Holy smokes. friends!
I just got back from a Nordic trip of dreams.
My husband Ryan and I went to Stockholm and the Aland Islands in July for a summer break and so I could do a printmaking workshop with artist and designer Lotta Jansdotter. Are you familiar with Lotta's work, perhaps? You might be, even if you don't know it - she started making and selling printed textiles and other items as a one-person enterprise in the '90s, I think, long before the internet and social media made that kind of thing somewhat easier to do, and she has a very honed, bold, graphic style.
I had seen the workshop shown in beautiful pictures on her Instagram and decided I really wanted to go soak up the natural beauty and learn some new things!
Where are the Aland Islands, you ask?
I had never heard of them before - they're a Swedish-speaking archipelago in the Baltic Sea that is a semi-autonomous region of Finland.
Yes, but also very beautiful - thousands of low, glacier-scoured, stony islands that look a little bit like coastal Maine.
So, here are some highlights to tempt you into maybe going to Aland yourself:
After a couple of lovely days in Stockholm, Ryan and I took a scenic five hour ferry ride through the Stockholm archipelago and the open Baltic Sea to Aland. Ryan went off on his own to explore the main island for a few days while I went on to the workshop. I took a bus across the main island (there was a moose sighting during the ride!) to another boat that took the group of us to the very small island of Silverskar (photo above) where the workshop was held.
There were no cars on Silverskar, and no humans either, except us workshop people and the staff who took care of the place and cooked amazing food for us. (There were a few very long-eared rabbits who appeared often, too.)
I shared a cabin off in the woods overlooking the water.
And the workshop was held in a restored old barn nearby.
We also used the island's sauna a lot! This is the sauna building, right next to the shore, so you can jump into the sea after you're all steamed up.
(It sounds trite to call the place magical, but, in this case I think it's a fair characterization!)
I had wanted to try printing on fabric and making repeating patterns - and of course, learn from Lotta - and it was so fun and helpful. The workshop was four days, and we started with potato printing, then did some block printing using carvable soft rubber blocks, and finally stencil printing.
Here are a few examples of things I printed:
A block-printed repeat pattern bandana -
A stencil-printed tote bag -
(Apologies for the wrinkled just-out-of-the-suitcase presentation.)
You'll be seeing more of this shape I call 'seaweed flower' on some future Navy Midnight cards! I printed it several times trying out different colors and compositions.
Living in the Bay Area, I'm very lucky to have fresh, local, beautifully-prepared food all around. I feel pretty familiar with good food, and let me tell you, the food on Silverskar was stellar.
Everything from the huge sweet raspberries from their garden to fish caught nearby and smoked in their own smoker - just amazing food from start to finish.
This was my typical breakfast at the big outdoor table - I could never choose between fresh yogurt and berries or a little sandwich on homemade bread, so - both.
And have your heard of fika?
It's a daily Scandinavian coffee break or tea time - with delicious cake or pastries. Almost another meal, it felt like. They take it very seriously! And it is a nice excuse to pause, sit down, and chat or think or whatever.
Sometimes for fika we had the famous Aland pancake - a national dish - a fried (I think) shortcake kind of thing with cream and berries. Not to be missed, I tell you!
The midnight sun
Who knew the midnight sun (technically about 10:30 pm sun in this photo) was so golden and warm-toned? (Maybe everybody, but I sure didn't.)
The people who live here soak up every minute of the brief summer season, which was a nice reminder to really appreciate the long bright days.
So, yeah. A great trip all around.
I came home buzzing with ideas and feeling refreshed to have stepped away from all the regular Navy Midnight tasks and able to see things somewhat anew!
If you're tempted to sign up for one of Lotta's workshops (do it!), the best thing is to follow her on Instagram or sign up for her mailing list so you'll hear right away when registration opens up - they sell out really really fast.
PS: I couldn't fit in anything about the Stockholm part of the trip (also great) without making this too long. Will try to add a post about that later!