Friday, August 15, 2008



(Above: Stockholm from Skansen, the outdoor museum.)

(Above: Stockholm, the center of town where water meets land....and land meets water!)

It’s hard to believe that I was in Sweden just last week. It’s harder to believe that it’s taken days for me to write a blog post about this incredible trip. In my defense, there was a pile of work waiting for my return, approximately 800 images to sort, and this was my elder son Mathias’ last week with us. In just a few hours he flies back to England to begin his third season with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

(Above: This is the square in Gamla Stan, the oldest island of Stockholm City. It is dominated by the Nobel Foundation building. This image includes a modern dance company performing. Later, we had dinner in the ground level restaurant in the third building from the left....fabulous place!)

Generally, I like to keep this blog focused on my embroidery, my artistic journey, and keep unrelated thoughts to a minimum; but this entry is going to be more. The entire trip was a beautiful mix of friendship, inspiration, textiles, and travel. There’s no easy way to separate the personal from the professional, the art from life. The written approach is traditional: in chronological order…. from a flight to Stockholm…a train ride to the city center where I was met by Annica…another train to Gävle…an hour’s ride north….and a bus ride to the symposium at the Västerbergs Folkhögskola in Storvik (a lovely boarding school in a beautiful rural area).

(Above: The area around the Västerbergs Folkhögskola in Storvik.)

Annica and I were roommates. Though we had only met that afternoon, by bedtime I felt like we were old friends…blogging is a great thing!

(Above: Tilleke Schwarz's teaching.)

Annica and I were in the same class, “Telling Your Own Story” under Tilleke Schwarz from the Netherlands. This was a design class using collage and drawing.

(Above: My collage. We created collages as a form of introduction...addressing our current work, concerns, personalities, and future plans.)

The best part of this experience was meeting other professional level stitchers like Madde and Barbro Eriksson. (This link is to a Barbro's blog post that is a mosaic of images from the symposium.) The talent in the room was awesome.

(Above: Symposium participants examine the kanthas.)

Another teacher presented an in-depth lecture on the kantha embroidery of Bangladesh. Kantha is both the stitch and the resulting work. Simple running stitches over layers of soft, recycled sari material define the work that is still being done. The enthusiasm of kantha is spreading rapidly.

(Above: Sara Lechner.)

Tilleke Schwarz also gave an interesting lecture but it was Sara Lechner’s presentation that seemed to capture everyone’s attention. Her slides documented her development as an artist. Her words spoke of future plans, ideas for development, heighten imagination, explorations through technique, and how to successfully blend hand and machine stitch with embellishing. Sara Lechner’s work has a distinctive style….and so does her incredible personality. Her stitching reads as a narrative; her story telling is funny and fascinating. I was totally honoured just to be in her presence.

One evening the entire group of embroiderers went to Wij Gardens for a private tour. This place was so much more than an award-winning garden. It was landscaping and planting infused with an artistic touch.

(These first three images are from the "Forest Garden" by
Ulf Nordfjell.)

Ulf Nordfjell’s “Forest Garden” was more like three living installations describing the uniqueness of Sweden, its rocky coastline, its bogs, and the woodlands. I would have been thrilled with just this…..but…..there was so much more.

(Above: Annica in one of the several "Experimental Fields.")

University landscape students created the experimental fields. Each section blossomed with color and creativity.

Our poor guide was losing her group as embroiderers fanned out in every direction.

(Above: Embroiderer hard at work!)

Cameras aimed at pollinating bees....

...and into tiny sheds that doubled as art installations....

....full of waxed books....sort of nostalgic and mysterious all at once.

In another section of this vast garden was a mosaic path cutting across a yard.

Even the reflections in water and glass near the endowed houses were subjects for photography.

Everything about Wij Gardens was inspiring.

The end of the evening was spent in one of the massive gardening classrooms with stitching, wine, and song.

(Above: Group project in action!)

Our final evening was spent together as a group creatively stitching. Simple felt, a dab of glue on a piece of corrugated cardboard, and a nail was put together into an interesting totem-like work of art.

(Above: Completed group project!)

Conversations mixed with laughter. The symposium was a big success and a meaningful experience on so many levels.

(Above: Self portrait! Annica, Sara, and I!)

Early the next morning, Sara, Annica, and I travelled into Stockholm. Seasoned travelers couldn’t have managed to experience this city as well if given a week. (My most sincere thanks to Annica!)

Stockholm is so clean, so pretty, and so welcoming to visit. I adore architecture and Stockholm was a visual feast. From towering modern to colorful older buildings, I was in awe. The ornamental details were wonderful too. Stockholm is a city of great beauty.

(Above and below: Interesting architectural details!)

With Annica as a personal guide, Sara and I visited two museums...full of wonderful artifacts....including intricate textiles.

We also shopped....and shopped....and shopped! It was so much fun!

(Above: Sara's youth hostel room was swimming with purchases...including a new wardrobe from Indiska. I found some gorgeous variegated yarn dyed and spun in Sweden. We all bought fashionable leggings, thread, books, and visited several Swedish folk art and design shops.)

We took in city views from various heights, rode by boat and bus, visited fine craft galleries, and sampled all sorts of wonderful food.

(Above: Sara Lechner samples some of Sweden's famous ice cream. Annica tried chocolate spiced with hot peppers! Quite unique! There were more flavors than Baskin and Robbins!)

We shopped until we just had to take a beer break in a local pub!

(Above: Our first evening's meal was spent under umbrellas on a terrace at a wonderful vegetarian restaurant. The Stockholm cityscape glowed as night approached. The view was as good as the food.)

Public art was everywhere.

In Gamla Stan there's an impressive, traditional bronze sculpture of St. George slaying the Dragon. St. George is the patron saint of the city. The patina was magnificent. Yet, bronze public art comes with a sense of humor too. From this bronze rat....

... to this unique city worker below!

My final day in Stockholm was with Annica in Skansen. (Unfortunately, Sara had to fly back to Austrian earlier in the morning.)

Loving architecture the way I do, this place was HEAVEN. From quaint, rustic cabins to formal early 18th c. manor house we explored every building.

There was a general store, a book binder, a glass blowing workshop, a working mill, a church, a greenhouse, and a unique structure that really reminded me of Baba Yaga's hut of Russian fairy-tales and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

There were log farmsteads and....

animal life that included bear cubs, wolf pups, and wild boar piglets. Yes, I saw moose and elk and reindeer too!

Many of the building had costumed docents. Some demonstrated traditional a bakery shop....a flaxen mill....

...and a metalsmith who created jewelry.

Of course, I was also on the look out for architectural details...and this accounts for dozens of images of wrought iron functional hardware.

The woodwork was incredible the "scales" on this bell tower. The paint coats had crackled into the most beautiful textures!

The various interiors were full of elements from daily life, necessities, luxuries, and folk art. Wall murals decorated some rooms while art nouveau wall paper covered others. Every little detail was historically perfect.

Folk art was everywhere and on everything. No matter which way I aimed my camera, there was something on which to focus and snap.

It was indigenous persons day in Sweden, so these northern people were performing native songs and even preparing their version of pancakes over an open fire.

The weather could not have been more perfect.

The trip could not have been more perfect. There were even fireworks on Friday night....8.08.08. All of Stockholm celebrated the once in a millennium date that just happened to be part of their telephone area code (08)!

I cannot wait to return with Steve….ah….to dream of this... return to a city as inviting and beautiful as this!

I am so grateful to Annica for sharing her world, her city, herself....

and to Sara for making every step of the way a delight....and to the entire symposium staff. The entire trip was fabulous...from country stitch to city stitch.
(Above: Annica and I reflected in an early 18th c. mirror in Skansen.)


Guzzisue said...

You all had such a wonderful time, makes me want to visit stockholm as stayed on the other side of sweden last time we were up that way.

Julie said...

What an amazing journey! I'm with sue, you've made me want to go too. The gardens are fascinating! I shall be back for another look, there's so much to see in this post.

Doreen G said...

What a fabulous time you have had Susan and thanks for sharing it with us.

arlee said...

My goodness, what a rich entry!!!!! Almost feel i was there with your descriptions and wonderful photos!
Welcome back :}

Sara Lechner said...

thank you for taking so many photos I forgot to take because of enjoying too much the good time! (I always even forget the camera when I travel. What a shame!) I relived our glorious days there. Everything was a seldom life's gift.

Pat said...

Your trip sounds wonderful, thank you for sharing. I thought you might be interested in this link,,650,AR.html I visited this exhibition last week your interior photgraph with the two girls looked just like one of the paintings. I was also remined of your doors.

Anonymous said...

Your blog makes me glad I am an insomniac and can sit in my own quiet place and read and study your blog (and You) in depth. Thank you for the trip to Sweden and for sharing the stitchers. Love Mom

Gunnels blog said...

Thank you dfor sharing video and pictures and text of the symposium ant your visit in Sweden

Wanda said...

Oh I just KNEW it was going to be wonderful! And the weather looked decent too. Your collage is very interesting. I have to study some of the pictures, especially that one. a little more. It looks so bright and cheerful and colorful there! Where are you off to next? I want to go!

Wanda said...

Oh..and by the way...welcome back! You've been missed!

Helen Suzanne said...

Thank you so much for that report. You've made it a must for me to visit. It is wonderful the three of you were able to spend time together and get the benefits of Annica's location expertise.

Annica said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed your stay. I had a great time showing you and Sara around. You were the perfect guests! Please come back soon! Steve is welcome too of course. Great photos!

Elizabeth said...

What a magical time you had!! Your pictures are stunning!! You ahve inspired me to start planning and saving for a trip to the land of my Grandmother's birth!! I have wanted to go for so long and Now I am going to really start planning the trip!!!!
I am also sending the link to your Blues in Stitches piece to several friends. That piece is simply stunning!!!

Aussie Jo said...

What wonderful photos, maybe you should take up travel writing full-time!!!
Annica has invited Claudia and I over for the next one, I wish!

Leah/ Texas/ United States said...

what absolutely GORGEOUS photos (except the bronze rat). I love the colored buildings in that photo of the gamla stan square. and the polinating bees. and so many others of your photos. thanks for the inspiration!