Souvenir Makes No. 4: A Swedish Christmas

26 Jan

Yes, I realise that, 3 months after returning from Scandinavia, I still haven’t finished blogging about it. However, I’m faring better than when I promised you I would post some articles about my Scottish road trip, and I didn’t complete the tale until 9 months later. My tardiness is slightly improving!

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Despite not completing my Scandinavian saga yet, I thought I would show you that my little Swedish dala horse cutter (which has already come in rather handy for festive baking) was put to very good use this Christmas – to make clay tree decorations.

The ubiquitous little wooden horses hail from the Swedish town of Dalarna, and are a national symbol which dates back to the 1600s. The most common dala horses are painted red, with a white, green, yellow and blue harness, but I read that you can find horses in a variety of colours, with each local area producing the wooden ornaments in their own special design.

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I had enough clay to make seven, and I decided to decorate each with a different pattern. I used a tiny star cutter, which I bought to use in my pottery classes, although I think it was originally a cake decorating tool. I was able to attach the stars carefully to the surface of the piece, using a paintbrush and a bit of slip.

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When the designs were finished, I used a dowelling rod to pierce a hole in the top of each one, so that I can thread ribbon through when they are finished. I left one of them sans piercing, as I am toying with the idea of starting a wall display of dala horses in my bedroom, and this is going to be the first one.

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Given that each horse was only half a centimetre thick, I expected they would dry fairly quickly… not so! I patiently waited 2 weeks before the items could be fired in the kiln – then I set to work on painting the little creatures.

I tried to keep the colours to the traditional palette of red, white, green, yellow and blue, although I found that the poppy red and dark, galaxy blue appealed to me the most! I think it’s fair to say that none of the horses conform to the traditional dala design, but I am happy with the way they have turned out – especially the ones with the raised stars across the surface.

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One of our family traditions is the giving of a set of baubles each year. My mum, my brother and I each give a bauble to each other, so that no matter where we are in the world, we have matching Christmas trees. Over the past few years, I have been making a bauble for each of them every year, as well as one for myself. This year, my new sister-in-law Kate got involved with the family tradition, making a beautiful set of perfect crochet snowflakes! I can see this tradition running for years!

Finally, I come to the bauble I made for myself. I really loved the star designs, but for my own bauble I wanted something that reminded me of my wonderful adventure. I’m sure you can guess which one that would be! I painted mine, simply, with a blue blackground and a solid yellow cross, to depict the Swedish flag. My flat is so small that I don’t actually have a Christmas tree, but you can see my Swedish dala creation, hanging proudly on my aloe vera plant in my living room. I can’t wait to, one day, have him adorn a beautiful Christmas tree, which I’m sure he will do for many years to come.

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