts Council Ireland’s Jewellery and Goldsmithing course in Kilkenny, where I enjoyed two years of training under the watchful eye of master goldsmith Jane Huston. From Kilkenny, I moved to Antwerp, Belgium to study under world-renowned diamond stone-setter Alexander Sidorov. When I first moved to Stockholm, I mainly supplied my stone-setting skills to the local jewellery industry. Having trained in the new school style of microscope stone-setting with Alexander – where the microscope is the main tool – the local jewellers were initially wary of me. Those were difficult first years but, I’m delighted to say, my jewellery workshop has grown to be one of the largest in Stockholm. My signature style is vibrant gems surrounded by smaller fine diamonds. 

I visit trade fairs around the world, from Switzerland to Hong Kong, to buy gemstones. I also return to Ireland to visit family [Michael is from Dun Laoghaire] and also to liaise with Ann Chapman of Stonechat Jewellers [Westbury Mall, Dublin 2]. This year I launched my Art Deco collection of rings in collaboration with Stonechat Jewellers – they capture the elegance and glamour of that era and are set with coloured gemstones and round brilliant-cut diamonds. 

When I am not travelling for work, I prefer to escape on my own and an annual trip I make is to the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway, inside the Arctic circle. It’s cold. I always liken the weather to Donegal as conditions can change on an hourly basis. When I’m there I enjoy camping in remote spots such as Kvalvika Beach, which was made famous by the film North of the Sun. When I’m there I kayak; dry suits are a must for survival. I meet a lot of hipsters and the islands are becoming popular for extreme sports. 

While I’ve been lucky enough to explore many parts of the world, staying in excellent hotels and experiencing top restaurants, what I remember most are locations with epic scenery. The historical religious centre of Hampi in India is one such, but the Lofoten Islands are incredible. Their beauty can never be fully captured on camera. I always say you have to visit them to see for yourself.

As for Christmas, I’ll be spending it with my family at our home in the country – Björnlunda which is south of Stockholm – where we all go ice-skating and sledding. Santa is bringing my children Tierna, Vidar, Hilda and Alva skates, so I am sure a lot of Christmas day is sure to be spent outdoors.

Michael O’Dwyer, Sjövikstorget 14, 117 60 Stockholm, Sweden: www.odwyer.se.

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