showing his mettle
From his home and workshop on a remote Norwegian pensinula Steinar Hunskaar uses Viking traditions and his imagination to hone his craft
It’s never too late to hone a craft. Take the example of 76-year-old Norwegian Steinar Hunskaar, who retired from a life-long career in farming at the end of the 1990s and has since developed a striking line in knives, jewellery and decorative objects. From his home and workshop on the beautiful, tranquil peninsula of Sandefjord, an hour south of Oslo, Hunskaar produces an intricately wrought collection of pieces inspired by Viking traditions and created using age-old techniques.
'The Vikings inspired me with their incredibly good designs; simple but beautiful, logical and functional,' he says of a creative motivation fostered by a father who was also a farmer and a keen historian. Yet translating the handiwork of his ancestors wasn’t quite as easy as he’d anticipated. 'I felt that if the Vikings could make these things a thousand years ago, it shouldn't be a problem for me to do the same today with our tools and technology. But this was not the case. I realised how skilled the Vikings were at their crafts, making beautiful objects with simple equipment, and this encouraged me to try harder and get better.'
His interest in metalwork was first piqued at a young age while training as an agricultural mechanic, learning basic steel-working techniques as he prepared for a career in farming. From milking cows, Hunskaar graduated to manage the holding in Gokstad, overseeing cattle, chicken and wheat production to provide for his family of five children and grandparents, who also lived on the farm. Upon retirement he moved to a house overlooking the sea with his wife Lila and his passion was reignited. A series of short courses in Norway and neighbouring Sweden – just a short ferry trip away – allowed him to add blacksmithing and bronze casting to his skillset and he began working creatively with
metal and wood.
Having since crafted around 200 knives – all featuring different designs – as well as traditional axes and ornately woven jewellery, Hunskaar champions traditional techniques as much as possible when forging and casting while allowing his own vision plays a central role. 'I prefer to work freely and design from my own imagination,' he says on his motivation, which, refreshingly, isn’t concerned with commercial gain.
'I do sell some of my creations to a few people with a special interest in crafts but often they end up as gifts for family and close friends. Instead it appeals to my need to create and be inventive.'
Photographs Jasper Clarke
Words Ben Olsen