Before we went to Sweden, I took in as many books and stories as I could about Swedish culture. Immersing myself in all-things-Swedish really got me excited to explore the country and see if what I had read had merit. One book I read talked about some Swedish folk traditions that I couldn’t wait to draw, the dala horse, love spoons and the traditional folk art style known as kurbits. I loved learning the history of these Swedish art forms. Here are some high level details of each folk tradition I drew below.
Kurbits is a form of folk style ornamental painting originating in Dalarna, Sweden. Initially Kurbits motifs were painted in mansions of wealthy Swedish by Dutch and foreign artists. As the painting needed upkeep, soon local, self-taught artists helped maintain the decorations. As they became more proficient, that added a Swedish flavor to the motifs and began painting in homes for all classes. The art form has been passed down through generations and is still thriving throughout Sweden today.
The dala horse, a carved wooden horse painted with bright colors and kurbits decorations, has been a symbol of Sweden for many centuries. It was started as a tradition of woodcarvers, and gained popularity at the Paris Exposition in the mid-1800’s. Today, one can find these sweet horses throughout Sweden as souvenirs.
Many centuries ago, a love spoon was hand carved by a young man and then given to the woman who he loved. The young man would make sure the spoon was carved with care, and contained romantic motifs and designs to show off his handy skills. Of course, these skills were seen as insurance that he would always be gainfully employed and provide for his family. If the lady decided to keep the spoon, it was a good indication that they would become a couple. Today, these spoons are still a popular item, although rarely hand produced. Often, they are given as wedding presents, at a birthday or at a baby’s christening.
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