Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Dala Horse

Beginning in 1623, some Swedish fathers passed long winter nights carving small horses from scraps of leftover wood from the clock making shops in the Dalarna region. By 1716, the Dala horse had become the national toy. Production flourished in the 1800s, and Dala horses became an important item of barter, traded for household goods and services. For many, carving them kept food on the table and skills were passed from one generation to the next. They were generally flat carved with just a knife.

Today, the tradition continues, with Nusnas the center of Dala production. Wood from slow growing pine trees is marked out while the trees are still standing, and only the best timber is selected to carve. All sawing and carving is still done by hand, so no two horses are ever alike. The painting is also traditional, with two colors on one brush. What began as a father's gift for his child has become a symbol for an entire nation.

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