Monday, 24 May 2010
Before leaving a place, whether it be a village, a city or a country, the less organised amongst us develop and overwhelming urge to rush about making sure they’ve ‘done everything, seen everything and bought everything’. This last category might surprise those who reckon Norway is hideously expensive, and therefore shopping of any sort, other than essentials, is an unnecessarily self-indulgent exercise.
I forced myself over this psychological hurdle and towards the end of last week, the plastic was being so well-used it almost melted. Spend, spend, spend...panic, panic, panic....make sure we have all the Norwegian items we forgot to buy over the last few years. Quite why all this has been left to the last minute eludes me completely, and it was suggested it might be easier if I just rush round to the souvenir shop and stock up on trolls. Please. I’m not a passing tourist. I’ve lived here for a while, checked out the scene and there are certain items, certain ‘objects’d’art’ that are only available here and represent Norway through and through. And I’m not talking trolls.
Scandinavian Design is of course famous for clean lines, pastel shades, beautiful craftsmanship, a certain calmness and clear intention. Less is more is more or less what we’re talking here. It has been said that, more than elsewhere in the world, Scandinavian Design as a whole has been instigated by the people themselves, and that it is democratic in that it not only seeks to enhance the quality of life, but to reach towards a social ideal. Affordable products, up-to-date technology and a practicality of purpose have been basic rules. If you want to be painfully academic about it, modern Scandinavian Design can be interpreted as having its roots in Lutherism, where truth, reason and the joys of hard work for the benefit of one’s fellow man were fundamental....thus a moral imperative lay at the heart of a design philosophy that enabled it to prosper.
But enough of all that ponsey guff. I would just like to point out there’s more to Scandinavian Design than IKEA, marvellous, elegant, useful and affordable though the IKEA phenomenon may be. And Norway has its very own sense of style, unique to this part of the continent.
Norwegian Design amply demonstrates the story of its population. With people separated by challenging geographical boundaries and a harsh climate, they often became largely self-sufficient. With long winter nights to get through, evening entertainment often lay in one’s skill on the loom, lathe or some other device....you made your own stuff. Thus, Norwegians passed on skills from one generation to the next. Tradition played a huge part, with influences being handed down from both the Vikings and the Sami people of the far North. A rich folk art culture evolved, a rural tradition rather than a sophisticated urban one, and its respect for materials, love of strong colour and good craftsmanship is still preserved in the very best of Norwegian Design today.
So if you need something spectacularly Norwegian, there’s a good choice of wonderful objects made from silver, pewter, wood, wool, glass and china that will bring you pleasure for years to come. Purchasing a troll in a souvenir shop is like buying a tartan Loch Ness Monster in the Highlands...it just doesn’t do the place any justice.
Posted by Returning Scot at 09:52