Living handcrafts in Sweden

Brushes of horsehair

Meet Joe Clark and Álvaro Aramburu, two friends who work to raise the status and popularity of horsehair brush making. Together, they have developed a woodcarving kit where one of the woodcarving knives from Morakniv is an important component. Horsehair brush making is a craft tradition with a long and solid history, something that Joe and Álvaro want to give more attention. By their side they have the knowledge of the highly skilled brush maker Bettina Wingolf supporting the project with her wisdom in the craft.

What is your ambition with the project?

We want the knowledge to reach a wider audience so more people can discover the craft, learn something new and create something that actually can be used in the home. We chose to focus on horsehair brush making together with woodcarving. We have developed a craft kit that contains all the materials and instruction needed to make your own unique brush.

 

Tell us about Bettina Wingolf, what’s her story to your initiative?

Joe: I met Bettina in 2018 while on a search for skilled craftspeople willing to share their knowledge. She is based just north of Gothenburg and has taught craft for many years, it was a real pleasure to meet and learn brush making from her. Without Bettina’s generosity and patience, we wouldn’t have had the chance to realize this project. She has also written a fantastic book, Tagel, documenting the historic uses and excellent versatility of horsehair as a material, Tack Bettina!

Woodcarving is often associated to spooncarving, why brushes?

In our eyes brushes are not so different to spoons. Both are small, highly functional, and very enjoyable to make for beginners. What we really enjoy about brush making is that with few materials and tools, you can create a long-lasting functional object. There is also something very satisfying about the brush making process, almost like meditation, when the horsehair is pulled into the brush body. You have to experience the process for yourself to appreciate it.

 

What does woodworking and woodcarving mean to you?

Álvaro: They are both definitely part of our everyday life. Joe travelled the world for years working as a carpenter and furniture maker before studying furniture design here in Sweden. I got hooked when searching for a medium and material that could add more meaning to my design practice. Even when creating furniture that is mostly machine made, I like integrating hand carved details which create contrast and invite the hand.

How do you see the future?

It’s clear to see that woodcarving has become very popular over the past few years, and we hope it is here to stay. We see that the current situation in the world contributes to an increased understanding of craftsmanship, that it is easy to find creative joy in everyday life. “However small an impact it might have in one’s search to be more self-sufficient, carving is a practice which creates knowledge through action.” It teaches us about the labor behind objects, and about the things we fill our homes with.

 

What does it mean to you that Morakniv supports this project?

We are very grateful to Morakniv for supporting us. Thanks to Morakniv we have been able to include carving knives in our kits, giving the participant the chance to create their unique brush design. When they are finished working with the kit, they will not only have a well-functioning brush, but also a quality tool that can be used for many more projects to come.

How is it to live in Dals Långed as an artist and designer? Dals Långed, surrounded by lakes and deep forests, attracts many here for its tranquility and beauty. However, it differs from many rural Swedish villages, since it has quite a unique international population. It welcomes new students every year, as there are two schools located here. One is Stenebyskolan, a preparatory school with courses ranging from fashion design to cabinetmaking. Gothenburg University also has a small campus here offering bachelor and master degree courses in art, design & craft.   Tell us more about the studio Växt in Dals Långed! Studio Växt is a co-working studio founded by a group of eight international artists and designers, based in Dals Långed, a small village in South West Sweden. We met here through our studies, and since then decided to stay. Living rurally, we had nowhere to work from except our homes, so the space grew out of necessity. We are a small but growing community. Our dream is for the studio to encourage people to grow roots her and to be an example of successful creative professionals existing outside of bigger cities. The mix of our small community here at Studio Växt, the campus with its student flux, and bigger artist collectives that are here means that Dals Långed really has a lot going on for its size! We would also like to thank Kultur I Väst for their backing of this project through their Residency at Home scheme, and for their support of artists and craftspeople in Västra Götaland.

Studio Växt