Hemslöjd Prior to Industrialization (Cont'd)

When he was born, his grandparents, who Zorn described as “God-fearing, fair-minded, and strictly moral people of old peasant stock,” allowed the boy to be raised on their farm while his mother returned to Uppsala to work in the brewery. Zorn would later paint female brewery workers (1890) as a tribute to Mona and the women who worked with her. On the small croft, Anders adapted quickly to life. He wrote in his memoirs, “At a young age I learned to be useful. I helped the others as much as I could by watching the sheep in the woods. I carried home fir twigs and chopped them up and strewed them on the cowshed floor and I helped my grandfather at the anvil and by sewing and knitting. I tried to lend a hand at just about anything. And then in the evening I would borrow grandfather’s knife to carve a two-legged horse in bark.... Sometimes I borrowed his carpenter’s pencil to draw horses or figures on the back of a letter from my mother, the only paper we ever had.” 5

Zorn related another aspect of hemslöjd to the French art critic Armand Dayot (1851-1934), which consists of selling or bartering a finished product: “I was eight years old... when I sold my first work. It represented an angry cow, a little sculpture in colored wood.... This Angry Cow was generously paid for with a sou and a little white roll by a shepherd who was a friend of mine.” 6

Anna-Maja Nylén could have meant Dalarna when she wrote, “We know that handicraft for household use and for sale is extremely old. It is also clear that specialized professional artisans existed as early as the Stone and Bronze Ages.” She noted that “In some areas of Sweden, existing craft traditions have never been broken, spanning the years of transition from an agrarian society to today’s industrialized state.” This is certainly true of Dalarna and the area around Mora. Nylén wrote, “The province of Dalarna offers the most conspicuous and best-known provincial craft production in Sweden. Its poorly developed agriculture and its archaic inheritance customs have made a developed craft production imperative.”
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the authorities did not encourage hemslöjd. As early a 1604, King Karl IX (1550-1611), son of Gustav Vasa (1496?-1560), wanted to put an end to rural crafts. The clergy informed the king that there were provinces in Sweden, such as Dalarna, that could not generate enough food to sustain life, and peasants needed alternative means to supplement their existence. As early as the 1630s, Karl IX’s son Gustav II Adolf (1694-1632), the founder of Gothenburg (1621), encouraged the establishment of industry, the most successful being the textile industry that was centered in Borås, in Västergötland, east of Gothenburg. The support of industries placed the authorities in conflict with peasant production of hemslöjd, and Nylén noted, “This conflict was very sharp, especially at times during the eighteenth century. The restrictive measures of the state came to oppose the handicraft production, because the latter was the major competitor for the consumer.”

Nylén goes on to state, “The economic literature of the day exhibits a united front against handicraft, which is condemned in no uncertain terms. It is referred to as ‘kladdandet och kläpandet’ (dabbling & bungling) in the countryside. This displeasure was directed especially against those who carried on a domestic craft production for sale, ‘these dabbling and bungling craftsmen, who peddle their makeshift wares illegally to diverse buyers and the common populace, servants and the like.’ The bitterness towards the peasants’ domestic production and trade was based on contemporary views of the national economy. To make commerce and industry flourish, it was considered advisable to locate what was regarded as urban industries in the towns and prohibit their practice by the peasants.” 7

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