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Swedish Culture

Discover Sweden’s Handcraft Capital, Sätergläntan

March 8, 2023 By Lizzy Rode

Anyone who has tried their hand at the many types of traditional Swedish handcraft has most likely heard of Sweden’s premier craft school, Sätergläntan. American makers’ circles share legends of Sätergläntan depicting it as a utopia for experts in their crafts. This beloved craft school located in central Sweden has attracted some of Sweden’s finest handcraft artists and offers its students an opportunity for the slower pace of life. Sätergläntan plays a specific and vibrant role in craft today, far beyond it’s the village of Insjön, Sweden, where it is located. 

Founded in 1922 by sisters Elsa and Wilma Långbers, Sätergläntan Institute for Craft was originally designed to support traditional Swedish weaving techniques, as well as provide occupational training for women. Sätergläntan’s founding coincided with the contemporary movement across Sweden in the early 20th century to preserve older crafts while also developing them into income streams for rural women. Its evolution over the past 100 years has seen a growth in the types of programs offered and eventually the development of a three-year curriculum for woodworking, blacksmithing, weaving, and hand sewing. Sätergläntan continues to be a premiere school for handcraft artisans to gather, educate, and preserve their traditional crafts.  

Today, Sätergläntan students explore their medium starting the journey with the raw form and working until it’s a completed object. This can include anything from shearing sheep, growing flax for linen, harvesting green wood, and making their own coal. Students have the option to attend for between one to three years and complete their studies by taking a journeyman’s certificate test. For those that want a shorter study, Sätergläntan regularly offers a variety of five-day courses during the summer and distance learning opportunities for specific skills and topics. The 2022 documentary, Made in Sweden, shares stories from current students and instructors about their experiences. 

For decades, Sätergläntan has welcomed American students to study alongside their Swedish counterparts. This collaborative art space created important points of connection and inspiration for the American traditional craft movement. If you know someone who loves carving spoons or weaving on a floor loom in the Scandinavian style, there’s a good chance that knowledge was passed along from Sätergläntan. Of course, Sweden isn’t the only part of the world preserving and teaching traditional crafts, but it’s unique in its variety of paths to learning folk arts and handcraft or slöjd in Swedish. The emphasis on producing objects that combine form and function, a strong connection to place and history, and the use of sustainable tools and methods inform both Sätergläntan and the American Swedish Institute’s approach to teaching and sharing handcrafts.    

In honor of Sätergläntan’s 100th birthday, ASI and North House Folk School celebrated the decades of connections between Sweden and Minnesota’s craft communities. This exciting year of exchange was supported by the American Scandinavian Foundation and Minnesota State Arts Board. The celebration included free webinars, courses led by Sätergläntan’s instructors in Minnesota, and an exhibition from former Sätergläntan students at ASI. In Minneapolis, ASI welcomed the Sätergläntan delegation over the weekend of June 23–25, 2023 for five courses:  

For those interested in learning more about the instructors and their coursework, check out the lectures on Sätergläntan’s textile, wood, and blacksmith shops.