No Shortage of Ships in Stockholm

I arrived in Stockholm after a seven-hour train ride from Oslo, Norway, that took me across parched and flat farmlands. At Stockholm central, I sprinted to the closest kardemummabullar seller (cardamom roll) that I could find. Once satiated with this sweet and spice-filled delight, I navigated the mass transit system to the island of Skeppsholmen, my home for the night. I stayed in a repurposed wooden ship in a room with five roommates and two tiny portholes.

 The dreamy kardemummabullar.

The dreamy kardemummabullar.

That afternoon I visited the Swedish crafts store, Slöjd Detaljer, and admired their selection of high quality goods. Knives, leather, gold leaf, Japanese saws, yarn, and the latest tool sharpening system made by the Swedish company Tormek.

 High quality selection of tools at the arts and crafts store.

High quality selection of tools at the arts and crafts store.

 Funky gold leaf project on display at Slöjd Detaljer.

Funky gold leaf project on display at Slöjd Detaljer.

I hadn’t treated myself to a restaurant in a month of travels, so decided to put my highly advanced Swedish language skills to use and find me some köttbullar (meatballs). I read reviews on Yelp of the best meatballs, (probably according to American visitors) and found a place close to my hostel.

When I walked in, the historic wooden interior, stained glass ceiling and wine glass-holding clientele suggested that my sweatpant culottes and bulging day backpack were a little out of place. The waitress came to my table and said in English, “Let me guess, you want the meatballs?” to which I proudly and slowly replied, “No. Jag vill skulle köttbullar och potatismos.” (No. I would like meatballs and mashed potatoes.”) Fortunately she smiled and complimented my pronunciation of “köttbullar” which is surprisingly “shet-boolar” (Tack to my language teacher, Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux.)

While devouring the classic Norwegian novel, Hunger, by Knut Hamsun (1890), I ate the salty gravy-covered meatballs, mashed potatis and tart lingonberry jam.

 #potatis #köttbullar

#potatis #köttbullar

I watched a dramatic sunset through the porthole that night and slept well on the lightly rocking ship.

The next morning I put my tourist game face on, woke up early, and hopped on a ferry to Scandinavia’s most popular museum, the Vasa Museum, which is home to a monumental 17th century warship.

I decided to release my pent up energy by dancing to the museum, in the style of early ipod advertisements – white earbuds and a tiny screen in my hands.

 What I looked like dancing in Stockholm.

What I looked like dancing in Stockholm.

Because it was so early, few folks were around so I let loose and imagined I was my dance hero Anne Marsen from the amazing Girl Talk music video “All Aboard.”

 My dancepiration & doppleganger, Anne Marsen.

My dancepiration & doppleganger, Anne Marsen.

Once I got in to the museum, I was in instant awe of the ship’s jaw-dropping scale.

 The bow of Vasa. It felt impossible to take a single photo of the entire ship. 

The bow of Vasa. It felt impossible to take a single photo of the entire ship. 

I consider it the ultimate bestest museum of hubris. It is home to a 226’ long wooden warship that was sunk by a sudden breeze, 25 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628. The design was top heavy due to its two decks holding 64 cannons and a narrow beam (width) at 38’. But like so many things in life, something that initially was, “oh no, that’s bad...” became, “oh no, that’s good!”

Because it sank so quickly, it was in relatively shallow water and was able to be excavated and restored starting in the 1960s. It’s the largest intact shipwreck in the world and the most visited museum in Scandinavia. It’s also a really inspiring and didactic museum model with thorough displays, conservationists you can talk to and an amazing building design with artificial masts on the top of the roof.

 Onsite conversational conservationists.

Onsite conversational conservationists.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the ornate figure carvings, with Roman emperors, the king’s son, an enormous lion and much more. 

 The ornate stern of the ship. Description from the exhibit: "The national coat of arms, Sweden's symbol. The lions have featured since the 13th century. The three crowns symbolize the Three Holy Kings. The central shield bears the arms of the Vasa family, a sheaf of corn, ("vase" in old Swedish). The crown emphasizes the royal status of the dynasty."

The ornate stern of the ship. Description from the exhibit: "The national coat of arms, Sweden's symbol. The lions have featured since the 13th century. The three crowns symbolize the Three Holy Kings. The central shield bears the arms of the Vasa family, a sheaf of corn, ("vase" in old Swedish). The crown emphasizes the royal status of the dynasty."

 Description from the exhibit: "Two griffins - Charles IX's heraldic animals - hold the royal crown above the young Gustavus Adolphus' head. As a boy he was already his father's chosen successor." 

Description from the exhibit: "Two griffins - Charles IX's heraldic animals - hold the royal crown above the young Gustavus Adolphus' head. As a boy he was already his father's chosen successor." 

 An approximation of what some of the ship's carvings would have looked like with their original colors.

An approximation of what some of the ship's carvings would have looked like with their original colors.

 An exterior room connected to the captain's quarters.

An exterior room connected to the captain's quarters.

 Close up of carved figures from the roof of the exterior room.

Close up of carved figures from the roof of the exterior room.

 Lion at the bow of the ship. 

Lion at the bow of the ship. 

After viewing the ship, I hopped on a ship, and went back to my ship.

Dancers' Stone

Dancers' Stone – my new special spot in Norway.

I stumbled upon this noteworthy rock while driving through Telemark’s countryside. I was on my way to Rauland Academy, a traditional crafts school, and decided I needed to take a break in the woods. I had been traveling for three weeks straight, and was almost never alone during that time. Many people generously hosted me at their homes and I was on public transit quite a bit. So on my trip to Telemark, I rented a car so I could have some independence and solo time. 

 View from the drive through Telemark.

View from the drive through Telemark.

On the windy road that passed mountains and rivers, I noticed a sign that had the icon of a hiker. I passed it and then realized that that hiker needed to be me. I did a u-turn and followed the sign onto a dirt road, past wetlands, farm houses, and up and up and up. The road was called “Fjellvei”  or mountain road, so I suspected it would at least lead to a view of sorts.

I had to drive a ways up this road past cabins and homes, but finally the scenery changed. The landscape was filled with glowing green lichen, moss and my new favorite tree, fjellbjörk, or mountain birch. I found the launch point of the hike, and made my way up the trail. Expressive fjellbjörk lined the path.

 Curvy fjellbjörk.

Curvy fjellbjörk.

One looked like it was welcoming me amidst a dance twist. I remember thinking to myself, “am I about to meet my spiritual guide or something on this hike? What is this place!?”

 Dancing fjellbjörk

Dancing fjellbjörk

Have no fear, travel magic is here. I kept climbing up the mountain, not another (human) soul in sight, and suddenly got to what I’ll call an alpine meadow. There was an opening of the trees and only grasses blowing in the wind. Très belle! Or should I say, Tre belle! ("Tre" means "tree" in Norwegian.) Hee hee - gotta love multilingual puns that have a highly limited audience!

 Alpine meadow on the hike.

Alpine meadow on the hike.

It was 6 at night, but the sun was filling the scenery with a kind of white brilliant light I’ve only seen in the Scandinavian summer.

After climbing past the meadow, I came upon a wooden sign wedged between two fjellbjörk branches. 

 Sign at Dancers' Stone.

Sign at Dancers' Stone.

It read:

THE DANCERS' STONE

IN FORMER DAYS OLD AND YOUNG PEOPLE GATHERED HERE TO DANCE AND AMUSE THEMSELVES. A LOT OF FAMOUS RIDDLERS HAVE PLYED HERE.

DANSARSTEINEN

GAMLE DAGAR SAMLAST UNGE OG GAMLE PÅ DENNE STEINEN TIL DANS LEIK OG MORO. ...YLLARGUTEN-JON KJOS OG ANDRE KJENDE...PELEMENN HAR SPELA HER.

That dancing fjellbjörk I saw earlier on the trail must have been a part of this tradition as well. I spoke with folks later on in my trip who knew people who played filddle on this rock and danced as a celebration of midsommar, or summer solstice. 

Being the only person on the mountain, I blasted Kiesza’s “Hideaway” and put my own twist on this timeless tradition.

 Dancer on Dancers' Stone.

Dancer on Dancers' Stone.

 Dancers' Stone in the distance. 

Dancers' Stone in the distance. 

Running Errands with Erlend Part II: Trondheim to Askvoll

This is the second part of my story of meeting and traveling with the Trondheim-based sculptor, Erlend Leirdal. (Check out Part I here.) Erlend works primarily with wood, and I got connected to him through the resourceful Facebook group, Critical Craft Forum. I had been on the lookout for woodworkers and woodartists in Norway, and am grateful that someone suggested I reach out to him.

Soon after contacting him, he invited me to his home and then on an 18-hour road trip to pick up a used lathe. As a solo female traveler, I had some hesitation, but based on the recommendation and photos of him wearing a suit and holding chickens, I decided to accept the invitation. I’m glad I did because Erlend became a great new friend.

After a wonderful first night of good conversation over baked Norwegian cod, vegetables, potatoes and wine, I went to sleep in their finished basement where his partner Lotte had kindly covered the windows so I could sleep through the light of the evening.

The next morning we started packing food, camping equipment and two travel mugs of coffee. We had a nice big breakfast and there didn’t seem to be any rush. Around 10 AM, Lotte said, “Wow, if I were you I would have left by now,” and I remember thinking – hmm, I wonder how this is going to pan out. I still couldn’t believe we were driving 9 hours to get a lathe, and figured it had to be shorter than that.

We left about an hour later after packing all of the food into a beautiful handmade wooden latched box and packing up his red truck with the gear – including a lavvu, which is a tent based on a mobile dwelling of the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia, the Sami. These were traditionally used so that they could follow their grazing reindeer herds.

 Erlend's handmade traditional bentwood box container that he made in his twenties. 

Erlend's handmade traditional bentwood box container that he made in his twenties. 

There were so many dramatic landscape chapters along the drive. We drove through narrow farming valleys, were people had lived and farmed for hundreds of years, with full-scribe log cabins and birch bark roofs dotting the entire landscape, all the way up steep hills and down to the edges of rivers. 

 Small farms dotting the landscape.

Small farms dotting the landscape.

Within a few hours of Trondheim, we climbed in elevation and the trees got smaller and we could see snow-capped glaciers in the distance.

 Land of the  musk ox  - Dovrefjell–Sunndalsfjella National Park. 

Land of the musk ox - Dovrefjell–Sunndalsfjella National Park. 

We passed one of Norway’s main sources of schist, in Otta, and could see where bulldozers were removing future tiles from the mountainside. In this region, many of the old buildings have slate (technically schist) shingles covered in lichen and moss. Some are a golden brown from the iron content in the slate, and others remain a shimmering gray. My favorite style was with schist shingles that had been left in irregular shapes.

 An example of my favorite type of schist shingles with irregular shapes. Photo taken from a later date in the trip at Heddal Stave Church. 

An example of my favorite type of schist shingles with irregular shapes. Photo taken from a later date in the trip at Heddal Stave Church. 

In Dovre, we visited the Hjerleid School & Crafts Center, which is known for its woodworking program, including Viking-style carving, acanthus carving, Scandinavian-style full-scribe log cabin building, timber framing and more. When we arrived we met up with a former workshop assistant of his who was working on a commission of an enormous wooden hand. 

 Hardcore handwork at the Hjerleid School & Crafts Center. 

Hardcore handwork at the Hjerleid School & Crafts Center. 

A few hours later we got to visit the town of Lom’s wooden stave church. It was built in the 12th century, and modified in the 1600s. I was struck by the use natural curves in tree trunks and roots for the arches in the ceiling. The ceiling looked like the ribs inside of a Viking ship. Outside Erlend talked about how the wooden siding was intentionally overlapped in order to protect the building from the dominant direction of high winds.

 Wild roof line. Lom Stave Church. 

Wild roof line. Lom Stave Church. 

 Beautiful curved arches made from the knees of trees. 

Beautiful curved arches made from the knees of trees. 

 The ship-like ceiling of the church. 

The ship-like ceiling of the church. 

After taking in the sites of this church, we found a nearby pizza joint and had dinner. At this point it was about 7 at night and we had just passed the halfway point of our 9-hour-plus journey.

As we continued driving southwest, we started to climb again uphill, towards Jostedalsbreen National Park, home to Europe’s largest glacier. The road followed a rapid-filled white and blue river. Suddenly we were surrounded by gnarly, twisted pine trees that Erlend described as “troll-like.” He said they were reminiscent of the Norwegian painter Lars Hertervig’s work. It was great getting to read the landscape through his cultural perspective.

 Lars Hertervig,  Old Pines , 1865

Lars Hertervig, Old Pines, 1865

Soon the trees disappeared and snow-capped mountains returned. We saw a dramatic mountain in the distance, and suddenly our road went straight into the face of it; into the tunnel called Oppljostunellen.

 Approaching Oppljosegga mountain. 

Approaching Oppljosegga mountain. 

The tunnels in this region of Norway are numerous and can be quite narrow. A few of them did not have an inner constructed wall, just blasted shards of rock and steaming condensation as the cool air from the outside hit the warm air from the depths of the mountain. We entered one tunnel behind a semi-truck, and when it slowed down mid-tunnel, we realized it was trying to pass by another semi-truck with just a few feet between them and jagged walls on either side.

 Ahh - real life claustrophobia test. Two semi-trucks slowly passing one another, our dashboard in the foreground. 

Ahh - real life claustrophobia test. Two semi-trucks slowly passing one another, our dashboard in the foreground. 

When we finally emerged from all of the tunnels, we were officially in fjord country. The scenery was an almost constant “mind explosion” as Erlend put it, with waterfalls dropping off the sides of cliffs, small farms plopped on mountain sides, sheep, goats and cows grazing on brilliant green escarpments and snow covering the tops of barren mountain faces.

 Fjord country summer time mountain farms, or seter, which were built in clusters. Typically women would live their in the summer and tend to their herds of sheep and cows. For a thorough explanation of seters versus cottages, check out this 1983 New York Times op-ed:  link

Fjord country summer time mountain farms, or seter, which were built in clusters. Typically women would live their in the summer and tend to their herds of sheep and cows. For a thorough explanation of seters versus cottages, check out this 1983 New York Times op-ed: link

 But what is a fjord? This is a fjord! Ocean water that runs miles inland and becomes brackish when mixed with freshwater. Or to be more exact: "a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley." (Dictionary.com)

But what is a fjord? This is a fjord! Ocean water that runs miles inland and becomes brackish when mixed with freshwater. Or to be more exact: "a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley." (Dictionary.com)

We ran out of water hours before our destination, and there weren’t any stores open at 11 PM (even though the sunlight made me think everything should be open). Fortunately Erlend pulled over next to a ‘sky waterfall,’ which fell dramatically over a 1,600 foot sheer cliff, and we brought our water bottles down to the pond that the waterfall fed. We filled them up and drank the water straight. I was a little wary, especially given how many birds seemed to fancy this pond, but the sky waterfall was a good sign and our GTs (gastrointestinal tracts) survived intact.

We drove into the night, but it never got dark. Once we finally got close to the coast, we kept thinking every small town was our final destination, and we’d cheer, “Askvoll!” only to realize google maps was struggling to accurately estimate our rural Norwegian windy-road-laden journey.

Finally we arrived in Askvoll at 1 AM to what looked like dusk, and we set up the lavvu in a public park in the center of town.

 Lavvu set up next to the jungle gym. 

Lavvu set up next to the jungle gym. 

I had caught a cold during the drive and the hard ground and cold ocean air didn’t help much. I blew my nose through the night and woke with a fever but managed. We picked up the lathe late that afternoon with only a few bumps (we had to wait 8 hours in Askvoll for the seller to return home and the lathe fell over once while moving it with a forklift). But once it was loaded and strapped down to the truck bed, we hit the road and headed northeast, back to Trondheim.

Running Errands with Erlend: Trondheim, Norway & A Family Legacy of Art

I have to backtrack a few weeks to highlight one of my first adventures in Norway. During my research for this trip, I reached out to lots of different crafts people and resources to find woodworkers and woodartists in Norway and Sweden. Thanks to the input from members of the facebook group, Critical Craft Forum, I got connected to a renowned wood sculptor, Erlend Leirdal, who is based in Trondheim, Norway.

I wrote him asking if I could visit his workshop and learn about his work, and he generously invited me to stay at his home and sent a list of museums and sites I would have to check out. Then a few weeks later, his plans changed, and he had to drive to the west coast to pick up a used lathe – did I want to join?

Initially I thought – yes! And then I google-mapped the route and realized, oh… It’s 9 hours one way, 18 hours total, and that’s without stopping. Hmm…

Fortunately friends and my instinct said go for it.

I went to Trondheim a day before the roadtrip departure date, and he showed me a little bit of the city. Upon picking me up from the Trondheim train station, we went straight to his workshop. It’s on the top floor of a German WWII-era building. It’s eye-opening to think about how he moves his large scale wooden materials and sculptures up and down from the ground to the fourth floor. There is a crane but I didn’t get to see it in action. The challenge of moving his materials and projects seemed like a testament to his determination to create.

From Erlend's workshop you can see a much larger German WWII relic – a submarine bunker with 10’-thick concrete walls and an 11’-thick ceiling. Germany occupied Norway from 1940 - 45 and used Trondheim as a naval base.

 The building that house's Erlend's workshop. His red pickup truck and some wood materials on the ground. Scraps for firewood at the top of the spiral staircase. 

The building that house's Erlend's workshop. His red pickup truck and some wood materials on the ground. Scraps for firewood at the top of the spiral staircase. 

 The view from his workshop of the massive WWII-era German submarine bunker. The submarines would enter at the water-level openings.

The view from his workshop of the massive WWII-era German submarine bunker. The submarines would enter at the water-level openings.

 Inside Erlend's workshop - a well-used bandsaw from the late 1890s, made in Norway. 

Inside Erlend's workshop - a well-used bandsaw from the late 1890s, made in Norway. 

Erlend is originally from Trondheim, and was raised by a sculptor and a ceramicist. He worked in construction in the past, but transitioned to being a fulltime artist since then and makes a variety of artwork, including large-scale private and public art often out of Norwegian pine and large-diameter oak.

 "Amulet," 2010. From one piece of oak. Location: Gauldal Skole-og Kultursenter

"Amulet," 2010. From one piece of oak. Location: Gauldal Skole-og Kultursenter

 "Amulet" and Erlend. 

"Amulet" and Erlend. 

 "The sea is very big my son," approximately  3 x 1.5 meters. At the gallery  Dropsfabrikken . Mountain birch. 2013. 

"The sea is very big my son," approximately  3 x 1.5 meters. At the gallery Dropsfabrikken. Mountain birch. 2013. 

 Close up of the joinery used to connect these curvy pieces of mountain birch.

Close up of the joinery used to connect these curvy pieces of mountain birch.

His father’s sculptures still dot the city, including one of unique prominence on the iconic gothic Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. It is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world and is the burial site for St. Olav, a king who was posthumously canonized as the patron saint of Norway. The church was first completed in 1300, and prominent Norwegian artists rebuilt the figures of the western wall in the 20th century.

 The western wall of Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim. The St. Michael sculpture made by his father is on the top left turret.

The western wall of Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim. The St. Michael sculpture made by his father is on the top left turret.

In 1969 Erlend's father, Kristofer Leirdal, was commissioned to make a St. Michael sculpture for the cathedral. He decided to make St. Michael resemble Bob Dylan, as a critique of the U.S.'s involvement in the Vietnam War and an American bishop who was said to have blessed napalm, bombs and aircrafts at an airbase before they were sent to Vietnam. (I believe this might be referring to Cardinal Francis Spellman, but I could not confirm this after doing a cursory search online.) Leirdal did not publicly acknowledge this until 2001, when he was 85 years old. This act of resistance was moving to learn about, especially given the current tumultuous and highly politicized state of the U.S. It’s powerful to think about how long that sculpture will remain on such a symbolic building.

 St. Michael as Bob Dylan, spearing a dragon, 1969. Photo of a postcard I purchased at the cathedral.

St. Michael as Bob Dylan, spearing a dragon, 1969. Photo of a postcard I purchased at the cathedral.

After seeing Erlend's workshop, hearing family stories and diving into the politics of Norway, we went grocery shopping and returned to his home where he and his partner made a delicious meal of cod, potatoes and vegetables. That night we started talking about the logistics of the roadtrip, but didn't start packing until the next morning.

I will have to pause here and write the roadtrip story another time. Being in Trondheim and learning about the city from Erlend and his family was such a rich experience – I hope I can return there someday to learn more.

 Erlend, Mikael, me, Ylva, and Lotte at their home.

Erlend, Mikael, me, Ylva, and Lotte at their home.

Boatbuilding at 70°N

 My attempt to see the midnight sun in Tromsø, Norway. I was encouraged to bike to this harbor because it was the only nearby place where you can see the open ocean to the north. 

My attempt to see the midnight sun in Tromsø, Norway. I was encouraged to bike to this harbor because it was the only nearby place where you can see the open ocean to the north. 

This past week I was in Tromsø, Norway, 70°N. It’s the land of the midnight sun, as well as midnight clouds and midnight rain. Although I didn’t see the sun late at night, I did get to witness the lack of darkness. The level of light through the clouds never really changed throughout the night. 

 Location of Tromsø, Norway. 

Location of Tromsø, Norway. 

Fortunately I didn’t travel that far just to see the midnight sun. I went to Tromsø to study with and get to know boatbuilders in a traditional boatbuilding workshop. The Trondheim-based sculptor, Erlend Leirdal connected me with his friend Arne-Terje Sæther, and he was kind enough to let me join their crew for the week and even stay in his sailboat at a nearby harbor.

 View from the harbor. 

View from the harbor. 

The owner of the boatshop lent me a bicycle and I was able to ride to the workshop every morning and to “Norway’s best grocery store” (according to Erlend and others) in the evening for dinner.

The master boatbuilder and owner of the business, Gunnar Eldjarn, is both a researcher and professional boatbuilder. He researched and co-wrote the four-part definitive book on northern coastal Norwegian boats, Nordlandsbåten og Åfjordsbåten, with his friend Jon B. Godal. He’s had his boatshop in Tromsø since 1985, and Arne-Terje and Ola Fjelltun joined in the mid and late 1990s.

Although this was not the focus on my visit, it’s hard to start this story without highlighting their involvement in "the project of a lifetime." The three of them were all key builders in the making of the largest Viking Ship in modern times, the Draken Harald Harfagre. It was a two-year long quixotic endeavor from 2010 - 12, and was commissioned by a private individual. The 115-foot ship cost millions of dollars, with up to 16 people working on it at various points.

The story of this project is documented in Arne-Terje’s book, Dragon Harald Fairhair.

 Cover of Arne-Terje's bilingual book on the topic.

Cover of Arne-Terje's bilingual book on the topic.

I read the book at night while I was staying on his sailboat. Not only the scale of the building process struck me, but also by the challenge of material acquisition. In order to get oak that was long enough and clear of knots, they had to go to a German forest that had been managed for 400+ years. There they were able to select and fell oak trees whose trunks were straight and clear of branches for over 60 feet. Milling the boards and shipping it to Norway was a whole other ordeal.

Meanwhile they also undertook a thorough research and design process. They made three smaller boats with different hull shapes in order to test out their functionality. They were also in conversation with archaeologists from the Viking Ship Museum in Denmark who built a replica. However since there is no documentation of original Viking ship designs or intact originals, any building project relies heavily on conjecture.

When the two famous ships in the Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum, the Oseberg and Gogstad, were excavated they were completely flattened from being buried in the ground. The iconic Oseberg ship was so flat the keel (the lengthwise timber on the bottom of the ship) was higher than the rest of the structure. Although the ships are now beautifully reconstructed in the museum, to their highly trained boatbuilding eyes, the shape of the hull raises some questions of how accurate it is to the original design.

It’s not possible to make a truly authentic Viking ship, but this boatbuilding team certainly came close. They created a ship that retraced the Vikings' transatlantic voyage from Norway to the Atlantic Canadian and U.S. coast. Unfortunately for the midwestern wooden boat enthusiasts and Viking fans, the ship was kept from traveling all the way through the Great Lakes due to prohibitively expensive regulations

While I was visiting, they were working on a unique commission that I enthusiastically called a Viking Ship. However upon asking the seemingly philosophical question, “what is a Viking Ship?” they answered, “a ship built by a Viking, with a rudder on the side, and tall stems.” “So is this a Viking Ship?” I asked, and received the response, “we are not Vikings, and this is not a ship. It’s a boat.” So I got to participate in the building of a Viking-style boat.

 A view from outside of the workshop. Steambox in the foreground.

A view from outside of the workshop. Steambox in the foreground.

 Arne-Terje, Ola and Gunnar discussing the frame that will support the side rudder.

Arne-Terje, Ola and Gunnar discussing the frame that will support the side rudder.

Gunnar graciously led me through the process of fitting one of the oak frames that helps to secure the side planks or strakes. It took me four days to complete what he can do in one, which is a testament to his patience and generosity.

 Gunnar explaining how to install the frame. Photo by Arne-Terje Sæther.

Gunnar explaining how to install the frame. Photo by Arne-Terje Sæther.

They readily switched from modern to traditional tools – Makita power planers to wooden handmade planes, chainsaws to axes, bandsaws to carving knives – quickly securing what did the job best.

Once I finally finished my precious frame on day four, Gunnar said, now make 2,000 more and you’ll get it.

 Using a slöyd knife to carve out a hole for the mast rigging (a large rope which supports the mast). Photo by Gunnar Eldjarn

Using a slöyd knife to carve out a hole for the mast rigging (a large rope which supports the mast). Photo by Gunnar Eldjarn

 Gunnar and Arne-Terje checking the fit of the line on the frame I carved.

Gunnar and Arne-Terje checking the fit of the line on the frame I carved.

We installed the frame an hour before my time was up, using pine trunnels ("treenails") and wedges. The trunnels are from the heartwood of the tree, and the wedges from the sapwood. The orientation of the grain direction was also intentional, and is a debated topic within this niche community. It was amazing to learn just this one step in the boat – because it reveals how much complex knowledge is behind every single step.     

 Close up of one of the pine trunnels and discussing grain orientation. 

Close up of one of the pine trunnels and discussing grain orientation. 

 Painting pine tar onto the boat and frame before installation. The pine tar is made in Norway using traditional methods.  

Painting pine tar onto the boat and frame before installation. The pine tar is made in Norway using traditional methods.  

I learned much more from these builders over the course of the week but it’s more than I could sum up in a few blog posts. We talked about the financial realities of making a living as a boatbuilder in Norway, the rich traditions of wooden boats on Norway’s coast and their central role in the cod fishing industry, the limits of historic reconstruction projects, the stories of historic artifacts that decorate the workshop, future hopes of developing a boatbuilding program at the local university, and much more.

 From L to R: Me, Ola, Arne-Terje, Gunnar and a tree knee. 

From L to R: Me, Ola, Arne-Terje, Gunnar and a tree knee. 

Their story is so rich – here are some places to learn more:

  • See the boat in progress at their facebook page: link
  • Learn about other projects they’ve done at their website: www.nordlandsbaat.com 
  • The story of the Dragon Harald Fairhair: link
  • See a snapshot of life in Tromsø & the greater arctic from Arne-Terje's partner, Mariann Jacobsen Mathisen's instagram page: link
 The view from the plane as I flew out of Tromsø on June 22. 

The view from the plane as I flew out of Tromsø on June 22. 

Wild Stools & Lots of Light

Since I arrived in Norway it's been a little non-stoppe! Which is how I enjoy traveling, but it's not the most conducive to prolific blog writing. So I will try to steppe it up.

I am staying outside of Lillehammer this evening, and it's pastoral and bucolic. Sheep and their little lambs are baaa-ing outside of my window, the sun is slowly setting (it's 10 o'clock and totally bright outside) on a far off hillside and I have a room to myself thanks to a generous member of the couchsurfing community. 

 Outside of the home where I'm staying around 6 PM.

Outside of the home where I'm staying around 6 PM.

Lillehammer is a two-hour train ride north of Oslo, and is nestled in valley that is filled by a long and narrow lake, Lake Mjøsa. (*alert* lake factoid: in Norway, Mjøsa is the largest lake by surface area and the 4th deepest.)

 A view of Lake Mjøsa from the train ride.

A view of Lake Mjøsa from the train ride.

I traveled here to visit the Maihuagen Museum, an enormous open air museum with buildings that span from the 1200s to the 1990s. I didn't get a chance to explore the grounds today, but instead went indoors to their archives and to meet with someone who works at the Norwegian Handicraft Institute. I will visit the outdoor part this weekend.

I could have spent days in their woodenware and furniture archives but alas, I only had an hour and a half. So I dove into their wooden containers and bowls area, carefully, and with gloves on. There were great locking lid boxes and wonderful decorations.  Feel free to click to enlarge.

I then sped walked over to the furniture building. Below are some of the stools that I fell in love with. Note the serpentine heads carved into multiple stools! I am curious if anyone has ideas about the potential significance of this design.

I am inspired by the use of natural curves, branches and play. If you're curious to see more images and information on these pieces, I recommend visiting the amazing online database, "Digitalt Museum."

Now that it's 11 PM, I guess I can say the sun is officially setting, or approaching setting. It's wild to witness so much light. 

 The view outside my window as I write. Happy little lambs. 11 PM. 

The view outside my window as I write. Happy little lambs. 11 PM.