As all design professionals are aware, the practicality of a design goes hand in hand with understanding the nature of the material, and this forms part of the sloyd curriculum. An environmental conscience, circular economies, durability and limiting waste – important lessons for all us, whether we work in the design industry or not – are all introduced through the practice of educational sloyd. Add to this the interpersonal skills, such as patience, problem-solving, communication, and pride in workmanship, and it becomes clear that sloyd provides a platform for self expression and growth.
The Father of Modern Education, Pestalozzi suggested that education should combine the powers of ‘head’, ‘heart’ and ‘hands’. As Swedish artist and woodworker, Jögge Sundqvist, writes, ‘Sloyd affects us by satisfying the body and in turn, the soul. There is a kind of practical contemplation where there is time for thought — a certain focused calm, which is an antidote to today’s media-centred society.”
This early appreciation for harmony between form, function and materiality is reflected in the qualities of Scandinavian design. Industrialisation arrived late in Nordic regions, cold nights drew in early, and wood was abundant. Evenings were spent indoors in the warmth, crafting useful tools and practical domestic equipment, and in their creation, bringing an emotional warmth to the makers. Scandinavian design – simple, understated, well-made – was an organic product of the Scandinavian way of life.
Finnish architect Alvar Aalto once said that wood is the most deeply human of all materials, and working with the material from an early age at school – the place where we begin to learn and gain the confidence to shape our world – will plant the seeds for a career in design, engineering or architecture, in some young minds.