Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Went shopping again

Yes, I know I'm on a tight budget and shouldn't shop, but you just can't pass up an opportunity to get to buy a handmade gräddbulle (as I mentioned here). Gräddbullerian and Accessorize are by far my two favourite shops among all the new ones at Väla (sorry, Bites & Bottles). Apart from gräddbullar, the only thing I was thinking of buying was a bottle of gesso and some stickers so I can make more MOP etchings. But then of cause I had to go by Pressbyrån and check out all the mags. They don't seem to carry any of the beading or jewellery making mags anymore, but I can find other craft magazines and creative reading. This time I picked up an issue of Hemslöjd.

I discovered Hemslöjden, the magazine that has now become Hemslöjd, more or less by accident. I was given a whole bunch of back issues by a woman that was moving to a new home. Keep or donate to charity she said. I read them and kept them all. Even if I hesitated at first. Could this really be for me?

To understand why I felt like that, you have to understand both what hemslöjd means and the age in which I grew up.

 Hemslöjd is a term used for traditional Swedish crafts, mostly done at home (hem = home) for the own household or to sell. In the late 19th century with the country being industrialised and old traditions giving way to new ways of life, efforts were made to save the old traditions and crafts for going under as society changed. They wanted to preserve everything as it was: old was good, new was bad. I'm generalising a bit, but not much. This was also the age of nationalism and nationalistic romanticism so the preservation was also part of creating this image of the beautiful and superior nation. This is the time when that gaudy dala horse becomes as Swedish symbol -- though it has only ever been made in one of the Swedish provinces. I'm not going in to all that because it's a long story. Interesting and important, but too long for this post. Hemslöjd is traditional crafts. That's really what you need to know to follow me.

During the 20th century, the interest in the old crafts has gone up and down. It went up during the 70's and wen I grew up in the materialistic modern 80's and 90's it was considered dorky. Very dorky. While I embroidered, sewed and carved butter knives in school and at home, it was all for the fun of it. I did modern cross stitch patterns and sawed an electric lamp rather than stitched traditional scanian wool embroideries or whittled a whisk.

With age I've come to develop two reasons to distance myself from hemslöjden. First of all, I hated the old policing. It was all about preserving the old, not letting it develop but freezing it in time. The fact that the craft traditions have always changed and been inspired by the new times wasn't part of the movement. They wanted to do exactly what was done 100 years ago and nothing else. Stitch the wrong ribbon on you traditional apron or use a modern material in you cap or the wrong colour in your provincial embroidery and you were to be scolded. Nothing of your own, just follow a dead tradition. I want to do what I like, not being told it's not the real deal because I'm inspired by and working in 21st century Sweden in a big, international world.

Secondly, I've found it hard to separate the movement from those old nationalistic ideas. On one hand, the ideas created a national unity (you need that for wars if nothing else), on the other they created an idea of some countries being superior to others -- and that there was a strong line between Swedish [or whatever Western country you lived in] ( = good; except perhaps the sami, jews and roma) and Foreign (= bad). I won't get political because this too is a story that is very long and very interesting. One of the reasons I don't like nationalism is that it doesn't really take into account all the regional differences. Take that gaudy dala horse which has become a swedish symbol. It was only ever made in one province and never in Skåne where I live, still it was made into a traditional symbol for the whole country. As mentioned, it also excluded crafts traditionally made in Sweden because the were made by ethnic minorities.

Anyway, the magazine -- or rather its predecessor -- and the hemlöjd movement made it clear after the last election (when the politic map of Sweden changed in a nasty direction) that hemslöjden today is about crafts in Sweden, not Swedish crafts. Still, as a beader, I've never felt part of that movement since I work in a tradition and using techniques that aren't traditionally Swedish or Scanian. I would never call what I do slöjd, couldn't see myself as a slöjdare. I have an interest in culture and history, as well as caring about materials, but hemslöjden has always felt too policed, too old-fashioned, too stuck in the past, too dusty, too uncreative, too unpersonal and too unexploring to me. Until I read those mags I got and found that the movement today was different from what it was just 20 or 30 years ago. It could be new and innovating, it could be personal and exploring now, looking just as much forwards as it was taking inspiration and learning from tradition. Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I'm still not part of the whole slöjd world. Maybe I could finally find a place for me in it. Not least now that I've taken up being again (which can be both modern and traditional), even if my beading still feels far from wood carving, weaving and all those other age old crafts in this part of the world.

So what did I think of this new incarnation of Hemslöjden? First, I must say I picked it up because I noticed it had articles on two shops I've wanted to visit for a long time now: Knapp-Carlsson in Göteborg (Gothenburg) and Folckers in Stockholm. I really enjoyed reading about them -- and it made me wanting to go there even more! I love and am addicted to beads. Nothing is as good as that, but I really like buttons and ribbons too.

As with the 21st century Hemslöjden issues, I like the modern approach to traditional crafts. In Hemslöjd, it's even more apparent that there's a new generation rising. My generation, which mix an interest in old crafts, materials and techniques with a demand for personal interpretation, creativity, artistic freedom and new ideas. Something you can find in many countries, at least in the western world: a new hi-tech world where people long to work with their hands. It's no wonder the subtitle of the new incarnation of the good old magazine is En värld av fantasi och kunskap, "a world of fantasy and knowledge". They would never have said that in, say the 1970's or 1930's! Also, I think those older than me many times enjoy this new, freer way of looking at crafts. It's ok not to do exactly as they did 100 years ago. It's ok to make it your own. It's ok to express yourself.

The mag doesn't just cover Swedish crafts. It's a international world after all, fun of inspiration and with craft traditions that are both different and very similar. In this issue, I find South American mola applications, US quilts and the touching story of the London Foundling Hospital as well as stories of making traditional chistening gowns and scanian bridal bandhätta.

I like that each issue has a theme, the new layout is good and the new focus is good. It has all I've come to appreciate about its predecessor. Good mix of news and articles. Of cause, I'd love some more focus on the traditional techniques and stories of how things are constructed in detail. What can I say, I like depth, but understand that you can't always have that in a magazine which is more like a smorgasbord compared to a book. I wouldn't mind another side or two of ads (especially if it could mean a lower price tag). Because the price tag is always what keeps me from buying each issue or subscribe. It's not unreasonably expensive, but still it means a lot of money I'd rather spend on something that is all about thing I like (i.e. bead mags), not just partially. After all: not all themes will be my thing. Also, it's a magazine for reading, not hands-on inspiration and how-tos.

The one thing I really didn't like was that little text that said "extra thick issue". How many extra pages did this issue have that I won't find in the rest? If anything, the magazine felt too short, but they are saying it is normally even shorter? Oh, please, don't tell me that!

All that aside, I will most likely buy more issues in the future. And slowly, slowly I might find my place in the world of hemslöjd and maybe they will accept what I do even it if isn't traditional or tradtionally swedish. Maybe I can overcome my prejudice of both traditional hemslöjd and the modern rebels like kravallslöjd. Might be worth becoming active in that slöjd community after all?

And if not, if that world turns out not to be for me, I can still enjoy it on the side. Sitting outside, looking in. Being part of the world of beaders and jewellery makers, I'm still inside another world so it isn't a cold or lonely place, sitting there watching them. Reading and being inspired, but not being a slöjdare -- traditional nor rebellious.

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