Next Level Craft at House of Sweden

Where: 2900 K St. NW, Washington DC
When: Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5 pm, through April 24th, 2016. Admission is free!

Two things I like: Scandinavia and pop-up art installations. WORLDS COLLIDING! There’s something about the remoteness and austerity of Scandinavia that I find compelling. I went through a stage where I read a lot of books set in Scandinavia (Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Let the Right One In, etc.) and then I tried my hand at making real Swedish meatballs using Marcus Samuelsson’s recipe. We have very dear friends who from Sweden who lived here temporarily for work, and I’m constantly asking them what life is like in Sweden and eating the various treats they bring back when they come to visit (micro-thin chocolate wafers with tiny crispies inside, a more refined Nestle Crunch, if you will). I just think everything about that part of the world is fascinating.

The Next Level Craft exhibition currently on display at House of Sweden (the Swedish Embassy) is one of just a long line of really fantastic, whimsical installations DC has put on lately. Breezing into town after the now- legendary Wonder exhibit and the glowing bunnies at Light Yards, Next Level Craft holds its own and is charming and fun and that special kind of freaky-deaky that only Scandinavian things can manage to be (I mean this in the best way possible). Like- there’s fish on skateboards. Somehow it makes sense? Just go with it.

Next Level Craft is a collection curated by Swedish artist Aia Judes containing examples of traditional Swedish handicraft created by 40 artists. You’ve got your birch weaving, your jewelry making, your glass blowing, something to do with burls, a music video, lighting and sound that change the room from day to night and back again, a teeny tiny herd of wood-carved reindeer.

The Swedish embassy itself is located right on the Georgetown riverfront and is the perfect embodiment of Scandinavian minimalism- clean lines, open and airy, no fuss and muss. I deeply appreciate this aesthetic even though I do not personally share it. Our Swedish friends’ home was fascinating to me- even with a preschool-aged boy in the house it was always clean in that sparse, crisp way Swedes tend to have and things that were intended to be white actually stayed white. I still don’t know how that was possible. The building itself is a work of art, with elements incorporated into its design that are art pieces on their own. You enter the embassy through a glass paneled wall with water running down the insides- this is March 6 a.m. and was designed to evoke the feel of melting ice, a key feature of the Swedish landscape. There’s also a really well-done and thoughtful exhibit on the main level about gender equality which is absolutely worth taking a look at before heading into Next Level Craft.

df51971a-2895-4d48-985d-b68a855bb463_zpsqxpk1oeg

The Next Level Craft exhibit is located on the lower level of the House of Sweden and takes up just one room. But that one room is crammed with whimsy and delight:

09e6373f-e448-4f63-8209-47737710aa2d_zpsgwqtabf0

We showed up right around noon on Saturday and surprisingly, it was totally empty and we had the place to ourselves. I can’t lie, this always enhances the experience for me. I get very selfish around art; I’ll hear the clickwhirr of a DSLR camera nearby and get very possessive. “You can’t take a picture of that, I thought it was pretty first.”

bed7eea2-be51-48d3-b51a-7c3581fd7e45_zpsk2sq2o1o

The exhibit has two modes: daytime and nighttime. We entered in daytime, with bright sunshiny light and sweet little bird chirping sounds. As we walked around, the lighting dimmed and shifted to nighttime and the corresponding music video Aia Judes created for the exhibit began playing on all the walls in the exhibition room. It features pulsing music and Swedish artists displaying a variety of Swedish handicraft, plus a pair of dancers vogueing. It is intense. I loved it!

5f0f6cc4-a0d1-424d-9302-5814bcd97952_zpshikk2ch81

564d4ff3-db44-4e29-8de0-f8d9f4a2a23b_zpsconacmtb

82131af5-fd31-4eaf-b544-8f8419871427_zpskk2ohjsi

The kind people at the embassy had taken the time to set up a room with various craft stations for kids so that they could get some hands-on instruction in the art of crafting, which I appreciated because look, crafting is just not my thing. It makes a mess, it takes so much patience- it’s not for me one bit. Of course, somehow, crafting at the Swedish embassy was not at all messy and was a tidy little endeavor thanks to that very unique ability Swedes have to not be a disastrous mess like Americans.

215418ab-4104-4c97-be7b-1534bc52fab9_zpslusgavvn

Don’t you agree kids who are growing up in this area are just the luckiest? They surely don’t appreciate this yet but they are so fortunate to just wake up on a Saturday morning and then go spend some time painting at the Swedish embassy. This is a blog about loving where you live and appreciating what makes this area so special, and I’m counting this experience as an example of that premise.

If you have little ones who get antsy or bored in the craft exhibit, the embassy has thoughtfully provided a small quiet room just for kids with books, games, and quiet little reading nooks where they are free to play and explore.

a67cbbd2-c44a-4a6c-975d-a16394762a69_zpsdaymzgof

Mine stayed awhile in here with dad to play while I explored the exhibit without distraction, but they did enjoy the exhibit a great deal and came back in for a second tour through when they were done in the rumpus room. While not kid-friendly in the sense that it is absolutely not interactive and visitors are prohibited from touching the crafts, Next Level Craft does appeal to kids and feel accessible to them because it’s so fantastical and creative- so ultimately, I’m calling it kid-friendly with the caveat that you watch them like hawks to make sure they don’t climb up on platforms or touch anything.

This exhibit is temporary, so today and then next weekend will be your last opportunities to visit, and I encourage you to do so!

Other sources: 

Follow House of Sweden on Instagram at @swedeninusa for updates and announcements on what they’ve got going on.

Make a day of it:

You’re already down on the Georgetown waterfront! Take a stroll and enjoy watching boats trundle up the Potomac. There were a ton of people out and about enjoying the sunshine when we were down there- it was a perfect spring day in DC.

Advertisements

Virginia Bluebells at Bull Run Park

Where: 7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville, VA
When: Early-mid April from 8 am-8 pm

So, it’s spring. Or should I say, it’s “spring.” Friends, it’s cold and windy- is that spring?  Is spring supposed to be chilly and duplicitous like this? I think I fight this same internal battle of expectations vs. reality every year, in that I expect spring to be warmth and sunshine and in reality it’s still pretty cool and wet. I’ll figure it one day I suppose. Just clinging to hope that one day we’ll all be warm again. Won’t that be nice?

Despite it all, the world is awakening and coming back to life. The cherry blossom trees bloomed! And then de-bloomed, making way for leaves. Everywhere there’s forsythia aglow, and whatever those pinkish-purple tree blossoms are. Tulips are coming to Haymarket any week now, and the daffodils are already on their way out. But we are extra lucky here because Virginia is home to one particularly special spring wildflower: Mertensia virginica– the Virginia bluebell, which grows in large, massive clumps in wooded areas. Bull Run Regional Park, which hosts one of our favorite winter traditions, the Festival of Lights, has roughly 150 acres of lush Virginia bluebells growing on the property. Though the bluebells typically peak in early-mid April, a nice shot of warm weather in March gave them a boost and they’re currently blooming now. LIKE RIGHT NOW, YOU NEED TO PLAN TO GO.

We were up early this Sunday morning and decided to head over and have the park to ourselves to scope out the bluebells. Though you’ll see patches of them growing along the side of the road inside the park, there is a designated Bluebell Trail, part of the Occoquan Trail, that provides access to a large swath of bluebells about a quarter mile into the woods. Parking for the Bluebell Trail is at Atlantis Waterpark (you can’t miss it, big dolphin out front) and walking across the street you’ll see:

0f4addf9-a706-42e0-8ed3-41f4411e96b5_zpsftpio3qw

This means you are on the right track.

A nice little wooden boardwalk escorts you down to the bluebell patch and suddenly they just pop into view- first tiny little white and pink buds, and then an explosion of blue.

0b9b8e23-7bdb-4363-96f7-0d857e7b1a82_zpslz4zsqao

91bca6c0-9048-4cd0-b140-9b9f729b2ff0_zps9oj5cn5k

 

Would you just look at them? How darling and delicate and precious does a flower get? You know when you see a particularly cute and fat, luscious baby and you don’t even know how to fully process the cuteness so you think to yourself, “I could eat you. I’m just going to eat you up”? That’s how I felt about the bluebells. I liked them so much. They were so pretty and made me so happy I didn’t even know what do with the excitement of it all and I thought, “I’m gonna eat one.”

In this little section of Bull Run Park, abutting Cub Run creek, the bluebells blanket the ground. Full on wall to wall bluebell carpeting. It’s magnificent. Virginia, how are you so damn pretty?

2fef24af-e2b0-44f2-917d-7864831ae60e_zpsbnmzuety

a3b5b95c-4202-439a-93a5-f6e05dcb1d46_zpsnklf5eql

7e09537b-3759-44c2-a1d4-652df8b769c7_zpsmq9kp8zy

In every description I can find of the Virginia bluebells, they are noted for being ephemeral. They’re here, and then rather quickly, they won’t be, and the forest floor will lose the rich azure carpeting it currently has when the bluebells go. Please don’t miss them! Though you may get lucky and stumble upon some bluebells while out walking, Bull Run is a wonderful place to guarantee a sighting. If you’re a resident of Northern Virginia, admission to the park is free. If you live in the District or Maryland and decide to pay a visit to see the bluebells, admission will still only be $7 per car. The cherry blossoms in DC get all the glory but these tiny blue trumpets lying quiet in the Virginia woods are just as lovely in their own special way.