spinning · textiles as fine arts

Art & Craft: “Spinning Wheel” by Carl Larsson

Who made it: Carl Larsson (1853-1919), a Swedish painter whose watercolor paintings often feature scenes from his own home and domestic life.

Why I love it: I love the movement of this painting, as though the little girl has only just realized that her father is watching her use the spinning wheel — already “old-fashioned” technology by the end of the nineteenth century. To see a spirit of play, a desire to do skilled handwork, and an interest in tradition meet in this lively child is endearing.

Personally, I also love this watercolor for reminding me of a picture in my own family’s albums. Based on the surrounding photos, I know it must have been taken in western North Carolina when I was 5 or 6 years old, somewhere around 1989 or 1990. I don’t remember the moment the photo captures, but I seem mesmerized by the wheel, and I’m sure the encounter settled deep into my memory, emerging years later in a genuine interest to learn how to use such a wheel.

Bethany's first spinning wheel

The play of childhood so often becomes the work of adulthood, and Larsson’s painting (and, in a less stunning way, my family photo) reminds us of this hopeful truth.


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