Perhaps you have seen the little red horses and wondered where they come from. Many years ago, we traveled to Lindsborg, Kansas with our children. During this visit, we stopped at Hemslöjd to check out these fun looking figures. Fast forward to the present, and we once again found ourselves in this quaint Swedish city. This time we were traveling without kids, but that didn’t stop us from making a return visit. On this trip, we would spend time learning more about the Dala horse history and why these iconic figures are so popular.
We want to thank Visit Lindsborg and Hemslojd for their hospitality. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
Taste of Sweden
Stepping through the door at Hemslöjd, we were transported to the fjords of Sweden. Okay, maybe that was a little too flamboyant, but it was apparent that northern Europe was the theme in this shop. As we perused the shelves, we found tons of collectibles and souvenirs that we usually don’t see. The shop was seeing a regular stream of shoppers, which is evidently the case most every day. As we made our way through space, we came to a back room, where much of the artistic work takes place.
An Artist at Work
Dala horse history began back in the homeland of Sweden. While no one is sure of the exact date, references to these carved figures date back to at least 1623. In those days, carving Dalecarlian horses was done during the cold winter nights. These were made as toys for children, and reminded them of the importance of the connection with this valuable animal. In the 19th century, the art of carving and painting became an important revenue source for many Swedish residents. This unique art was handed down from generation to generation. At the New York World’s Fair of 1939, Dala horses were introduced to the public. The sudden desire, for this intriguing character, created a need for mass production.
A Break in the Action
The Dala horse history is all about homegrown art, and there are still artists plying this trade. In the backroom of Hemslöjd, we had an opportunity to meet one. Shirley Malm spends many days painting the intricate designs on a variety of items. She welcomed us in and explained how each artist has their own unique style. We are sure that those in the business could tell them apart. For us, they all look so beautiful. We watched as Shirley’s steady hands applied one color after another on a decorative plate. Nearby, many of the custom items were ready for pick up. We had seen other versions of these, at many of the houses around town. Before we left the shop, we picked up one of the brightly colored Dala horses to add to our growing art collection.
The city of Lindsborg is happy to embrace its Swedish roots and the Dala horse history. One way of doing so is by arranging the placement of the Wild Dala Horse Herd. Throughout town, they have placed 31 fiberglass horses. Each is creatively decorated, as part of a community art project. Many have a theme, that replicates a nearby business. As we explored the city, it was fun uncovering new horses. We even decided which were our favorites. (Mine is pictured above.)
Learning Dala Horse History at Hemslöjd
I will admit that I wasn’t surprised when Crystal chose a coffee themed Dala horse as her favorite. With Lindsborg being such a pedestrian-friendly place to explore, we are confident that you will find your own favorite, as well. Make your plans to visit this uniquely Swedish city, and see the wild herd for yourself. It’s a great place to unwind from the hectic life of the rat race and just enjoy some relaxed time. One question for all of you, how many have seen a Dala horse?
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