Thursday, January 18, 2018

BloodReligion Interview/Maia Ytell

RavenzCraft Arts Interview with Maia Ytell

The Grave Hag 

Maia Ytell also known as 
"Grave Hag" is a skilled artist and craft maker and 1 half of the awesome online web store "BloodReligion"

Well first off, Id like to thank and welcome you to the RavenzCraft Arts Interviews Project , we appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and also the involvement and support you guys give us.  

1.So can you tell us a bit about yourself, where are you originally from, and a little about your back round, where you grew up and your families traditions and or following?

— Hi and thank you for featuring me! I was born 31 years ago in a little rural village in Helsingland, Sweden. I am of mixed ancestry although it's mostly concentrated to northern Europe; Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, German and Sami blood runs through my veins. 

I am alongside my husband the creator of the art project Bloodreligion, but I’m originally a professional bookbinder with a diploma. I’ve also studied photography and most recently comparative religion at university level. I’m thinking about taking up studies in philosophy next.

Growing up I belonged to what I would call the "hippie minority" in my village which was mostly inhabited by farmers. In the late 60’s and through the 70’s it was hip to get back to nature and a lot of people from Stockholm, hippies, artists etc., moved there and set up art communities and such. My mother was one of these ”weird folks”, as the native farmers would’ve put it, who relocated from the city. She is of the old school New Age type, so I grew up with a lot of crystals, incense and books about the occult and nature religions around me. We didn’t adhere to any specific faith or practice in my family growing up, but there was a great interest in pre- and non-Christian traditions and cultures. 

My family traveled quite a lot when I was a kid; around Europe, Africa, and we even lived for a while in the US in the late 90’s. I remember spending many weeks in the summer traveling around the reservations in South Dakota, visiting sacred places to experience the indigenous cultures there. We celebrated traditional Scandinavian heathen festivities ourselves, like Yule and Midsummer, and my mother made a point of omitting all glued on Christian symbology during these times.

Overall I really think it is the tradition that is important in Sweden though, not the religion in it self. Generally, a Swede will look at you funny if you say that you are religious. Many of these proclaimed atheists will funnily enough still go to a Christian church to get married or baptize their babies, because it is tradition. It is what you do that counts, not what you believe in. I like to think, perhaps a bit romantically, that this specific cultural mindset is a remnant from pre-Christian times when the Norse religion circled around tradition and not doctrine and dogma.

2.When in life did you realize your desire to create art? Did you have any specific person or artist who inspired your style and path of choice?

I have for as long as I can remember created things. I’ve always had an ”I can do it better myself”-attitude which may stem from not being able to afford many things growing up due to my family being fairly poor at times (I have four siblings and children are very expensive I’ve come to learn), so if I wanted something it was better to just make it myself. This has made me more or less skilled in many creative areas which I use today in my art, be it sewing, carving or jewelry making. I also must say that the Steiner school I attended as a child has given me creative confidence and a plethora of tools to wield as well. Creativity and artistic expression is a huge part of the Anthroposofic pedagogical philosophy, as opposed to the mind numbing and fact stuffing pedagogy of the public schools. I should put up a disclaimer now that says that I’m not an Anthroposophist nor am I into their occult crypto-Christianity in any way, haha.

My artistic style or output can vary enormously depending on what kind of framework I put myself into. Most people who will read this interview have probably just seen the very dark heathen, folkloric and satanic-esque things I do in Bloodreligion, but a few years ago I was totally into sewing fantastical rainbow colored children’s clothes. I think I could explain my creative process with that it happens in cycles, and these cycles become themes, or projects if you will. A specific theme could go on for years until I’ve sucked all of the juice out of it and it starts to tire me. The project of sewing children’s clothes tired me pretty quickly because it was what it was really — fabrics, colors and my visual imagination, and not very profound at all, although I enjoyed it very much. With Bloodreligion the art goes way beyond the physical materials used; to me it is also mythology, history, magic and spirituality. Also, I always make things I would want to wear myself or decorate my own home with.

It was my husband who inspired my current style of art. When we started dating about three years ago, and I came to his house the first time, he had this huge moose skull hanging on the wall which he had carved a row of runes into. I was amazed and said that he must do more of that, and soon I joined in on it in my own way. We share interest in everything Norse, as well as a love for the macabre so it was a natural process really.

3.Do you have any favorite artists or people in your genre you really like and follow today?

— Oh yes! They are not in our specific genre since they do not work with bones, but if what you mean is Norse or heathen inspired artists, I do. I will have problems naming them all but I’ll mention a few who everyone should check out, if they haven’t already. 

Tomarum by Christine Linde (@tomarum on Instagram) is a favorite of mine who makes completely magical photographic art inspired by Scandinavian folktales, specifically from the Helsinge landscape where I’m from. She is an amazing artist, and I am happy to call her a friend of mine. We grew up in the same village actually, although she is a bit younger than I am, so we didn’t get to know one another until a few years back.

Thrjár (@_thrjar_ on Instagram), which is the creation of a Norwegian artist is another favorite. She makes beautiful silver bind rune inspired jewelry that looks like they are made of twigs from a tree, I love it!

Misanthropic Pagan Arts (@misanthropic_pagan_arts on Instagram) is a Swiss artist that has gotten me spellbound with her cross stitch embroideries inspired by old European culture. I’m dreaming about owning a cushion with one of her Slavic folkloric patterns on it.

4.So I know you are interested in paganism and the old ways, if it is ok to ask, Do you have a specific spiritual following or traditions you practice? If so, was this followed from when you were young or did you just recently find your path of choice?

I have always been attracted to Old Norse tradition, maybe simply because it is my cultural heritage and I feel that it is the right expression to work with mainly. I wouldn’t say that I belong to some following though, except that I am a heathen because I am not Christian. I like working magically with runes, as well as incorporating them in my art, because they are aesthetically pleasing to me. 

To me the runes are not magical or sacred in themselves. People sometimes write to me with questions like ”Have I interpreted this rune correctly!?” or ”Am I doing this in the right way!?" and I really feel that they have missed the point. I believe it’s your will, your intention with what you do that matters in your magical workings. 

You are the one that makes the runes, or whatever expression or tradition you’re working with, potent. You’re the authoritative interpreter. There’s no ancient rulebook on how to use them. Yes, it is convenient with having a generalized meaning to them — but that’s all there’s to it. In the end you decide what their purpose and meaning are — or you can do it the other way around; what do they spontaneously make you feel? The runes are there to help you focus your energy to achieve something, all in accordance to your will. But then, I have a kind of Crowleyan definition of magic. Working with runes is just the tip of my spiritual iceberg though.

I think that one should be aware of one thing with this Old Norse spiritual revival that’s going on right now - that groups and people may be taking these symbols, Gods and descriptive traditions and form them, unknowingly because of a lack of knowledge, after a dualistic, patriarchal and prescriptive Abrahamic model with doctrines, orthodoxy and hierarchies etc. The number one meaning of being a heathen for me is that I want to erase the modern Western, Christianized, dualistic frame of thought that I have been programmed with since birth. 

The purpose of my spirituality is to mold myself philosophically; how I think and how I see the world and myself in it. Self-development by studying and trying to grasp ancient pre- and non-Christian conceptions, for example of time as being cyclical, rather than the Abrahamic perception that time is linear; i.e. has a beginning and an end. Nietzsche writes about this in the form of the ”eternal recurrence”, for example — and of course Eastern schools of thought like Advaita Vedanta.

5.So i really like the way you both portray your dark vibed style and expressions through your art and creations, 
Any favorite practitioners or authors you follow or have that you have been inspired or learned from that you can recommend to us?
Any favorite music or current band you guys are into?

  I try to isolate myself from artistic impressions from other people when I’m having a period of creative flow. The inspiration I take then comes from the sources really, reading the Edda etc. I also indulge in academic texts on whatever subject I’m into at the moment, and really try to learn everything I can about it. It goes hand in hand really; the art and the self-development. I always listen to music though throughout the day — I love me some Black or Death Metal — but that is not connected to the art usually. 

6.So I know you have a lot of great stuff you create, do you a have favorite piece you have right now?
what are some of the things you enjoy creating the most?

This passed autumn I began studying the local traditional textile art, mainly folkloric embroidery patterns, and started to incorporate it into my art. I stumbled across a book on the subject at a garage sale and I got totally obsessed with it. It felt really good to take inspiration from these designs, not just because they are part of my heritage, but also because it is the women in the community that has developed this much overlooked art form through the centuries. 

I also started drawing Old Norse dragon knots on pigs’ mandibles, and even doing some hybrid designs with the dragons morphing into folkloric flower patterns. My idea was to create the missing link between these styles of art. I free handed the knotted dragon designs, much to my amazement I might add, because I’ve always thought that it looks so hard to do and that I suck at drawing. I enjoyed that very much, going out of my comfort zone and actually making it look good.

7.I see you guys are pushing this to the next level and improving all the time, can you tell us some of your goals in the future? Would you be open to collaborating or setting up some kind of event or project in the future with another artist or creator?

Thank you! The funny thing is that we don’t really have any outspoken goals with Bloodreligion. 

Things have happened so fast! We posted our first picture of our creations on Instagram a little over a year ago, not expecting in the slightest that it would blow up as big as it has done. I think we’re still in shock actually so we’ll have to get back to you on that one, haha.

Collaborations are very welcome, if we see it fit. We are in the works of collaborating with an artist as we speak actually, and we are brewing more plans of doing so with other artists in the future. Overall is the little community of small alternative art businesses or whatever you want to call it, that has popped up on Instagram the last few years, extremely supportive of one another, and that is awesome I think. We also meet some of them regularly when we are exhibiting at Metal festivals, and everyone is so nice and uplifting towards each other.

8.So we are curious, where and when did you first meet Marten/Daudr ? you guys make a great couple, both very cool and unique in your own ways, but also fit together so well..

Thank you. That’s a long story, haha, but to make it short - he lived for a while in my hometown when I was about 14 or 15 years old. He was in his early twenties, had long hair, lots of tattoos and played in a band, of course I thought he was damn cool. Fast forward almost fifteen years; I’m living in Stockholm, I have two kids and have recently come out of a long relationship, and then I stumble across him on Instagram! We started talking and, well, I don’t live in Stockholm anymore.

9.I see you travel and visit quite a few interesting places, have you been anywhere interesting lately that may want to mention or share with us?

Yes, we love to experience new places together, specifically historical sites. The last place we went to that made me go ”Wow!” must’ve probably been in early 2017 when we were in Prague in the Czech Republic, and we went to the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora. The inside of the whole church is exquisitely decorated with the bones of more than 40.000 people. It was truly an amazing thing to see. We do travel around a lot here in Sweden too, near and far. One highlight was this summer when we went to find an ancient stone carving said to be located on a large boulder beside a lake in the neighboring county. We only had a really shitty map with us and had to venture through dense forest for hours it seemed, but luckily we managed to find it.

10. This last question is open for you to mention or say anything we may not have asked or missed, anything you want to mention or say to the fans and followers reading this interview?

We are currently working on a new Bloodreligion collection that will be out early 2018. Keep an eye out on our Instagram (@bloodreligion) and Facebook (@bloodreligionart) pages for announcements about that.

Special Thank You to Maia Ytell for taking the time to share and talk with us 

Follow and Purchase some of their art here at 

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Check out this new music video with music from Danheim, 
featuring some of the new artwork and crafts available from BloodReligion

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