prologue: a portrait of the craftsman as a young man

First, hello. My name is Jake Fee. This is a project I completed while I was an Intern at North House Folk School as well as a graduate student studying Experiential Education at Minnesota State University. I've since finished both programs, and I carry the lessons of this project with me always.

During my remaining months at North House, I'll be working on my slöjd project, the capstone of my internship that binds together traditional craft, community-building, and craft education. This slöjd project will also be submitted as the capstone project for my master's degree.

Slöjd in the broadest sense of the word is a philosophy about the entire process of creating works by hand, educating others to be crafted and self-sufficient while integrating a beauty and appreciation for the folk art and tradition of the culture. - from an article on birch shrink boxes by Jim Sannerud, American Woodturner magazine, Feb 2012 vol 27 no 1

In 1991, two hikers in the Ötztal Alps came across the bald head of a frozen, mummified body in the Hauslabjoch glacier on the border of Austria and Italy. At first, the body was identified as a hiker who had gone missing in the previous months. After finding some leather objects nearby, the body was confirmed as a soldier from World War I. An axe, thought to be iron, was then discovered, confidently placing the body in the Middle Ages. After the body was fully exhumed, analyzed, and radiocarbon dated, it is now believed to be over 5,000 years old. The glacial mummy is now known as Ötzi, and he is a rare specimen.

My project will be to recreate Ötzi the Iceman's equipment and clothing. I will attempt to be as faithful to the original materials and processes as possible.

Currently there is a vast library of academic research on Ötzi - in fact, he is the most-studied human body in history. For all the genetic testing and radiological analysis, however, there has been very little effort put towards making Ötzi's crafting techniques and technologies available and accessible to the greater public. I think this is a complete shame, as Ötzi himself was part of the greater public, and by all accounts the skills he had were both necessary and common back in his time.

The achievements of the past provide the only means at command for understanding the present. Just as the individual has to draw in memory upon his own past to understand the conditions in which he individually finds himself, so the issues and problems of present social life are in such intimate and direct connection with the past that students cannot be prepared to understand either these problems or the best way of dealing with them without delving into their roots in the past... Present experience can expand into the future only as it is also enlarged to take on the past. - from Experience and Education by John Dewey

My intention is to learn from Ötzi's resourcefulness, ability to live wholly within his natural environment, and capacity for slöjd thinking. It seems to me that Ötzi had a very unique crafting style which focused on simple, well-made objects that were easy to repair and easy to discard.

On the slab lies the shrivelled corpse of a man, naked except for a strange, grass-filled shoe... I need only a few seconds. This is something any first-year archaeology student could identify... I straighten up and give my verdict: "Roughly four thousand years old... and if the dating is revised it will be even earlier." Henn and Unterdorfer look at me with total disbelief but quickly the tension vanishes and the fiercest discussion ever to be conducted in the Institute of Forensic Medicine erupts. This is only the beginning. What we would be faced with over the next few hours, days and nights remains indescribable. Though I will try to describe events as they unfolded, at best it will be only a pale imitation of what really happened. You just had to be there. - from The Man in the Ice by Dr. Konrad Spindler

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