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Arts and handicraft in Sweden is getting a well-earned upswing. This year The National Association of Swedish Handicraft Societies celebrates 100 years with exhibitions and celebrations of what arts and crafts have meant for households and villages in Sweden and how this art form has developed. In Stockholm Liljevalchs Konsthall show the Jubilee exhibition and around the country cities and villages show handicraft exhibitions.
Halmens Hus, The House of Straw, in Bengtsfors, a small town by right by one of the many lakes inDalsland, is an exhibition hall and boutique celebrating the straw. Making household decorations, adornment, hats, and many other things out of straws left over from the harvest was an important side income for many households on the countryside during the 19thcentury. The work was well organized and in some areas a small industry grew of women doing straw craft on commission. Beda Bohlin was one such initiator, in today’s vocabulary she would be called project manager. She led courses in straw craft during the summer season and worked as straw craft adviser in wintertime.
She was the contact person between the association for straw craft and its members. She biked around with orders of straw hats, left material, and gave professional advise. In the middle of 1940s, the crafters could earn up to 3000 SEK a year from this commissioned work, a substantial amount of money at the time. A similar story is found on the West Coast of Sweden where knitting had the same function. In the 1930s another lady, Augusta Teng, led knitting courses for knitters around the coast, marketed and sold the products. She contacted the wife of the County Governor, Emma Jacobsson, who helped them. This way the well-known and successful company Bohus Stickning started, selling designed knitted sweathers, hats, gloves made by knitters along the coast on an international market.
In Dalsland elementary school teacher Erland Borglund, started Stenebyskolan, the School for Crafts and Design,in 1934 with the aim to ”create a school where hand and mind were equal, a strong basis for craft”. Today the school is part of the University of Gothenburg.
Crafters from the school started Not Quite in 2001, the artist collective based in Fengersfors, and together with Dalslans Konstmuseum, Halmens Hus, Stenebyskolan and many other initiatives in the area, Dalsland is an important area for sustaining and development of arts and crafts. Work from artists based in the area is also shown at the Jubilee exhibition, among them woodwork by artist Jonatan Malm.
Often debated, and the politicians in Region Västra Götaland love to join the choir, is the relation between the central city or capital and the periphery. Urbanization has made this a burning question. A constant topic on politicians agenda is how to deal with depopulation of the countryside.
The discussion is often built as if the center is in opposition to the periphery. Instead of a perspective of how the two can support each other in development. American–Canadian activist and writer Jane Jacobs (1916–2006), who had a great interest in urban development and communities, wrote in mid 60s about this dilemma. Her main thesis was that cities are the main drivers of economic development.
The June 30th number of Economist puts London on a high as the international hub in UK and discusses its role for development of the rest of Britain. And the lack of appreciation of its brilliance among policymakers.
”Now history is moving on, and the policymakers are messing up. They could tip the city into a decline without even noticing it, for the ecosystem of a great city is a complex and fragile thing.”
”Stay open to stay great” is the conclusion of the Economist leader article. Staying open means continue to let foreigners and immigrants coming into the country. They have helped built London to the city it is and more help is needed. Building a fortress around Europe doesn’t seem like the most forward-looking idea.
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