August 2012 E-NEWSLETTER
Class Calendar Update
Fall Tutorials are now on our calendar. This is a great time of year to be in the mountains at Country Workshops. The weather is cool (but seldom cold) and there’s a good chance that you’ll be here during our autumn leaves color season.
September 24 - 28: Carving Bowls and Spoons - 1 opening
Drew & Louise visit Wille & Gunnel
by Drew Langsner
In 1978 Wille Sundqvist traveled from Umeå, in northern Sweden, to Country Workshops in western North Carolina. He came to teach our first classes (ever), which we called Carving Swedish Woodenware (now renamed Carving Bowls and Spoons). Since then Wille has returned to teach several times, and I’ve had the pleasure of bringing two of our Swedish craft tours to the Sundqvist’s home and workshop.
Two years ago I began thinking about a mid-summer vacation – something we have never done -- and going to Sweden. Louise hadn’t been to the north, and my travels were always in the fall. Also, Wille and his wife, Gunnel, were not getting younger. I had a feeling that it was important to visit the Sundqvists at their home.Plans gradually came together for our 2012 vacation. We were more than pleased when Phil Fuentes -- our summer intern -- said that he was willing care for Smokey (our dog), 3 cats, several chickens, the place (lots of mowing), and Country Workshops’ e-mail and snail mail.
It’s not so easy going from our place in northwest Madison County, NC to Bjurholm, which is the Sundqvist’s nearest town, about 1/2-hour drive inland from Umeå.
On July 4 we departed from the Asheville airport flying to Detroit. An overnight flight took us to Amsterdam, arriving about 6 a.m. July 5. A third flight got us to Arlanda (Stockholm’s airport) at 9 AM. Then we had a long wait (until 5 p.m.) for the 4th flight, Arlanda to Umeå, in the north. We were very happy to meet our friend Jögge (Wille’s son) when we arrived. Before leaving the airport, Jögge took us into the airport lobby where he has installed five commissioned carved wild wood benches in the waiting area. (By then, I was too tired to take photos. Sorry.)
Jögge drove us to his home, in farmland near a place called Kasamark. It’s a wonderful, re-worked old log farmhouse with a barn that’s been converted into his workshop. Jögge and his partner, Nina, prepared a fine supper which we enjoyed outside in the sun on a wooden deck. Their son Herman and one of his buddies also shared the meal. Afterwards, Jögge drove us west for about half an hour to Wille and Gunnel Sundqvist’s place. (I’ll showcase Jögge’s new work in a future newsletter.)
It’s 11 p.m. and still light in the north. After a very warm greeting, the Sundqvists show us where we’ll be staying. It’s an old farmstead bakery, which now serves as a summer guesthouse. There’s electricity, but no plumbing. By now it is the next day, but we try to get some sleep.
July 6-9. I didn’t keep a journal and these halcyon days blend together. Every morning we have the Sundqvist’s version of a traditional Swedish breakfast. Wille loves a porridge made from grated potatoes. (Louise could write about it in her blog, but when we tried serving this to a workshop group there was no one here who actually liked it.) Also on the table was a home made granola mix, several variations of yogurt (long fils is a stringy Swedish specialty), flat breads, the always present wedge of cheese, and some lettuce picked fresh from the garden. And strong Swedish coffee.
The Sundqvist’s home is filled with wooden things that Wille has made over many years. Wille is primarily known in the U.S. as one of the very best spoon carvers. He learned from his grandfather, carving in the kitchen during the long, dark winters. From an early age, Wille was also carving horses. When he was 9 years old his horse won first place in a contest. He has continued carving horses but for many years he also carved nude female sculptures. A few small ones are on the shelf with the horses. In addition, Wille enjoys turning bowls from green wood. In the past few years many of his turned bowls are decorated with chip carving and lettering which is in-filled with blue oil paint. Of course he also continues to carve beautiful spoons.
After breakfast on most days we went to the workshop. Wille wanted to show us his latest work, and Louise carved her first spoon, a simple cooking utensil. As a life-long teacher, Wille was very happy to lead the way. I was mostly taking photos, but I also started carving a serving spoon along the lines of one of my non-Swedish influenced designs. This will be a gift that I hope is appreciated.
Louise believes that summer is for swimming so we found time for a splash every day. The Sundqvists live on a bluff with a winding river at the bottom. Hiking there isn’t difficult, except that it’s a place where mosquitoes are overly abundant. At home I never use a repellant; here I slather on the DEET. On other days we had our swim at two nearby lakes, the Little Arm and the Big Arm.
Saturday July 7. Today the nearby town of Vånnås holds it’s yearly mid-summer market. Over 100 merchants bring small vans and trailers selling mostly inexpensive clothing. For instance, one stand has plastic Crocks for about 80 kroners (12 dollars – Are they copies?) I’m hoping to find old butter knives and maybe spoons. At one end of the market local guys have their annual car show. Old American cars are the favorites, particularly Chevy Camaros and giant Cadillacs with the huge fins.
Just behind the market area is a loppis – a second hand shop. I found a huge ladle (maybe for making lingonberry preserves) and then the big find-- this tiny, nicely carved spoon. (The middle spoon in the photo was bought later in our travels.) Before leaving the market Gunnel says that we should try a local specialty: a grilled slice of something like a giant hot dog, always slathered with ketchup and Swedish mustard.
Then we take a drive to other Loppis shops on the outskirts of town. That’s where I scored five old butter knives for 1 kroner each. You can see four of them in the butter knife report that follows. But now were ready for a swim before driving home.
Wille’s spoon carving lessons have always been based on teaching a series of grasps that are used to deploy a carving knife in the many situations that one lands in while carving a spoon. “And design. And a little about the nature of wood.” Louise is keenly interested. And once again I’m taking photos of these grasps. He is definitely the master.
This is when I have an idea. Country Workshops should produce a new video of Wille Sundqvist carving a spoon -- in his workshop, with his tools, and the local white birch. This shouldn’t be an instructional video. Wille was born in 1925 and he grew up in the old rural culture. Farming with horses, sledding over snow to church in winter. We need to create a record of how he goes about making these beautiful and iconic utensils. It’s the fly on the wall concept, similar to our earlier videos with Swiss cooper Ruedi Kohler and Swedish bowl carver Bengt Lidström.
I mention this video idea to Wille. Wille immediately agrees with the concept. “We should do it.”
Actually, we did this once before, with Rick Mastelli, at Country Workshops in 1982. We often show this video to students coming for a spoon carving class. But it’s a rather rough program, not up to “high def” standards, and of course not at Wille’s own place.
Immediately I think of partnering once again with Rick. I also start scribbling concept notes in my travel folder. And I’ll talk with Jögge about this when we join up with his family at their far north rustic lakeside cabin after our visit here.
July 10. Gunnel and Wille drive us to Vånnås where we catch a bus to Umeå. From there we take a bus north along the Baltic coast to Luleå. Then we take a third bus inland and further north to a lakeside town called Overkalix. (It’s close to Finland.) There we meet Jögge once again for our next stay at the lakeside cabin.
Note: Jögge is enthusiastic about the Wille video project. Now back home I’m starting to organize the Wille video project. I’ll have more to report as we move along.
ANOTHER GREAT MONTH FOR THE BUTTER KNIFE PROJECT
When the Langsners were making plans for their mid-summer vacation in Sweden they knew they would be using butter knives at the homes of their various friends. Drew also hoped to find some old, used spreaders. One day Drew found some oldies at loppis -- a second hand shop. These were priced at 1 kroner each (about 15 cents.) Drew also collected three new butter knives; two were purchased at handcraft shops, and one was a gift from our friend Annilie Karlsson.
The Langsners found butter knives in use at the homes of their woodworker friends. Wille and Gunnel Sundqvist use them every day, possibly at every meal. They have several that Wille has carved. The design of these is quite traditional, and all are engraved. The Sundqvists also like to use two turned spreaders, which are quite unusual.
Spreaders received June – July
During June and July the butter knife collection received 19 contributions. Six of these are gifts from Norman Stevens. Six were purchased by Drew in Sweden.
We invite wood carvers to submit their version to the collection. There is no budget for this project, and it's not a contest. We encourage woodcarvers to develop their own designs, which should be useful and practical. Newly acquired butter knives are featured in this newsletter, and there is a complete web-site archive at Country Workshops' Spreader World Gallery. This includes “as seen from above photos” that are not in the newsletter. Of course the collection is available for viewing (and handling) when you are here at CW.
MORE SPREADER NEWS
CW summer intern Phil Fuentes has just completed a handsome storage cabinet for the collection. This has spaces for nine hinged cases that can display about 200 spreaders. We don’t know what comes next if we exceed this capacity.
We now have an online directory of carvers who have spreaders in the collection. The directory includes carvers’ names, piece numbers in the collection, home location, web site and e-address. Phone numbers are not given. If your listing is incorrect or incomplete, please contact us so that a correction can be made. We will endeavor to keep the directory up-to-date. Click here for the Directory of Butter Knife Carvers. We now have an on-line directory of carvers who have spreaders in the collection. The directory includes carvers’ names, piece numbers in the collection, home location, web site and e-address. Phone numbers are not included. If your listing is incorrect or incomplete, please contact us so that a correction can be made. We will endeavor to keep the directory up-to-date. Click here for the Directory of Butter Knife Carvers.
From the Country Workshops Store
The new Drew Langsner designed froes made by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks are now available. Reviews on the “blogosphere” have been very enthusiastic. The standard model is sized for chair makers, turners who use rived stock, shingles, and spoon carvers. The basketmaker’s froe is for smaller stock, like basket splints and handles. Note the new, reduced pricing.
Our new/old Hans Karlsson axes are just what we have been looking for. Hans developed this mid-sized sloyd axe in 1990. The Wille Sundqvist designed handle gives this carving axe wonderful balance. The weight is 24 ounces; the blade width is 3-3/4”
For years students at CW have asked when Louise would write a cookbook. Louise Langsner’s new cooking blog is now up and running. Recent postings include a Mexican slant on what is now coming out of her garden. Naomi Langsner does the graphic design and technical aspects. Most of the photos are from Drew’s Canon. The blog is at: www.LouiseLangsner.wordpress.com
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