Claes Larsson is a Swedish woodcraftsman and artist. He is trained in industrial design and traditional woodcrafts and has recently taken steps towards art and sculptural work. In 2018, he became the second person in Swedish history to get a ‘Journeyman’s certificate in traditional woodcrafts’, something he is quite proud of. His next goal is to get a ‘Master Craftsman’s certificate’.
Claes was born and raised surrounded by art and music, and all sorts of creative expressions. This sometimes contrasted with the working class mentality of the small industrial town where he lived. He believes both approaches to life have shaped him in many ways.
After years of study, other creative work and activism, Claes now lives in a small homestead with his wife and baby outside a village called Storik, which is around a two-hour drive north of Stockholm. Here, he carries out his woodwork in a small shop next to their cabin.
In 2020, he made the bold move to go full-time with his business called Claws Creations where he mostly creates sculptural works as well as woodcrafts, furniture, restorations and other wood-related projects.
2.5m tall Freedom Fighter.
Claes in action!
"Culture Clash War" - a homage to our cultural heritage. From the marble busts of ancient Greece, to sjöd, to punk rock music.
The Master of Texture.
Carved from bass wood, this piece was painted over fifteen times and than scraped back to reveal layers underneath.
Mixed medium piece.
Media console with a slide-in door, inspired by barrister bookcases.
Textured, scorched, painted and scraped.
What would you tell your younger self starting out on your artistic journey?
Probably that “pretty” isn’t it for me. Or maybe that my preconception of what I think other people see as beautiful or impactful is not the thing that I should focus my energy on, to be more exact.
For many years I struggled with the feeling that the drawings or paintings I made had to be realistic to be good, or that my singing had to be very exact and “beautiful” and so on. What I know now is that none of that matters when you find your own way of expressing what you truly have to express. It is speaking your own truth, with your own voice that holds the beauty or impact in what you make.
As a traditional woodcrafts guy I struggled so much with liking spooncarving in the beginning just because that’s probably the most hyped part of the green woodworking woodcrafts right now, but to be honest I really don’t like carving spoons and I have no true interest in liking it and that only means I will be better and happier working with something else. I do enjoy a good spoon by someone else though.
What is your favourite Arbortech tool and why?
I have a bunch of Arbortech tools by now and I use them all regularly and enjoy them all, but my Power Chisel is probably the one I enjoy using the most. I’m very comfortable with those movements and that relation to grain direction and all that but it’s faster and easier on my bad back than using hand tools. Usually I rough shape it with the power chisel and then use hand tools for the finish cuts.
If you were a type of wood what would you be and why?
Well I love working with birch and basswood but elm is probably my favourite just as a material in itself. Tried to explain why to someone a while back and felt mostly confused when I tried to pinpoint what it was. The elm I’ve created things out of has been very cross grained and hard to work with and smells bad when it’s wet or hot and the one I talked to made the connection that it sounds just like any old regular punk rocker. Haha!
So maybe that’s a part of it but elm is also incredibly strong and beautiful in a kind of understated way that I appreciate. I often work out ideas about social justice and I try to be both very clear in what I believe and want to say but at the same time thoughtful and inclusive in how I express it and I think that’s maybe being both elm and oak and birch at the same time. So maybe that’s it, or at least I strive to be: a hybrid between elm, oak and birch.
How did you get into working with wood?
Well ever since I was a kid I have always been very creative and have expressed that in different ways. There’s always been some kind of “language” I have been looking for in my making, whether it’s been music or graphic design or woodworking.
Maybe that language could be explained as that I have been looking for myself in the tools or shapes or colours of what I do. It took me some time to realise that wood probably was the material that is “mine” but everything before has led me here. I studied art, industrial design, worked as a graphic designer, letterpress printer and musician before finally ending up at a school where I studied traditional Swedish woodcrafts (slöjd) and really felt that I found my way.
But I think my actual first memory of doing something with wood was as a young kid when my grandfather led me to a tree stump outside their cottage in the woods and gave me a bucket filled with rusty old nails and a hammer and told me I could hammer in as many nails as I wanted in the stump. That tree stump was more metal than wood when I was done with it.
What inspires your creations?
A while back I did an interview with a Swedish crafts magazine and they titled the article “Punkslöjd” (Punk woodcrafts) and I think that is fitting. I grew up with punk rock and hardcore music, skateboarding and graffiti. When I studied woodcrafts we would always talk about how a certain object or technique or whatever was part of our cultural heritage in Scandinavia but personally I have always felt that the punk rock and graffiti and all that was where I “came from” so that gave me the idea to mix my very different sides of my heritage. And that’s where I found my language in wood. And all that inspires me. I get as much inspiration from looking at a well made shrink pot as listening to the song Know Your Rights by The Clash or looking at the graffiti on the trains that pass by our little homestead every morning. Outside of all that, it’s what happens in the news and in our society in a sociopolitical way that most often gives me ideas for things I want to make. And finally, in more ways than one, my wife and our kid gives me tons of inspiration and motivation. When I boil it down, most of my recent work is spray painted wooden sculptures with a roughness to it that I personally relate to in the same way as the music I grew up with. So everything that relates to making objects like that I get inspiration from.
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