Freshly cut Dala Horses
If you have been to Sweden you have seen the traditional wooden Dala Horse (Dalecarlian), and if not I’m going to show you how it’s made and how it looks today and tomorrow. Yay!

And a reminder: the photos in this post, and on this entire blog belongs to me, © Hanna Andersson. You’re welcome to link here but please, don’t steal my photos! Thank you.

The Dala Horse is from a region called Dalarna but it is a popular souvenir all over Sweden. You can find horses and items and prints inspired by them everywhere in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. It’s traditionally painted orange and made out of wood. Its a much loved and hugely popular symbol of Sweden and Swedish culture.

Being an ambassador of Sweden

I’ve been feeling a bit like an ambassador of Sweden lately, at least on twitter (where I’ve been name dropping cool Swedish inventions like Spotify for example). This post is a part of that proud feeling. Inviting the world to beautiful Sweden! My next post will be very colourful, with some photos of new horses in every colour of the rainbow – plus snaps form the painting process! Come back tomorrow, okay?

Different horse forms

Dala Horse Craftalong

As part of a Dala Horse Craftalong that starts today,Dala Horse Craftalong 2011 where we hope you’ll be inspired to make something Dala Horsey, I thought I’d share my photos from a recent trip. After midsummer I visited the small village where the Dala Horses is made, called Nusnäs, and the two Dala Horse factories there. The horses are really handmade, and hand painted. Talk about crafty business there, huh?

I am starting with the actual wood crafting today! I hope my photos will inspire you to sew, embroider, paint, sculpt or carve a horse inspired by the Dala Horse. Or even to plan a trip to Sweden, some day. You are most welcome!

Carved Wood Horses
These are part of the exhibition, showing how the Dala Horse has evolved over time in form and execution. Each person who crafts the horse has a slight variation in the carving style. If you’re an expert you can tell who has made each of the vintage horses I guess.

I am very inspired by the clean and “naked” (bare wood) horses, to me they are very beautiful. You can tell that it’s an old tradition, right?

The Wood Carving

Dala horse stamps
I found this huge stamp at the workshop, it’s for stamping the wood. When you’ve got the correct size stamped out, you take the wood block to the saw and cut it up! At the shop you can buy these cut out blocks too, and then go home and craft your own style of horse. Carving, sanding and finally the most fun part: painting!

Dala Horses in the making
Stamped and cut out wood all over the place, here in the midst of the saw dust. I love the smell of freshly cut wood. The ruff and distressed work bench surface. The potential of each block. I love that each piece takes time and skill to craft. I think I love the whole process.

Creating Dala Horses
Dala horses in the making, this guy trying to carve the small horse but admitting his eyesight wasn’t young enough for this tiny work anymore.

Getting a Dala horse - kiddos
These boys were lucky enough to be there when the band-saw was turned on. They each got a free horse to take home that day; what a thrill! Their smiles made me smile. I remember carving something that was supposed to be a horse back in school. I wonder where that figure is today?

I was there as a kid too, and I have fond memories of this very crafty place (I got my very first diary in Nusnäs).

Creative and fun Dala Horses

Vintage Dala Horses
Vintage candle stick holder horse, with a bell.

The scrathcy horse
Tiny horse looking to his right, a scratchy horse and yeah, the Dala Elephant in the background – humorous play with the traditional patterns. Fun fun fun!

The felted Dala Horse
Needle felted horse at the exhibition. Isn’t he adorable?
Blue and fabric horses
Porcelain inspired horses, and the white felted one – adorable!

Felted and embroidered dala horses
The white embroidered horse again. It was inside a glass monitor so it was difficult to get a good photo of it, but it is super cute, right?

Different painting methods
Maybe the Vintage ones are the coolest… there are a lot of different kinds here!

Dala pig
This photos is really blurry but I had to share it, it’s a Dala Pig! Hehe.

Nils Olsson HemslŲjd AB - shop
Today, Nusnäs is the centre of Dala horse production with the most famous being the Nils Olsson and Grannas Olsson workshops. I think it is well worth a visit if you are in the area!

Grannas factory and exhibition
Grannas A. Olssons Hemslöjd AB, founded in 1922, is the oldest company which still makes Dalecarlian horses. Nils Olssons Hemslöjd is almost as old. The horses made at these workshops share the same familiar pattern which most people associate to Dala horses. The workshops are neighbor and in walking distance, and both have three parts: the crafting of horses, exhibition part and the shop area!

Join the craftalong

I got invited to be in the Dala Horse Craftalong by Pam in the US I think its so much fun that a Swedish thing can be so loved all around the world. I hope that, as you visit the other hosts of this Dala Horse Craftalong Pam, Kathryn (also in the US) and Carina (Dane living in the UK), that you will be inspired by the Dala Horse too!

Start planning a project, then add your photos to the flickr image pool, post the button to your blog, spread the world and enjoy summer!