Swedish Folk High Schools [December, 2016]

Biskops Arnö 2016

[Biskops-Arnö a Swedish folk high school. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

Biskops-Arnö is a Swedish folk high school with courses in writing, photography, documentary filmmaking, song writing, global justice, and natural medicine. It’s located on a small island on the countryside outside of Stockholm and Uppsala.

Swedish folk high schools began to appear in the late 19th century, mainly on the countryside, to provide education to farmers and other folks who didn’t have the same possibilities to receive education as privileged city people. Folk high schools are initiated and run by one or several principal organisations. Biskops-Arnö is run by The Nordic Association which promotes cooperation between the Nordic countries. Other typical principals are unions, liberal education associations, churches, and sobriety organisations. The majority of the funding for folk high schools comes from the state and the schools principals. However, there is increased pressure for many schools to earn their own money, which is forcing them to develop businesses in addition to their core educational activities, for example by renting out their facilities for conferences.

Folk high schools provide basic highschool education as an alternative to the regular public school system. In the folk high school system this education is called the “common course”. The common course is less rule oriented and freer in terms of pedagogy than the regular public high school. There are fewer exams and no grades. However, students are supposed to gain the same level of knowledge as in the regular public high school, and the education gives university accreditation within a special quota.

Monday meeting at Biskops-Arnö. Photo: Erik Sjödin

[Monday meeting at Biskops-Arnö. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

In practice the common course often caters to people with special needs, but it can also be an option for people who just don’t thrive with the pedagogy in the regular school. Since many schools are located in relatively isolated locations they provide accommodation for students and can be alternatives for people who want to live and study away from home.

At folk high schools there is, comparatively, a lot of focus on letting students express their own creativity. Many teachers promote the “exploded classroom” i.e. that students learn outside of the class room. Students work thematically, are thought to learn by researching and exploring, and are encouraged to become active co-creating citizens.

Many folk high schools try to maintain a community feeling with little hierarchies between teachers and students. At Biskops-Arnö a flat culture is supported by a public school meeting on Mondays and activities which are open for everyone, such as yoga, floorball, and pottery classes. There’s also a school kitchen and restaurant, and a pub which is open on the weekends.

Global justice course at Biskops-Arnö. Photo: Erik Sjödin

[Robert Norman at the global justice course. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

In addition to the common course most folk high school have “special courses”. These can range in duration from a few days to several years, and they can be on a very basic level or on levels that are equivalent to university education. Sometimes, like in the case of Biskops-Arnö, schools are even labeled as elitist. However, they themselves would dispute this, arguing that there isn’t an elitist culture promoted by the school, but that students push themselves because of the school’s or a course’s reputation.

The special courses at folk high schools are often intended for the students personal development and enjoyment, which often means that they teach skills which are difficult to sell on the job market. This can be anything that has to do with art and other cultural production, but it can also be for example traditional wooden ship building or skills for ecological living.

However, there are exceptions, such as the global justice course at Biskops-Arnö. The course builds on an international perspective that began to appear among folk high schools with the 1968 movement, and has a focus on spreading core values like democracy and gender equality. Students at the course often already have university degrees in fields such as agronomy, engineering, or journalism. During the course they do internships abroad at NGOs and afterwards many go on to get jobs with international aid.

Song writing class at Biskops-Arnö. Photo: Erik Sjödin

[Mattias Björkas teaching a song writing class. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

On Biskops-Arnö the special courses are run almost as if they were independent schools. The course staff decide how they take in students, they appoint their own staff, and they develop their own curricula. However, courses share administration and there is formal or informal exchange between courses in one way or another.

For example the song writing class, which is relatively new, is set up pretty much like the schools well established writing course. Students are selected based on what they write and the teachers who do the selection strive to put together a diverse group where they look for unique artistic expressions and not for particular skills. The course focus is on developing the students existing practices and create identities as song writers, and not on shaping students uniformly. The course is centered around disciplined songwriting and group conversation. There is very little focus on technology and the program commits practically all of it’s resources to bringing in guest teachers. Students regularly write songs based on themes that teachers suggests, or they write freely. When the songs are done the students come together with a teacher to play the songs and read their lyrics. Everyone then gives feedback on what they have heard, with the teacher talking after the students, and lastly the student who wrote the song. This way the students learn to analyse their own and others work, and hopefully become their own teachers.


 
 
 
 


Azolla Bread in Amersfoort [November, 2016]

The Azolla Cooking and Cultivation Project. Installation view. Photo: Erik Sjödin

[The Azolla Cooking and Cultivation Project. Installation view. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

Last month I got some bakers in Amersfoort to bake sourdough bread with Azolla. The bread would probably have tasted better without Azolla, but it might be healthier with it. It might also cause brain damage. Though probably not, and only if you eat very large quantities of it over a long period of time. Which most people wouldn’t since it doesn’t taste that great.

It’s difficult to say if Azolla in food will become something. It could become a nutritional supplement if further studies prove that it’s healthy, or if people are forced to eat it to avoid starvation or malnutrition. Having worked with this plant on and off for more than six years now, I’ve come to think that Azolla has the most potential as a nitrogen sink and fertiliser in areas where it’s already growing. In India, for example, it’s not uncommon to see people collecting dirty water from small ponds or wells. Azolla could probably be grown in many of these ponds and possibly prevent evaporation, clean the water, deter malaria mosquitos from laying eggs, and be harvested and used as a fertiliser, all at the same time.


 
 
 
 


Beekeeping on Iceland [October, 2016]

Pat's Apiary

[Pat’s Apiary, Westfjords Iceland 2016. Photo: Erik Sjödin.]

Beekeeping on Iceland is challenging. The hive above, on Pat’s farm in the Westfjords, is barely surviving, which still is an achievement. The hive below, in Drangsnes, also in the Westfjords, didn’t make it through the winter.

Apiary in Fiskines

[Sigrún’s Apiary, Westfjords Iceland 2016. Photo: Erik Sjödin.]

It’s not uncommon that colonies die already in their first year, but in many parts of Iceland it seems like it’s almost impossible to make honey bees thrive for longer periods. The weather is just too harsh and there’s not enough flowering plants. Around these two hives there’s not even heather. Feeding the bees with more sugar could make up for the lack of flowers, but if all the bees eat is imported sugar then the question is if it wouldn’t be better to just import honey instead.

In other parts of Iceland, where the climate is milder, beekeeping is working out better, but it’s still challenging. People on Iceland have been attempting beekeeping with more or less success from at least the 1940’s, but more organised beekeeping didn’t start until the late 1990’s. Today the Icelandic Bee Association keeps track of 100-150 hives on Iceland. There are beekeepers who get up to 60kg of honey from a hive which is a good harvest, and there’s even a beekeeper who has started to breed queens.

But Iceland is still dependant on importing bees. The bees are imported from Åland, an island in the Baltic sea, between Sweden and Finland. Åland has been lucky and, because of its relative isolation, not been subjected to varroa and other bee diseases. The idea is that by bringing the bees to Iceland from Åland, these diseases can be avoided on Iceland too, and so far it has worked out well.

A quick search at the The National and University Library of Iceland in Reykjavik revealed six pollinators on Iceland: Blomsveifa Syrphus torvus, Letursveifa Sphaerophoria scripta, Randasveifa Helophilus pendulus, Húshumla Bombus lucorum, Lodsveifa Eristalis intricaria, and finally the heath bumblebee (Móhumla Bombus jonellus), which is the only native bee on Iceland. Probably there are more than these on Iceland, but not that many.

If bumble bees, solitary bees and other wild pollinators are subjected to competition from honey bees is not particularly researched. But it’s been shown that there can be competition where there’s a limited amount of flowering plants, which often is the case on Iceland [1]. If beekeeping becomes more popular then perhaps there’s a risk that honey bees outcompete some of the other pollinators on Iceland. On the other hand, given the relatively few locations on Iceland that really are suitable for beekeeping it’s not likely that beekeeping will become ubiquitous anytime soon. More beekeeping would likely go together with changes in the flora and fauna, and in any case honey bees are not the biggest threat to wild pollinators on Iceland. A number of Iceland’s pollinators, including the heath bumblebee, are already at risk of severe population declines if the invasive lupines that were introduced on Iceland in the 1940’s to combat soil erosions continues to replace native flowering plants [2].

[1] Competition between managed honeybees and wild bumblebees depends on landscape context, Lina Herbertsson et al 2016.

[2] Pollinator diversity in native heath and alien Nootka lupine stands in Iceland, Jonathan Willow 2015.


 
 
 
 


Making Honey Brew [May, 2016]

[Making Honey brew at DKTUS, August 2011. More photos on flickr.]

HONEY BREW RECIPE

8 litre water
500 gr honey
500 gr brown sugar
3 lemons
2 rhubarb stalks
10 gr yeast
raisins

Peal and slice the lemon, remove the white under the peel. Cut the rhubarb in pieces. Poor boiling water on top of the sugar, rhubarb and lemons.

Let everything cool down to 35C, add the honey and yeast.

Mix well so that the honey melts. Let it ferment for one day. Poor it into bottle with some raisins in and keep them cool for four days. Don’t fill the brewing container or bottles all the way up, and don’t screw the lids on tight. Otherwise the bottles might explode or overfill when the brew ferments.

Source: Svenska Österbottens Biodlare / FBF-s folder HONUNG

Making the honey brew at DKTUS was part of the preparations for The Beekeeping Society in August 2011.


 
 
 
 


The Beekeeping Society [May, 2016]

[This is a Q&A about the study circle Humans and Bees, the exhibition The Political Beekeeper’s Library, the pedagogical project Our Friends The Pollinators, and the never realised multispecies community project The Beekeeping Society. It’s an expanded English translation of a text originally published in the magazine Fält by Art Lab Gnesta 2015.]

The Political Beekeeper's Library at Under tallarna 2015

[The Political Beekeepers Library at Under tallarna 2015. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

 
Tell us about the background of The Political Beekeeper’s Library?

The Political Beekeeper’s Library is the result of a nearly five year long process that includes several more or less completed projects that revolve around relationships between humans and bees.


I started to take interest in beekeeping when colony collapse disorder gained media attention in the late 2000s, although my grandfather was a beekeeper and I guess I have always been positive to beekeeping because of that. I was amazed at what large scale and how intensively beekeeping is conducted in many parts of the world. For example in California where at times huge loads of beehives have been shipped in with jet planes from Australia to pollinate almond groves.


In 2010 I received an invitation to do a project together with DKTUS, a platform for contemporary art and artistic research, located in the Old Town in Stockholm on the site that used to be the kitchen garden for the Royal Palace. In response to this I started to sketch on a project called The Beekeeping Society. The idea was to spend a summer building hives for honeybees, creating a garden with flowering fruit trees, vegetables and herbs, a social environment with benches and tables, and a café that would serve locally produced and organic food and drinks. In this environment, we would also have a programme with talks, film screenings, and workshops.

The idea was that The Beekeeping Society would act as focal point for beekeepers, scientist, architects, designers and artists etc. And that when people from different disciplines would meet and activate the place together they would perhaps come up with things that they wouldn’t come up with on their own.

In addition to discussing beekeeping and the wider context that beekeeping is part of today The Beekeeping Society was meant to illustrate how cultural activities may include nonhumans such as animals and plants. To explain this I related to the concepts relational aesthetics and philosophical posthumanism.

Relational aesthetics emerged in the late 90s as a term for art projects that revolve around social activities and in various ways include people as actors and co-creators. Nicolas Bourriaud, the curator who coined the term, defined it as “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.”

Very briefly put philosophical posthumanism emphasises the roles of nonhumans such as animals, plants and other beings, but also things and concepts. In doing so posthumanist theory challenges dichotomies and hierarchies that tend to be present in the generally human centered contemporary thought. For example posthumanism challenges rigid distinctions between nature and culture, human and animal, man and woman, and man and machine.

When relational aesthetics was topical in contemporary art, there was a lot of debate about which cultural and social groups were included in this type of projects and on what premises. For example, art historian and critic Claire Bishop wrote: “If relational art produces human relations, then the next logical question to ask is what types of relations are being produced, for whom, and why?”. From a posthumanist perspective it’s worth nothing that neither Bourriaud or Bishop mentioned relationships between others than humans and things. Animals, plants and other organisms did not occur in their writings at all. [2]


The idea for The Beekeeping Society was well received and we received some financial support to write a project proposal and got The Swedish Beekeepers Association and Stockholm Resilience Center, as well as several beekeepers, entrepreneurs, architect, designers and artist to backup the project and support a grant application. Unfortunately in the end we didn’t receive funding to carry out the actual project and thus the project was never realised. Instead, I moved to Bergen in Norway to purse an MFA. Partly because it was a possibility for me to continue to work on my own projects with a study grant, but also out of curiosity on being a student at an art school and in a different cultural and geographical environment.


When I moved to Bergen, in autumn 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement started in New York. I followed the developments with great interest, although I did it remotely, and for me it meant a political awakening.



In Bergen I continued to immerse myself in the humanities, such as philosophy, sociology and anthropology – a direction that I hade taken since I started to pursue my own projects after I stopped working full-time as an employed engineer and researcher. The humanities were also dominant among teachers and guest lecturers at the art school.

The Political Beekeeper's Library at Art Lab Gnesta 2015

[The Political Beekeepers Library at Art Lab Gnesta 2015. Photos: Erik Sjödin]



Eventually I began to sketch on a new project about beekeeping in which these perspectives would be more present. In the new project idea I related to Thomas D. Seeley’s book Honey Bee Democracy which was published in 2010. In the book Seeley describes how honeybees take common decisions when they swarm and choose a new location to settle at. Seeley also mentions that in the research team he leads at Cornell University he uses a decision model built on the same principles as the honeybees.

Inspired by this my idea was to study how beekeeping associations are organized in different parts of
world. Beekeeping associations are often organizations that have been around for many years and have developed effective system for sharing beekeeping equipment and exchanging knowledge between members. I thought this would be interesting to study, and that it might be possible to find parallels or differences between how beekeeping associations and bee societies are organised.


My idea was to build a project around beekeeping societies in Iceland, England and Spain. Three sites in Europe that are culturally and geographically interesting, with both great similarities and differences. England and Spain were also natural choices because I saw opportunities to cooperate with the art organisations Campo Adentro and Grizedale Arts that I had been in contact with before.



In many ways I saw the end result of this project in front of me as an anthropological study, largely built on visual documentation using photography, but also audio and video. To give something back to the beekeeping associations I intended to study I figured that I could introduce them to various books and texts that I have found through my research on beekeeping.



However, after a year in Bergen, I ended up in economic and existential predicaments. Because of this the new project ended up as nothing more than a project description. However, when a project has got a certain substance I find it difficult to just let it go and eventually the idea of ​​The Political Beekeeper’s Library as an independent project formed.



Our Friends the Pollinators at Eggeby gård 2015

[Our Friends The Pollinators at Eggeby gård 2015. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

Other parts of the original idea of ​​the project The Beekeeping Society have subsequently been implemented in the pedagogical project Our Friends The Pollinators, together with Eggeby gård and Tensta konsthall, as well as with with Hästa gård and Färgfabriken. This past summer (2015) I have for example built beehives, nest sites for solitary bees and nests for bumblebees together with youths at Eggeby gård.



With support from Konstfrämjandet I have conducted the study circle at Under tallarna in Järna. In the study circle, Humans and Bees, we have had a conversation that has departed from books in The Political Beekeeper’s Library as well as academic texts that in various ways discuss relationships between humans and bees. I have also worked with documenting the context in which the study circle has taken place at Under tallarna – in line with the project I sketched on in Bergen.



Because The Political Beekeeper’s Library is presented as an exhibition at Art Lab Gnesta I have been able to acquire more books for the library, which now includes around thirty titles. I have also had the opportunity to spend more time on reading, cataloging, and presenting the books. In other words much has fallen into place this summer.


 

What questions were raised in the study circle?



In the Humans and Bees study circle we discussed how beekeeping is conducted in the world today and for what purposes. We have for example discussed large-scale beekeeping in the US, where bees are used to maximise economic profit from honey production and for pollination of large monocultures, and beekeeping in a village in England where bees are managed for their own sake and not primarily with the aim of making economic profit. We have also discussed how bees are used for military purposes, and how ideas about race, class, nationality and gender affect how bees are described in various contexts.



In the study circle we have also looked at how bees live and how they can be said to be politically organized. Honeybees are categorized as eusocial animals, which means that they are animals that live in societies where only one or a few individuals handle reproduction, and that there is a division of labor in the society.



When bees swarm and have to take a joint decision on where to settle and form a new society, they use something called “quorum sensing”. Briefly, this means that when a enough individuals, in this case scouting bees, believe that a nest site is good enough according to certain predetermined criteria, such the size of the nest site and the entrance hole, the whole swarm moves there. There is not just one individual, for example the queen, who decides where the swarm will move. But it is not a decision which all bees are involved in or agree on either.



Humans and Bees, Studycircle at Under tallarna 2015

[Humans and Bees, study circle at Under tallarna 2015. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

In the first study circle meeting I presented books in The Political Beekeeper’s Library. These span from History of Animals by Aristotle, from the fourth century BC, to Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley from 2010, through, among others, The Feminine Monarchy by Charles Butler from 1609. In the books in the library you can see a clear evolution of how the bee society has been described as having been ruled by a powerful male ruler, to a monarchy with a queen, to something that can be likened to a democracy without a clear leader.



Presenting The Political Beekeeper’s Library in the study circle at Under tallarna has been a great preparation for the exhibition at Art Lab Gnesta. There is quite a lot that is obviously nutty in the literature on bees, that we have talked about in study circle. For example the probably first literary reference to beehives are found in Hesiodos’ Theogonia from the eight century B.C. Archaeologist Eva Crane describes Hesiodos as thoroughly misogynist and mentions that he compared women to drones. Hints of xenophobia and ideas of race can also be found among the books. On the other hand, others have actively resisted against drawing such parallels. For example the Austrian Karl von Frisch who was forced away from the University of Munich because he refused to let Nazi ideology influence his research. Karl von Frisch later received the Nobel Prize for his descriptions of bees individual and social behaviours.



In the study circle we considered how attitudes and ideas change over time, and what perspectives could be found elsewhere, such as in Asian literature, or in oral traditions. We have also discussed many philosophical concepts that we were introduced to in the texts we read; for example Judith Butler’s concept of ​​shared vulnerability and Marcel Mauss’s ideas about gift exchange. In both cases, we considered how these concepts could be extended to include relationship between humans and nonhumans. There is also a lot that we have been introduced to in the texts we read that we haven’t had time to go deeper into, for example Jane Bennet’s “vibrant matter” concept.

 
How has the discussion been influenced by the location?



The original idea with ​​The Beekeeping Society was to create a space for conversations about relationship between humans and nonhumans, and for encounters between humans and nonhumans. Under tallarna is an existing site that is already better for this than the place I envisioned to build up for The Beekeeping Society.



Humans and Bees at Under tallarna 2015

[Humans and Bees at Under Tallarna 2015. 35mm slide film. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

The setting is important for a productive conversation. However really bad ideas can slip down uncritically if they are served in a friendly and cosy environment, but with that said, I feel that it has contributed positively to the discussion that we were able to sit outside under a tree when the sun shined, or in a warm greenhouse when it was raining, and that we have had bees, ducks, chickens, dogs, children, and adults moving around us.


Under tallarna is permeated with intuitive, practical knowledge and doing. Academic discussions have a place there as well, but it feels like words are of less importance. It’s a lot better to be able to demonstrate and study things in practice and not just in theory. It would had been a completely different situation if the study circle had occurred in the city in a place where the participants only could try to imagine a place like Under tallarna.

[1] In 2010 there was still a lot of speculation about what causes colony collapse disorder. Today it’s generally acknowledged that colony collapse disorder is a combination of several environmental factors that stresses bees, and that the most negative factor is a type of pesticides called neonicotinoids. In 2013 the European Union restricted restricted the use of these pesticides in Europe but they are still used in the US and elsewhere. Colony Collapse Disorder is not phenomena in Sweden in the same way as in the US. However there are other problem with beekeeping in Sweden, for example that there are not as many beekeepers as there used to be, and that there’s a decline of flowering plants that the bees can feed on.

[2] Bourriad returned to the relational aesthetics concept as a curator of the Taipei Biennial 2014 through which he sought to “expand on his theory of relational aesthetics, examining how contemporary art expresses this new contract among human beings, animals, plants, machines, products and objects.”


 
 
 
 


Cobenefits of Dietary Change [April, 2016]

Vegan azolla pancakes

[Vegan Azolla Pancakes. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

In March 2016 scientist at Oxford published a comprehensive study on the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. The study puts figures on what seems to be becoming a more common notion; that eating vegetarian / vegan is a good idea both for individual peoples health and the planet in general. The study got quite a lot of media coverage, however, in the original publication the scientists at Oxford estimate that 7.3/8.1 million premature deaths “per year” would be avoided by a global transition to a vegetarian/vegan diet by 2050. That’s even better than a total of 8 million by 2050, which is how the study was quoted in both Times and The Guardian’s coverage of it. At least that’s how I interpreted their articles, it’s not difficult to get it wrong though, these figure were unclearly stated in both the original study and summaries from Oxford).

The Azolla Cooking and Cultivation Project at Umeå Skafferi / Survival Kit Umeå 2014

[The Azolla Cooking and Cultivation Project at Umeå Skafferi. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

With this study in mind I’d like to share a recipe for vegan Azolla pancakes. Summer-autumn 2014 I participated in the Survival Kit Festival in Umeå. In participation with Umeå Pantry, a project by My Villages, we cooked vegetable soup and pancakes with dried Azolla and I presented my work with The Azolla Cooking and Cultivation Project.

Umeå has a strong tradition of veganism and the pancakes were cooked by the local artist Alexander Svartvatten, based on the recipe for vegan pancakes below and served with locally picked blueberries. The pancakes were really great. Much better than the vegan pancakes I cooked at the Vivre(s) exhibition at Domaine De Chamarande in France, which tasted good but looked so dodgy that a woman in the audience felt obliged to take the spade out of my hands and do the cooking herself. If vegan Azolla pancakes are healthy or not remains to be proven, but at least these pancakes proved that they can be delicious.

Vegan Azolla Pancakes (4 servings)

1 dl dried azolla
9 dl soy milk
6 dl spelt flour
0,75 tsp salt
5 tbsp rape seed oil


 
 
 
 


Kayaking in Stockholm [April, 2016]

Kayaking in Stockholm

[Kayaking towards one of the many bridges in Stockholm. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

This photoset is from my first year of kayaking in Stockholm, most of the time with the skin-on-frame kayak I built at Slakthusatljéerna. Since I’m a beginner at kayaking I’m happy I built a rather wide kayak that doesn’t tip over easily. But now that I’m getting better at it I would like to have a somewhat slimmer and faster kayak that is easier to roll with. I’ve found most of the material I need to build one so hopefully I will get started soon. The photos are from Årstaviken in central Stockholm, which is close to where I live, as well as the lake Mälaren, and Stockholm archipelago, which both are connected to the waters in Stockholm city. The archipelago in particular is amazing to kayak in, but I think it’s fun and at times also adventurous to kayak in the city and Mälaren too. There are several kayaking clubs in Stockholm, and places where you can rent kayak, which in most cases is an easier and more economical alternative to having your own kayak and shipping it around.

Kayaking in Stockholm 2015

[Kayaking in Stockholm 2015. Photos: Erik Sjödin and Carl-Johan Rosén]


 
 
 
 


Top-Bar Beehives [January, 2016]

Top bar hive in Hjulsta

[Beekeeper Hannes Norr demonstrates a top bar hive. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

Top-bar hives are an alternative to regular beehives. They are fun and easy to build and use, and potentially better for the bees. They are not so common in Sweden, but they are gaining in popularity and it will be interesting to see how they will compare to regular hives.

It’s possible to build a top-bar bee hive in a day or two. The photos below are from a do-it-together top-bar hive workshop facilitated by Aron Adobati at Solåkrabyn in Järna in Sweden. With great planning, instructions and pre-made jigs the participants built nine hives in one day. The hives even include extras like sloped roofs, inspection windows, and removable bottom trays.

Top-bar Hive Workshop at Solåkrabyn 2015

[Top-bar Hive Workshop at Solåkrabyn 2015. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

In the spring the hives will be used by the cultivation cooperative Under tallarna in Järna and first-time beekeepers in the area.

Our Friends the Pollinators at Eggeby gård 2015

[Our Friends the Pollinators, at Eggeby gård 2015. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

The photos above show summer job youths building bumble bee nests and top-bar hives for honeybees. The hives were built using wood recycled from an installation built by artist Celine Condorelli at Tensta konsthall. These show that with some basic tool even inexperienced builders can build a functional top-bar hive at a very low cost. These hives didn’t have any inspection windows. While inspection windows are fun and potentially useful for the beekeeper it’s likely better for the bees to not have one, since cold can seep in through it in the winter.

The top-bar hives at Solåkra were built using drawings by Philip Chandler, “The Barefoot Beekeeper” and the hives at Eggeby gård were built following instructions by the Swedish beekeeper Patrick Sellman.


 
 
 
 


Empty Spaces in Ljusne [January, 2016]

Tomma rum in Ljusne 2015

[Disused Factory in Ljusne. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

Tomma rum (Empty Spaces) is a Swedish platform for cultural and artistic exchange. Almost every summer they arrange an art residency in a smaller town or village in Sweden. Summer 2015 Tomma rum was in Ljusne, situated next to the river Ljusnans outlet in the Baltic sea.

Ljusne has a long tradition of wood and iron industry, but since the 1970’s the industries have gradually shut down. Because of the loss of jobs many people have left the town. Today the population is slightly less than two thousand, about half of when it peaked in the 1960’s.

During my stay at Tomma rum in Ljusne I made a first prototype for a multifunctional furniture that resembles a small wood stove. The furniture was made using the towns school wood workshop out of wood found at a disused factory in Ljusne.

The factory once produced prefab houses and windows. After the manufacturing moved out, in the 2000’s, the building was used as a carpentry shop by Ljusnestiftelsen who arranged activities for unemployed in Ljusne. It is abandoned now and will eventually be demolished.

The wood stove furniture prototype was exhibited in the exhibition venue for Tomma rum, a former power station that has been remade into an art space by the organisation Konstkraft (Art Power). Not being satisfied with the prototype other than as a prototype I eventually burned it up. Since then I’ve made another prototype which is closer to what I’m looking for. Eventually I hope to set a final form and maybe turn it into a product. However, the final design has to be done in collaboration with a wood workshop with a CNC milling machine or a skilled carpenter, so it might take a while to get it done.


 
 
 
 


Kayak Building at Slakthusateljéerna [November, 2015]

Last winter me and my friend Carl-Johan Rosén built our own kayaks at Slakthusateljéerna in Stockholm.

Kayak Building at Slakthusateljéerna 2014/2015

[Kayak Building at Slakthusateljéerna. Photos: Erik Sjödin and Carl-Johan Rosén]

The kayaks we built are skin-on-frame kayaks. We made the frames of found wood and used different materials for the skins. The white one is nylon coated with polyurethane varnish. The black is PVC. Both are pretty cheap, and work fine, but the nylon is much more durable and I like the feeling of it better. Neither is perfect from an environmental point of view.

I think the next one I do will be with either a recycled tarp or something organic such as hemp or cotton canvas. After seals but before synthetic fabrics people used canvas coated with mixtures of linseed oil and tar. Ideally I would like to find a material that is waterproof, durable, non-toxic and either recyclable or biodegradable. Re-skinning a kayak is not a big deal so it doesn’t have to last forever.

Skin-on-frame kayaks can be very light, durable, functional, and inexpensive and easy to build. In many ways they can equal or be better than modern glassfiber kayaks. However, they are not as safe as modern sea kayaks, mostly because they don’t have waterproof compartments. Therefore it’s even more important to practice rescue techniques and use safety equipment such as a personal floating device, float bags, pump, paddle float and good clothes.