For this issue of Talks with Tolkien artists, I interviewed - Gwillieth, and it was a very interesting talk, not only about Tolkien and her beautiful ethereal art and jewelry, but also about nature and spirituality:
1. Hello! For the beginning, could you tell us something about yourself?
Greetings ! Aelin Laer Fine Art & Craft represents Celtic and Elven inspired art. Therefore: I am a painter and silversmith from Croatia. I have been painting for all of my life, ever since I can recall and I graduated from the School of Fine Arts, Department of Painting back in 2009. In 2011, I finished a traditional silversmithing course in Atelier Lumezi, taught by famous Albanian silversmith master Lazer Lumezi. Besides my art progress I'm also studying, practicing and have finished master degree in Druidry, Crystal therapy ,Reiki, Karuna and Excalibur Healing. I am an active member of three Druid Orders : "Druid Order Of Twilight", "Reformed Druids of Gaia" and "Ár nDraíocht Féin ". I am a vegetarian, practitioner of old ways, tree-hugger, tea-addict, lover of crystals and stone lore, deeply in love with trees, I meditate at least 3 hours per day, love reading and books. And my free time I spend on long forest walks by creeks and rivers.
2. It is interesting to find out the stories behind people's usernames. What is yours?
“Aelin Laer” actually means “song of waters” or “lake song”. Water is extremely powerful and unique natural artist, connected with our emotions and feelings, so pure and shapeshifting - just like the process of painting. Celts had great admiration for all water-sources, and since I have some celtic roots, this is also part of my belief. So “Aelin Laer” was a perfect art name for me, covering spiritual,religious and artistic aspects-all in one.
3. When did you read Tolkien's books for the first time, and what impression did they leave in you?
First Tolkien's book I read was actually Silmarillion, and it was one of my first self-picked readings back in elementary school, I think I was 8 years old. I read all my life and books are real portals to other worlds, and amazing friends. I was fascinated with beautiful and kind of abstract descriptions of characters and landscapes, author's relationship with nature and fondness for all things that grow. I have found many similarities with legends from Celtic mythology which my grandparents read to me before sleep, and which I knew by heart, so I fell in love with this piece instantly – from the first chapter of the book, and it is one of my favorite books in the world even today. After that, I read all there is from J.R.R.Tolkien, but Silmarillion was and will always be my favorite.
4. Did you read the books, or see the movies first? When the movies came out, many of the inner pictures of characters and scenes in the mind of the readers have been replaced by actors and settings from the movie. Did it happen to you as well? Did you try to prevent it?
I have read the books many times before seeing the movie adaptations. Some of these characters were actually quite alike to those faces I pictured in my mind while reading the books, places even more. I was fascinated how Lothlórien was created in the movies, it looked so much like the place I had in mind while reading these chapters. I did not merge actors with characters in the books – these characters will always be fluid and changeable: every time I read the book it is a different experience. And books will always be books, and different from anything we can imagine and create. Ideas, characters and places are always different in author's mind than in the mind of any reader. I do like what P. J. did with the movies, but I will always rather read the book than watch movies.
5. How extensive is your knowledge of Middle-earth? Do you consider yourself Tolkien expert?
I know enough, but I must confess I consider myself more of a Celtic-lore and Elven-expert than a Tolkien expert. There are some real Tolkien expert masters from this field and I'm still not one of them.
6. Who is your favourite Tolkien character and why?
Galadriel was my favorite character from the beginning. I love the complexity of her nature and all that she represents. She is not my favorite Tolkien's character, she is my favorite book character in general.
7. Could you tell us a bit about your connection with nature and druidism?
Ever since I was a little girl I spent most of my time in nature, on forest walks with my grandfather, gathering healing herbs with my grandmother and listening to stories from Celtic mythology. I always felt that special connection with nature and I would always draw and paint shapes and faces I could see hidden in branches. I was (and still am) a loner, and I always felt like home when I was in forests near trees and rivers, so normally, I wanted to discover as much as I could about this personal connection with nature and energies around me. In time, my first druid teacher, William Trakhey found me, trained and initiated me into our first Druid order, which was set in Ireland, and through the years I met my other teacher, Michael Talvola, who introduced me to Ár nDraíocht Féin and reformed Druids of Gaia, so I became a proud and happy member of them too. I'm always reading, learning, studying and exploring as I walk our ancient path, and it is a way of life, it actually was even before I knew the name for it.
8. Your profile info says you have a master degree in Druidry, Crystal therapy, Reiki, Karuna and Excalibur Healing. Would you mind explaining how each of these works, and how and where does one even study it?
Druidry is a spiritual way and practice that teaches us to be fully creative in our lives, to commune deeply with the world of Nature and deities, to know ourselves and to gain access to a source of profound wisdom. It is a spiritual path, religion and a way of life. Through history, Druids were known as members of an order of priests in ancient Gaul and Britain who appear in Irish and Welsh legend as prophets and sorcerers. Today, Druidry is much the same, just more evolved - as time is different. Our vision is that the Gods and Spirits are served in the modern world. We value commonality of ritual practice, honoring the Earth, Gods and Spirits, scholarship and research, and others through living our virtues. Anyone who is interested in Adf work and would like to learn and progress may find all informations on our website on the interenet. Our Irish, "Druid Order Of Twilight" is a closed and kind of old-fashioned order and we do not accept new members, in this case every Arch Druid chooses just one apprentice for life, until he, or she becomes Arch druid.
Crystal therapy is a healing technique that employes energy, stones and crystals. There are many schools of crystal healing in the world so we can choose or not, many good books offer great wisdom about mastering this technique. I personally prefer both – schools and books, so I finished 3. Degree in Crystal healing and was taught by great teachers from Ireland, United Kingdom and Croatia. Reiki, Karuna and Excalibur are techniques used for healing, stress reduction and relaxation, by placing hands on the body or sending symbols to charge and heal our biomagnetic sheath and chakras. It is usually taught by a master-teacher who teaches the novice through energy practice, meditation and required literature. After months or years of study and practice, just as it is with Druidry, novice is initiated, and eventually, if he or she wishes so, can become master-teacher him/her-self. I'm very grateful to my teacher, Ivica Šafranko who guided me on my healing path. All these techniques we use, through Druidry, Crystal and energy healing, divination, ogham practice and meditation make us more connected and aware of us as energetic parts of the universe and everlasting energy. As one of my teachers said: "we are multidimensional light created when the source blew into stars". I believe old master Tolkien knew and understood this in his heart.
9. Now, could you tell us something about you and art and jewelry? Are you a professional artist, or is art just your hobby? When did you start doing it, and who or what influenced your style?
I don't believe in a word “professional” because we study and learn through all of our life. But I am not a hobbyist nor amateur, my art is my life and my work, it pays my bills but it is also part of my being, something that makes me what I am. I paint ever since I was just a small girl, when I would go on walks in forests with my grandfather – I would always sketch, draw and paint those mystical shapes and faces that would appear hidden in branches and leaves. I come from a family of artists, even my grandfather was a painter, so this was something I knew I will do, because I loved it so much – I still do. So I graduated from the School of Fine Arts, Department of Painting in 2009. I was always drawn to history of talisman and mystery of silver, and along with using crystals and Druidry practice, Silversmithing was something I also wanted to add to my painting skills. So, in 2011, I also finished traditional silversmithing course in Atelier Lumezi, taught by famous silversmith artist Lazer Lumezi. And now I use my knowledge and skills for creating my artwork, but I also keep on with studying these as I work. Along with Celtic-themed paintings, I create “Consecrated Silver Craft” which are uniquely designed and created talismans with attached semi-precious and precious stones and crystals,programmed and fired in nights of full moon. I also work with combined techniques from time to time, but painting and "silversmithing" is what I do daily.
10. How do you choose the topics for your pictures and jewelry?
I'm always reading and studying on my Druid path and all of this is connected with mysteries of nature, Celtic mythology and legends. I'm inspired with old Celtic tales, but also with mystical beauty around me: on my forest walks, by looking at the trees – those standing giants of old, forests, rivers and beautiful streams, those special moments in twilight with changing lights, moonlight and the stars. Sometimes I get inspiration in meditations or scenes just come to my mind while working with ogham and during ritual work.
11. What other book or movies (or anything else) inspire you, and why?
I'm also studying Celtic mythology and religion, so I'm always reading different books with these topics, from Archeology, ancient Irish tales, folk tales, legends… I also love movies and music inspired by Celtic lore and legends.
12. What art technique is your favourite? Do you rather keep to the art techniques and styles you are familiar with, or do you experiment with new ones as well?
I love experimenting from time to time, and with different materials, such as clay, wood, etc. and I also use oil paints and aquarelle, but I mostly work with acrylic paints and on my silversmith bench (with tools required for creating silver talismans.) So acrylic painting and silver-smithing are my two favorite art techniques.
13. Do you have some tips and tricks you would like to share with the other artists?
Be true to yourself and keep on creating, be inspired and inspire others – you have the most beautiful and amazing job in the world – enjoy in it every day of your life.
14. For those interested to acquire some of your beautiful creations, where and how can one buy your jewelry?
Just few pieces are available in my etsy shop : www.etsy.com/shop/AelinLaer?re…
15. Could you give us a link or thumbnail from your gallery of
- a Tolkien illustration you are most proud of?
I can't say which painting I'm most proud of from this Tolkien inspired gallery, but “Lady of the Galadhrim” is one of my favorites:
- a Tolkien themed jewelry you are most proud of?
The "Stars of Elbereth" necklace:
- a picture from other fandom or original picture you are most proud of?
One of my latest art-works from "Celtic Twilight" painting collection which I prefer, "Mist messenger":
- original jewelry you are most proud of?
It is actually my personal ring I created few months ago with beautiful moonstone:
- a piece that fits your current mood?
I guess all my pieces represent my mood and constant inspiration, so I can't pick just one.
- a piece that was hardest to make?
This one, because I had to perfectly fit this natural amethyst wand into branches so they can hold it, but I actually enjoyed working on this, I love challenges in my work and I'm glad to be able to test my skills.
16. What key people in your life, (on or off of dA) have been inspirations to you, or has supported you, as an artist? You can also tell us why, if you want.
There are many teachers and guides in my life and I'm happy to contact and work with them daily. I get inspiration and support from my teachers from my Druid orders and teachers of healing practices, but also from deities, spirits and ancestors in our ritual work, who guide me and give me strength (and warnings when needed). I'm also very grateful for my soul-partner, my family and friends and all those wonderful artists who inspire me with their different style, such as Lazer Lumezzi and Nives Cicin-Sain.
17. Is there some artist(s) at dA you know, who doesn't have as much attention as they would deserve? If yes, could you give us some thumbnails from their gallery?
Ivo Turk is a dear friend and a photographer hobbist who works with analog camera and creates beautiful photos, without editing them in photoshop. I think he definitely deserves more attention. Some of my favorites are definitely his landscape photos:
18. Is there something else you would like to tell to the fans of Tolkien and your art?
I just wish to say "thank you" to all Tolkien fans, because I am also one of them, and I grateful for all those posts, quotes, art and music you share to remind us of this great person and amazing works he created. I'm also grateful for deviant art and all my followers and watchers and fans of my work, for all their support and appreciation. …For what would art be without those who appreciate it, and what would world be without art?
And thank You, dear author, on Your time, questions and this opportunity.
And I thank you for you time and very interesting answers to my questions!