Monday, August 3, 2009

Old and new traditions at Nynäs castle in Sweden

On the coast south of Stockholm in my Swedish home province Södermanland, lies the 18-19th century castle and estate Nynäs 'slott', a full blown farm with orangery, gardens, and barns and surrounded with beautiful preserved natural forest and coastline.On my last day in Sweden, my sister, my mom, and our friend JU went there to see a Swedish handicraft exhibit and to look around. The castle was built by a Swedish noble man and politician, who spent so money on his estate that his brother had to bail him out and buy it from him.

The buildings are now owned by the National Museum of Art, are very well maintained and the grounds are used for exhibits and other 'evenemang'. Old details such as lamps, locks and door handles are preserved everywhere, giving the buildings a great charm and sense of history.

The day we were there they had "Children's Day", which meant that they had invited craftsmen to show children (and their parents) how to make things from scratch with old tools - black smithing, wire art, carpentry, wind propellers from beer cans, bark boats, and so on. I ran into Juha 'Jussi' Hynynen, famous blacksmith that used to work in the 16th century Rademacher workshops in Eskilstuna (that is the age of the houses, he didn't do time traveling that I know of)., where we bought beer openers made to order for us from him a few years ago. To make sure they worked properly, he ran out to get a light beer from the cafe, tried to open the bottle, made some adjustments to the iron piece (the beer opener), then opened the beer and handed the bottle over to us to share the beer - all in a very dark 16th century smithing barn. What a memory!
In an adjacent barn at Nynäs where two exhibits, one on contemporary art based on inspiration from old methods ('Sörmländska gåvor', see poster photo, and they have the best logo!) and the other on the preservation of knowledge of old techniques before it dies out (also known as cultural preservation; like the baskets in the photo above). The second was the best, and it talked a lot about how knowledge can die out quickly if not collected and stored 'in our hands'.
Doing something is never the same thing as reading about something, and to really know how something is done or made you need to make it. Handicraft is 'dancing hands', in their words. It doesn't matter if it is knitting, wood carving, turning on a metal lathe, spinning wool, preserving food, or running logs in the forest with horses, it is all dancing hands. One day we might need this knowledge again, and it is part of our heritage. I have to admit I know only a few of these things, but I do know how to make a toy sail boat out of one leaf of a reed.
In the orangery was an exhibit of geraniums, extremely popular as pot plants in Sweden, and if you arrange the pots on a stair you can fit many more than just on a window sill. The cafe in the orangery is great, and they also have a little shop with overpriced things, such as clay birds that are waiting to be released in someone's garden. The contemporary art in the gallery wasn't very overpriced I think, or how about the sculpture crow by Roland öqvist for about 90 dollars? I liked the flying bird, reminded me of toucans and Mexican folk art.
More of my photos from Nynäs can be seen on Flickr.

1 comment:

PP said...

i wish I could have seen this! Thanks for your write up!