Friday, November 10, 2006

My apologies, please, to anyone who may have been wondering where I've been for over a week or so. I've been attempting to catch up on my inventory of small boxes to fill orders to galleries before the holidays. The life of a craftsman has its seasons.

There were several reasons that I planned to make my trip to Nääs, Sweden. One was to see some of the original sloyd models preserved at the Sloyd Seminarium. The second was to further my growing friendship with Hans Thorbjörnsson, who has offered a wealth of information and encouragement in my investigation of Sloyd. The third was to see copies of an obscure educational journal published in England from about 1890-1902. "Hand & Eye" was a small periodical whose contributors were either practitioners of eductional sloyd, or involved in promoting the educational theories of Friedrich Froebel. Copies of Hand & Eye are nearly impossible to find outside the Brittish Library archives, but are included in the original library of Otto Salomon and preserved in a room at Nääs.

My actual visit to Nääs brought much more to my awareness than I could have imagined, and it will take some time to reflect on the experience.

I don't have time at the moment to relate all the many details of my visit. I did meet my objectives. I spent hours among the workbenches in the original sloyd work rooms. I took many pictures of the models and original teaching materials. I took a photo of an original marking gauge which was made by and used by Alfred Johannson, one of the primary and best known teachers of the Sloyd School in 1890.

I spent time in the library, reading copies of Hand & Eye, and as the photo above shows. I spent time in the company of Hans Thorbjörnsson and Etsuo Yokoyama, a sloyd friend and scholar visiting from Japan. The photo above was taken in the field where Otto Salomon would lecture to his students each day. He spoke Swedish, German, French and English and lectured in each language on alternate days.

The photo below was taken at the gravesite of August Abrahamson and Otto Salomon. August Abrahamson, the wealthy Swedish businessman (and Salomon's uncle) who paid nearly all the expenses for students from around the world to study at Nääs, had picked up a stone at the grave of Pestalozzi, which he kept on his desk throughout his life. At the foot of the grave is engraved in Swedish, the saying that Abrahamson had carried from Pestalozzi's grave. "Good can be done even from the grave." He left a foundation to preserve Nääs into the future. Perhaps greater good will come when people begin to understand the significance of engaging the hands in education, and when August Abrahamson's and Otto Salomon's gifts to education become more widely understood.

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