København, known to the rest of the world as Copenhagen,
wonderful Copenhagen, became the capital of Denmark in 1415, but several
of its fine old buildings date from the reign of King Christian IV, from
the late 16th to the mid-17th century.
Scandinavian pewter craftsmen have been producing
unique wares since Roman times: Tin and lead mines have been in
operation since the third century. Historians believe that the
Norsemen gathered copper and other raw materials for their famous
metal work on their epic sea voyages.
Prior to the 18th century, people considered pewter the poor man's
tableware, a less expensive substitute for silver. Brightly
polished, pewter became gradually replaced by serviceable
earthenware, then porcelain, in the late 18th century. Craftsmen
copied many of the shapes and designs used on their silver pieces
directly onto their pewter, creating more decorative gift wares.
It was Norwegian and Danish craftsmen who turned utilitarian pewter
holloware into works of practical art.
Unlike silver, a precious metal, pewter is an alloy that’s duller,
darker, and softer. Its main ingredient is tin. To help harden the
tin, pewterers add copper, antimony, and bismuth in varying amounts,
depending on their desired result. Fine pewter contains 90 percent
tin and 5 percent lead to make it easier to work. The more lead it
contains, the softer it is and the poorer its quality. Makers add a
small amount of bismuth to ensure sharp, neat castings. By adding
copper to the mixture–up to 20 percent for the finest pewter–they
can give it a clear ring and smoother surface. Scandinavian
pewterers use the tin-copper alloy to make tableware and the
tin-antimony combination to make flatware. They add more tin to
produce drinking vessels. A pewterer creats his wares from molds
made of brass or bronze. Most Scandinavian pewters make their own
molds, enabling them to also control the designs of their pieces..
Upon removing a piece from the mold, craftsmen fill the joints and
small holes with a soldering iron, using scraps of pewter as solder.
They then scrape and burnish straight forms and
finish round forms on a lathe. After mounting a piece of holloware
on a lathe, pewterers skim them with a hook or other cutting or
scraping tool to smooth the inner surfaces of the molded parts so
they would fit tightly together to prevent leakage. These skimming
marks appear as shallow, concentric ridges and grooves on the
bottoms of round objects. Also visible are chatter marks, coarse
radial lines extending from the center toward the circumference,
caused by the vibration of the skimming tool.
Finishing gives pewter its luster. Pewterers burnish or buff pieces
while they’re still on the lathe by holding a burnishing tool
against the object as it rapids turned. The tool has a polished
stone or steel face that pushes and flattens small rough areas still
left on the surface without removing metal. They then use a rapidly
rotating buff, made of pieces of hide or cloth used with a finely
ground abrasive polishing powder.
After World War II, many pewter craftsmen, especially in Norway, set
up cottage operations.
Astri Holthe, an artist, whose Julen or Christmas plates have been
manufactured by her own firm since the 1960s, is one of the more
popular ones. Her early plates have sold for as high as $1,000,
while current editions retail for under $100.
Another well-known Danish pewter artist/craftsman was Jorgen Jensen.
Born in 1931, the son of a realtor, he’s often mistaken for the son
of silversmith Georg Jensen, who had the same name. For a short
time, he worked at Georg Jensen's workshop, but moved first to
Montreal then Stockholm before setting up a studio from 1960-1965 in
the basement of a building his father owned in Copenhagen. Jensen
liked to work in pewter because he found it pliable and affordable.
Unlike the other Jensens, he created simple, fine jewelry in pewter.
Norwegians still give a pewter wedding bowl as a gift to newlyweds.
Often about six to nine inches in diameter and shallow, these pewter
wedding bowls display relief panels depicting a bride on horseback
or in a boat. These motifs recall the days of Norway's seafaring
Viking past.. Craftsmen decorate other vessels with various horse
designs. Another common theme employed by pewter craftsmen is the
Stavekirke, or stave church, a wooden house of worship that once
appeared across the landscape. Today’s pewter features abstract
natural forms based on animals, leaves, flowers, or geometric
designs, often found in ancient Viking art.
Every year about 95 000 people die in
Sweden and, according to the law, everyone must be buried. There must be
room for everyone in the cemeteries, therefore the future needs of space
have to be predicted. Because of this funerals must be part of the
the early Middle Ages, driven by famine at home and the promise of
wealth to be had in other lands, the Vikings set out from Scandinavia to
conquer parts of England, Ireland, France, Russia, and even Turkey.
Bolstered by their successes, the Vikings pushed westward, eventually
crossing the North Atlantic and founding settlements in Iceland,
Greenland, and Newfoundland in Canada. Read
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