Norwegian giftware companies and handicraft workshops provide a kaleidoscope of gift items, from keepsake souvenirs to knitted woollens and intricately worked objets d'art. Articles utilize natural materials such as wood, wool from hardy Norwegian sheep, and stone, and abundant use is made of decorative motifs and subjects drawn from the natural world.
Norwegian houses are built to provide a warm refuge from the elements, and the tradition of creating a welcoming, pleasing interior at home remains strong in Norway today. Norwegians attach great importance to style, durability and quality. Decorative items are not just for show - they must have a practical use. Items that are popular on the giftware market today, from hunting knives to painted wooden spoons, were originally produced for practical purposes by farmers and their families living in Norway's valleys and fjordside communities. These individual artisans laid the foundation for today's range of giftware items, which marries traditional folk art with modern, sophisticated design. The combination of usefulness and elegance is one reason why Norwegian handicrafts and giftware have appealed to a growing audience outside Norway.
Wood is king among the raw materials available to Norwegian craftspeople, not only for its versatility for carving and turning but also as a surface for painting, particularly for rosemaling (rose-painting). Traditionally, the timber walls and ceilings of Norwegian homesteads were brightly painted, as were the beds, trunks, and other household items. Rosemaling is characterized by flowing lines and scrolls and stylized floral designs harmoniously integrated in subtle hues.
The designs, unique to different parts of the country, often include figurative scenes and script lettering. Popular rose-painted objects include bowls and platters of all shapes and sizes, chests, candlesticks, and smaller items such as pancake spatulas and butter spreaders.
Skilled Norwegian metalworkers practice their craft based on methods passed down for generations. Polished pewter reproductions of historical beer tankards, shot glasses, candlesticks, platters, pewter cheese slicers, cake knives, corkscrews, and more, have become increasingly popular on the international market. Brass-patina metal bells, worn in times past by grazing sheep, goats, and cattle, are also enjoying a resurgence in popularity, primarily as cheering bells at sporting events. Bells can be customized to suit the occasion or engraved with a corporate logo.
Norwegian silverwork is world renowned. Silver is handcrafted into the intricate filigree brooches and buckles, called s¯lje, used to embellish the national costume or bunad. Norwegian silversmiths also produce a full array of jewellery and other items such as condiment sets and tableware. The selection ranges from Viking patterns and motifs to the very newest in Scandinavian design, characterized by smooth contours and a mirror-like finish.
Norwegian companies also manufacture top-quality tableware, providing a wide selection of ceramics, china, and glassware for every taste. Printed and embroidered table linens and other decorative textiles are available in many different colours and styles. Christmas is a special time when traditions are remembered, and decorations from Norway add a festive touch to any tree or table.
The long northern winters call for wrapping up warmly. Norway excels in the production of snug woollens such as hats, headbands, scarves, mittens, blankets, and armchair throws. Available in a myriad of patterns and colours, Norwegian woollen garments are renowned for their design and durability. Traditional Norwegian sweaters are particularly popular on the international market, but there are also contemporary fashions available in a wide variety of colours and styles, including classic buckled cardigans for men, women and children, elegant ladies' jackets, and sporty pullovers for the whole family. The use of 100 per cent pure wool and fine craftsmanship are hallmarks of Norwegian apparel, whether garments are hand-knitted or manufactured using modern production methods.
Norwegian publishers produce a large selection of beautifully illustrated works that are suitable for coffee tables and as corporate gifts. Also available are calendars, postcard packs, playing cards, and other printed memorabilia sporting photos of Norway's dramatic and varied landscape. More unusual gift items include purses, hats, and traditional boots crafted in seal skin or leather made from moose hide.
Sprung from the rich fabric of Norwegian folklore, troll figurines have gained an increasingly large following, with a dedicated Troll Club catering to collectors worldwide. A broad range of the shaggy-haired, mysterious figures is available, depicting characters of all ages and attitudes. For generations, trolls and the fairy tales in which they play leading roles have inspired many of Norway's artists and craftspeople. Several mountains, waterfalls, and caves in Norway are named after trolls, evidence of their former significance in Norwegian culture. Wild and remote, the Trollveggen mountain peak (the Troll Wall) is one of Norway's most dramatic natural attractions - perfect for troll gatherings.
By Roderick Craig