Dalecarlian horse

From Academic Kids

A Dalahäst, Dala horse or Dalecarlian horse is a traditional wooden statuette originating in the Swedish province of Dalarna. In the older days the dala horse was mostly a toy for children, but nowadays it is used as a symbol for Dalecarlia or sometimes the whole of Sweden.

Traditionally a dala horse is painted falu red with details and a harness in white, green, yellow and blue. The somewhat odd shape of the horse is said to be derived from the clocks industry in the region. The horses were originally made of the cutoff corners when making the round clock face.

It was in the small log-cabins deep in the forests during the long winter nights in front of a log fire that the forerunner of the dala horse was born. Using simple tools, generally only a knife, toys were carved for the children. The fact that many horses were made was only natural, because the horse to them was invaluable. A trusty friend and worker who could pull great loads of timber from the forests during the winter months and in the summer could be of just as much use on the farm. It is said by some to be Odin's horse Sleipner, but unlike Sleipner it does not have eight legs.

The earliest references of wooden horses for sale are from 1623 - nearly 400 years ago. The pattern of today is about 150 years old, and it reflects a style of painting known as Kurbits. In the 19th century, Stickå- Erik Hansson from Mora, introduced the technique of painting with two colours in the same brush. Even today they are painted in this traditional way. The horse of today is still a handicraft article, made of pine, and at least nine different people contribute their skill to create each horse.

Grannas A. Olsson's Hemslöjd AB was founded 1922 and is today the oldest company making Dala horses. Nils Olsson's Hemslöjd is almost as old.

These are the processes of making a Dala horse:

Marking The trees to be made into horses are marked out while still standing in the forest. Only the best timber will be selected for carving into horses.

Tree Felling The tree are felled and sawn into pieces of a siutable size for the blanks that will eventually be made into horses.

Sawing the blanks

Carving The wood from which the figures are carved come from the slow-growing pine forest round the Lake Siljan. The wood is ideal for carpentry and carving. Since carving is carried out entirely by hand, no two horses are exactly alike.

Priming The horses are dipped in primer immediately after carving. This shows up any defects that may need remedying.

Filling After priming, cavities are filled in to ensure extra smoothness.

Polishing The horses are polished to give them a smooth, attractive finish.

Painting After sanding, the horses are dipped into paint of the appropriate colour.

Rippling The traditional pattern is painted free-hand by practised ”ripple” painters. The art of rippling requires great skill and takes many years to learn.

Varnishing Finally, ”all the fine horses” are varnished and sent out from Nusnäs in Dalarna to serve as a symbol of Sweden in the outside world.

See also

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