Preserving Swedish culture through art

Kayla Palliser

Like a fossil in amber, resin artwork has the ability to preserve tiny treasures for years. The Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center hosted its first Nordic-inspired craft workshop on Saturday, Sept. 25. The workshop featured resin jewelry making with classic Swedish book pieces. Paying homage to Augustana’s origins, the Swenson Center will continue hosting monthly Nordic-inspired craft workshops called Hemslöjd, a Swedish word meaning “handicraft.”

Lisa Huntsha, the archivist and librarian of the Swenson center and organizer of Hemslöjd, has found a way to upcycle donated Swedish books that couldn’t find another home by sealing parts of them in resin. 

“We have things that are donated to us that are duplicate materials or in pretty poor shape, and so I thought, ‘why not turn them into art?’” Huntsha said.

According to Skillshare, resin is a clear liquid that hardens when it reacts to heat or UV light. In jewelry making, resin is poured over an item, such as a small flower, metallic foil or a piece of paper. The resin dries over the item and protects it.

The Swenson Center will hold the next workshop event Nov. 13, painting wooden ornaments with the words “God Jul,” which means Merry Christmas in Swedish. 

“This workshop will be free for students, but you do need to register, and there are a limited number of seats available,” Huntsha said. In addition, according to the Swenson Center website, “Some workshops will have an option for virtual participation at a lower cost.” 

Students don’t need to know Swedish or be an artist to participate. With the different forms of art each workshop offers, participants are sure to have fun no matter their skill level. As an added benefit, November’s workshop comes with a chance to bring a handmade Augustana keepsake home for the holidays.

Each workshop will cover a variety of themes “inspired by Scandinavian topics or artists or those related to libraries or archives,” Huntsha said. By attending these workshops, students have an opportunity to learn more about Augustana’s heritage and identity and create a one of a kind memento.

In addition to the fun of creating a unique craft, each workshop event offers students a chance to learn more about the Swenson Center and its mission. The Swenson Center’s work is directly linked to the origin of Augustana itself and remains relevant to its students today.

As Augustana’s website describes in an overview of its history, Augustana was founded in 1860 by Swedish immigrants, and the Swenson Center continues to protect and share Swedish knowledge. 

“It’s important for institutions to honor their history in a variety of ways. And archives are so important because it’s preserving that history. And not only preserving it, but allowing people to come and use it and learn from their past,” Huntsha said.

Through the poured resin book jewelry workshop and the workshops planned for this year, the Swenson Center offers students the chance to preserve pieces of Swedish history and pay homage to Augustana’s heritage for the past 160 years. 

Upcoming workshops give students a chance to express their artistic side and show their support for Swenson research and archives. Keep an eye out for the Swenson Center’s next crafty way to express Augie pride!