Colour Research Vol.1
The Sweden Souvenir
When tradition becomes a cult
Once upon a time, in a long, cold winter night... This could have been the beginning of the history of the Dala horse. In the 17th century, this wooden horse-shaped figure was made for children on winter evenings. Horses were the typical toys for poor as well as rich people at that time.
How old the traditional carvings really are is hard to reconstruct today. The horses were neither signed nor dated. What is known, however, is that they were made in the Swedish region of Dalarna, where the most important workshops for Dala horses are still located today. Meanwhile, the "Dalahäst" has even overtaken the moose as a typical symbol for Sweden.
The traditional colouring and painting of the horse is still available today. It is especially popular with tourists as a souvenir. Typical is the red horse with saddle and bridle in a green-white pattern. Meanwhile, there are also other colours from black to blue, yellow, white, and natural wood.
The applied painting has its origins in another long tradition and is called "kurbits". For more than 150 years, the Dala horse has been designed in this form.
The production of the horses starts with carving. Then they are sanded, primed and painted. A dye bath gives the horse the uniform colour, but the subsequent kurbits painting is applied by hand. In the traditional workshops, carving is also done by hand. Every horse is unique. Typical is also the shiny varnish, which gives the horse its finish.
And who knows, maybe you already have your Dala horse at home…
Finally, a few nice facts about the Dala horse:
The Dala horse was exhibited as a huge figure at the 1939 World Exhibition. Additionally, there were small Dala horses in the souvenir shop. Thus the horse became finally known worldwide. The smallest known Dala horse is 3.7mm high and 3mm long - the largest stands in Avesta and is 13m high. Today, the Dala horse is the most common souvenir brought back from Sweden. Approx. 2.6 million horses are sold each year.
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