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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dala horses

The Swedish Dala horse (Dalahäst) has been around for centuries. It is thought to have been created in the 1700s by woodcutters in the province of Dalarna near Mora on the long winter nights away from their families. They would pass the time carving toys for their children. These toys were generally left unpainted or were painted a solid color.

A century later, while King Charles XII of Sweden waged war throughout most of Europe, many soldiers were quartered in private homes  in the Mora area. These soldiers would barter for food with wooden toys that they painted with harness and saddle.

The Dala horse has become symbolic of this region of Sweden, and indeed of Sweden itself. It is often used in signs on houses in that country and decorated with house numbers of the family name of residents.

The horse is still a popular item with lovers of Scandinavian design and ethnic crafts, made famous in the United States during the New York World's Fair of 1939. A Dala horse was placed outside the Swedish pavilion and caused such a stir that over 20,000 were shipped to the U.S. the next year.

I found some at The Swedish Wooden Horse Company that are delightful. The multi-colored ones are perfect for holiday decorating, and a set of white or gray ones would be perfect on display in a modernist setting year round.

From dalahorse.com and theswedishwoodenhorse.com



White Dala horses
theswedishwoodenhorse.com

Red Dala horses
theswedishwoodenhorse.com

Blue Dala  horses
theswedishwoodenhorse.com

Pink Dala horses
theswedishwoodenhorse.com

Gustavian grey Dala horses
theswedishwoodenhorse.com


Watch this video to see how Dala horses are made:


theswedishwoodenhorse.com

8 comments:

  1. Love Dala horses, especially the red ones....but I never knew much about them except that they were traditional Swedish ...What a great little video too.

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    1. I loved that video. It made the process seem so effortless.

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  2. It's amazing to see how popular the Dala horses have become! Of course, we Norwegians never like to admit that the swedes have succeeded in certain areas, there's a bit of neigh our rivalry going on, but I have to admit this is quite impressive:-) Loved to see the prosess of making them, my goodness, the precision of those paintbrushes!

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    1. Neighbor rivalry is an interesting phenomenon. The cities of Dallas and Fort Worth have had a "friendly feud" for many years.

      There was one brush stroke that was particularly amazing...as the man finished painting the bridle and put on a final flourish. He did it so quickly and so precisely that I could hardly believe what I had seen.

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  3. How great, Dana! I found myself watching with my jaw dropped. I love seeing how things are made. The dipping of the horses in the red paint was crazy! If I were to do that it would be a complete an utter disaster. HA HA! Richie carves things like this in a very similar way. It's how he made my little Eames bird copy. Amazing that each one gets hand painted so beautifully. I can't lie though, I'm partial to the plain white ones. Love them.

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    1. Wasn't that absolutely awesome? I admit that I love the gray and white ones best too.

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  4. Hey Dana! Funny you just did this post, I found a large Dala horse today at the thrifts. It is gray with white dots and a red horse hair mane and tail. I'm not sure that it is vintage, but its a really cool piece!

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    1. Wow, lucky you! That's a fantastic find.

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