prologue: a portrait of the craftsman as a young man

First, a greeting. My name is Jake Fee and I am currently an Intern at North House Folk School as well as a graduate student studying Experiential Education at Minnesota State University.

During my remaining months at North House, I'll be working on my slöjd project, the capstone of my internship that binds together traditional craft, community-building, and craft education. I'll also submit this slöjd project as the capstone project for my master's degree, which focuses on learning through direct experience.

Slöjd in the broadest sense of the word is a philosophy about the entire process of creating works by hand, educating others to be crafted and self-sufficient while integrating a beauty and appreciation for the folk art and tradition of the culture. - from an article on birch shrink boxes by Jim Sannerud, American Woodturner magazine, Feb 2012 vol 27 no 1

The achievements of the past provide the only means at command for understanding the present. Just as the individual has to draw in memory upon his own past to understand the conditions in which he individually finds himself, so the issues and problems of present social life are in such intimate and direct connection with the past that students cannot be prepared to understand either these problems or the best way of dealing with them without delving into their roots in the past... Present experience can expand into the future only as it is also enlarged to take on the past. - from Experience and Education by John Dewey

On the slab lies the shrivelled corpse of a man, naked except for a strange, grass-filled shoe... I need only a few seconds. This is something any first-year archaeology student could identify... I straighten up and give my verdict: "Roughly four thousand years old... and if the dating is revised it will be even earlier." Henn and Unterdorfer look at me with total disbelief but quickly the tension vanishes and the fiercest discussion ever to be conducted in the Institute of Forensic Medicine erupts. This is only the beginning. What we would be faced with over the next few hours, days and nights remains indescribable. Though I will try to describe events as they unfolded, at best it will be only a pale imitation of what really happened. You just had to be there. - from The Man in the Ice by Dr. Konrad Spindler

During the next few months I will be recreating two sets of Ötzi the Iceman's equipment. The first kit will be as faithful to the original materials and designs as possible, while the second kit will be made from post-industrial materials such as plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and discarded clothing.

My intention is to learn from Ötzi's resourcefulness, ability to live wholly within his natural environment, and capacity for slöjd thinking. Following Dewey's advice above, I am enlarging my present experience of craft to include Ötzi's clothing and equipment. By learning from such an ancient ancestor, I intend to stretch that cleverness into our present moment and the issues we face such as pollution and the growth of the modern junkscape.