By now, most of you have probably watched the video featuring Bengt Lidström, renowned Swedish architect and bowl carver. Recently, I contacted Drew Langsner in an effort to learn more about Bengt. He informed me of an extensive article about Bengt in a journal published by the Västerbottens Museum in northern Sweden in 1996. Well, that’s a long way to go to get a copy, so for those interested in more of Bengt’s story here’s a link to an electronic copy (thanks to Urban Gelfgren at the Museum). Dozens of pages, and all in Swedish — but the photos are in English.
I muddled through copying and pasting with Google Translate. Why, oh why, did my high school not offer Swedish? Anyway, Bengt was born in 1916, one of 15 children. He grew up learning hand skills; when something was needed, the Lidströms made it. Through his career as an architect Bengt celebrated traditional Swedish styles and methods. His work included the restoration of many Swedish churches. Several of the photographs in the article pertain to that work.
Bengt retired in 1981 and devoted much of his time to carving, becoming especially known for his wooden bowls. His bowls were inspired by Swedish folk traditions, including the tradition of individual creativity. Bengt began carving “upside-down bowls” by carving into the bark side of the log. Over time, he increasingly decorated his bowls with carved patterns and painted them with vivid colors. I am amazed by the beauty, creativity, and variety in his work. And, admittedly, I have seen relatively little of it.
Every once in awhile, I’ll watch the Bengt Lidström video again. Even though I do many things differently, I notice something new every time. As the years go by, I am also more inspired by Bengt’s age at the time of recording in 1998. He was 82 years old, and going strong. Carving keeps you young — mind and body engaged. With Bengt’s age came wisdom evident in his working methods. For example, when he carves the decorative motifs on the side panels, he takes the time to arrange the piece at a comfortable working height to save his back. I’m not that wise yet.
Wille Sundqvist is another who drinks from the carving Fountain of Youth. If you’ve not gotten a copy of The Spoon, the Bowl, and the Knife, add it to your Christmas list. And add to it Wille’s book, Swedish Carving Techniques. I’ll have to wait for another time to say more about Wille and his influence. In the meantime, check out these great photos of Wille carving at Country Workshops. Then boldly carve, ageless and shirtless!