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Learn traditional crafts in Sweden?

In the USA I am part of an art collective that offers low-cost art and craft workshops ranging from a few hours to 2 or 3-day intensives. I'd like to find similar opportunities in Sweden that would introduce me to traditional and ancient crafts such as weaving with heritage breed sheep wool, shoemaking, rope-making, rug-making, plant-based dye, wildcrafting and foraging, Sami bone and antler carving, Dalmålning...anything, really, but especially Dalmålning. I would also love to see "living history" craftspeople in practice.

Is Skansen autumn craft festival the ultimate opportunity for such things? (I don't see Dalmålning on the agenda for this coming September. ) How shall I find lessons and workshops remotely? (I'm starting to learn Swedish but I need to operate in English.)

I've heard people being disappointed in Birka.

Posted by
460 posts

Not a direct answer, but if you didn't already know about the wonderful American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, I am sharing a link to their website. Someone there might be a resource to find out more about what might be available in Sweden. https://asimn.org/

Posted by
6685 posts

That is a tricky question that can be hard to answer. Or might need a very long answer. Do you really mean dalmålning or do you mean kurbits? Courses in kurbits are not that hard to find, but they are mostly in Swedish. You might contact one and ask if they can do a course in English. Skansen is not a bad place, but there are many other options as well. Especially in the summer there are things to do, here is a list of some: https://hemslojden.org/gora-och-besoka/slojdkalendern/

Posted by
5690 posts

Do you really mean dalmålning or do you mean kurbits?

Badger, is there a difference between the two or is kurbits the correct term to use in Swedish? In the U.S., I’ve seen the term dalmåning used interchangeably with kurbits on various craft sites.

Posted by
7 posts

Kurbits refers to the curving floral elements, like cucumber or squash vines, that characterize Swedish folk decorative painting of the 1700s and early 1800s. So all that kind of painting can be called "Kurbits" painting, even if no vegetables as such are depicted, just as the Norwegian counterpart can be called "rosmålning" even though it doesn't always depict roses.

Swedish folk painting of the period is overall called Dalmålning -- I suppose because it was done a lot on cabinets, boxes, and other woodwork produced in "the valleys" outside of urban areas -- the realm of folk artists, people beautifying the everyday useful things of their own local communities. Or perhaps it refers to Dalarna as such?

Posted by
7031 posts

Two resources to possibly find something would be the American Swedish Institute that Laurie mentioned. It is wonderful and has some incredible classes with great instructors. Another option is the North House Folk School, where i have taken classes in rug hooking and soap making, but they offer a LOT of classes that are Scandinavian in origin, and many have Scandinavian instructors. My daughter took a class there and made a pair of leather and fur Mukluks. They offer Dalmålning courses as well. You could call or email either of them for help.

I think that the North House Folk School would be in a better position to offer information. The ASI is a museum that offers classes, but the NHFS is a school solely made for class work and so on, and worth taking classes at. It's in Grand Marais, MN on the beautiful North Shore, with some of the most gorgeous scenery in the US. I signed up for a class in early December making a Scandinavian work shirt. I know how to sew, but this will be more for the camaraderie and the heritage pattern.

And I agree with you that kurbits and dalmålning and rosmålning are all pretty much interchangeable. :-)

I know that Lotta Jansdotter offers workshops on the Åland Islands, which is where she is from. But she is a printmaker, and so the classes focus on this. I keep bookmarking it and would love to go there one day for one of her workshops. https://www.jansdotter.com/workshops

Posted by
6685 posts

Badger, is there a difference between the two or is kurbits the
correct term to use in Swedish? In the U.S., I’ve seen the term
dalmålning used interchangeably with kurbits on various craft sites.

They are not the same thing, but I've seen people (especially North Americans) mix them up before. So I thought I should ask just to be sure.

Kurbits is as mentioned a style of floral vine patterns from Dalarna first used to decorate furniture in the late 1700s but their use spread and were used as wall decorations and to decorate many different object. It's still popular today in Dalarna and can be seen on all kinds of objects. Kurbits tatoos are also not uncommon.

Dalmålning is a style of folk painting from Dalarna (hence the name), especially the area around lake Siljan. It appeared roughly around the same time and it was common for the painters to use kurbits patterns in their paintings. Here is an example where you can clearly see the kurbits in the upper right corner: https://digitaltmuseum.se/011023564473/vaggbonad painted by Lisserkers Olof Olsson in 1822. So in a way they are related, but not the same. Here is a later example of a dalmålning, https://digitaltmuseum.se/011023704327/malning Häradsrättens avslutande i Leksand painted by Larshans Per Persson in 1865. Note the absence of kurbits.

Posted by
5690 posts

Hiraeth and Badger, Thanks for enlightening me on the various styles of painting. I never really knew the distinction.

Posted by
797 posts

Sounds like you're going to find some excellent resources in the US too. I'm wondering when you're planning to visit? Loved your comment on your bio page, 'Scandinavian societies give me hope for the future of all people.' AWWW totally agree.

Is Skansen autumn craft festival the ultimate opportunity for such things? While it looks interesting, and frankly I love Skansen, https://skansen.se/en/see-and-do/non-bookable-activities/autumn-market/, I don't see anything about classes. Hmmm you do bring up what looks like a very fun event so thanks! Will try to make it into Stockholm one of those days. The times I've been to Skansen there were brief demos on things like making flat bread, and perhaps you can observe people working on looms, but I just don't see anything that meets what you're asking for - a few days of classes. Maybe email Skansen to ask about classes?

The other place that's incredibly rich in early Swedish history is the History Museum (Historiska Museet) in Stockholm, it's a gem, incredibly well curated and you can start downstairs in the oldest part of the exhibit and literally walk through artifacts from each century, well worth a few hours! https://historiska.se/.

Which by the way, it looks like they have some short classes in ancient crafts during the summer, but I'm guessing it's just a brief intro. Why don't you email the museum and ask them? What a great place, sigh, was just there in May and will have to go back for 'Viking Summer'. You can bake Viking-era bread and try handicrafts, clothes and Viking-era games.https://historiska.se/kalendarium/2024/06/29/vikingasommar-kul-utomhus-2/

I've heard people being disappointed in Birka. Several Swedes recommended I go there, but then it turned out they'd heard about it all their lives but not actually been! Personally, I found Birka disappointing, despite going with a wonderful guide for a 1/2 day scenic trip via boat to the island. Yes, it's historically important & there's a small museum and some outlines of a settlement, but as a non-historian, there's just not that much to actually SEE. So if you're interested in a picturesque place to visit with some (later) Viking history, I would go to Gamla (Old) Uppsala, about a 20-minute bus ride from the Uppsala train station, with several Viking royal graves and an excellent small museum, after first visiting the Swedish History museum. Hope some of that's helpful and good luck!

Posted by
15724 posts

Are you familiar with the Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC?

They teach literally hundreds of different classes in all types of arts, crafts and creative endeavors. You might find something you are looking for that will give you a prep for one in Swedne.

Posted by
6685 posts

If anyone want to know more about kurbits and dalmålning I can strongly recommend a visit to Dalarnas museum in Falun. They have a great exhibition that will teach you a lot more.

I've heard people being disappointed in Birka. Several Swedes
recommended I go there, but then it turned out they'd heard about it
all their lives but not actually been! Personally, I found Birka
disappointing, despite going with a wonderful guide for a 1/2 day
scenic trip via boat to the island. Yes, it's historically important &
there's a small museum and some outlines of a settlement, but as a
non-historian, there's just not that much to actually SEE.

I partly agree. It very much depends on how interested you are in the viking age, if you have a huge interested in the era then Birka is one of those places you should go to as it was a very important place at the time. But you probably need a guide to tell you more about it. At least if you're not Swedish and haven't learned about it in school. But if you're not that interested in the era, then Birka can be skipped and there are other places where you can spend your time.

So if you're interested in a picturesque place to visit with some
(later) Viking history, I would go to Gamla (Old) Uppsala, about a
20-minute bus ride from the Uppsala train station, with several Viking
royal graves and an excellent small museum, after first visiting the
Swedish History museum. Hope some of that's helpful and good luck!

Very much agree! And don't forget that there are many runestones in and around Uppsala as well.