Saturday, March 05, 2011

American Swedish Institute

Now that my seventh book is in the hands of the publisher for completion and printing, I get to play in the wood shop with sculpture. I am continuing a series, with this one being tentatively called, ripped, or twisted and torn. The base is cherry and the sculpture, ash.

The American Swedish Institute is starting A Year of Swedish Slöjd: Handcraft Workshops for Youth and Adults. The first sloyd teacher in the US had taught in Minnesota in a church basement, and the important point about sloyd was not only the useful and beautiful objects made, but the growth of intelligence and character the practice was known to foster in children and adults.

The first sloyd teacher in America was Lars Erikson, editor of a Swedish paper called Slojdaren in Sweden. John M. Ordway of MIT had visited in Sweden to observe the Sloyd method and persuaded Erikson to come to the USA as described by Charles Bennett,
"On December 8, 1884, in the basement of the Augustana Lutheran Church of that city (Minneapolis) Erikson began teaching a class in Swedish sloyd. This is supposed to be the first lesson in Swedish sloyd taught in America."

Time magazine this week wonders whether we are a nation in decline, and I can suggest that the beginning of decline was when the powers that be decided that to not be a nation of makers, and to not be a nation of skilled craftsmen would be OK. Throughout the previous administration, we watched our young men go to unnecessary war in Iraq, while almost all our necessary and unnecessary consumer objects were purchased from China. American politicians, being completely out of touch, decided that was just fine. They did not lift a finger (as they knew not how to do so), but rather continued closing the last shop classes in American education.

Reader Reuben sent a link to an article describing the continued growth of the Chinese manufacturing sector. Good Luck Competing Against Chinese Labor Costs Mfg. Job Growth In China Is Headed Up, Not Down; 109 Million Mfg. Workers In China Dwarfs Number In U.S. But my point isn't that of trying to compete with the Chinese, but to improve the qualities of our own lives. To live without creative capacity is tragic.

There are things that each of us can do to remedy our national plight.
"Handwork, such as can only be learned in its own narrow field, must precede all life, all action, all art. To know one thing well and to practice it, gives more culture than a half-knowledge of a hundred things. -- Goethe"
Make, fix and create. DIY, TIY.


  1. Anonymous7:06 AM

    Looking forward to the new book!


  2. I am also looking forward to the new book. It will be a fall 2011 release!

  3. Hi Doug,

    I came across this article after doing some online research of Lars Ericksson. He is my Great-great grandfather. My father started to research his heritage prior to his passing a year ago, and he included a new paper article on Lars...about his introduction of the swedish sloyd to America. Do you happen to have anymore information on Lars in your book? Thanks!

  4. Susan, I'm sorry to say, that I have no further information.