Surprise Laboratory International is a Swedish artist group initiative which aims to create an international arena for collaboration and skills-sharing within the field of wood media material-based art and sculptural woodwork.
Surprise Laboratory International is a project in which we aim to create an international arena for collaboration and skills- sharing within the field of wood media material-based art and sculptural woodwork. It is simultaneously our objective to create an opportunity for unique wood-based sculptural work as an art-form and the artists in this field to connect to both new and repeat audiences. The project stretches over several years.
Annually, a group of professional artists and crafts persons from the Nordic and Baltic countries will be invited to take part in a workshop event with an adjoining seminar and exhibition. Focus will be on unique works of material-based art in wood media and craft methodology. The project relates to a Nordic tradition of ceremonial wood sculpture, but with focus on contemporary expression and the materials inherent qualities.
The project will be based in the southern part of the island of Öland and is organized by the non-profit organization Surprise Laboratory International ek. för.
JoINT 2008 was an international cultural collaboration which took place in Mariestad, Sweden. Per Brandstedt initiated and organized the project. The JoINT project exceeded the expectations of everyone involved and we concluded that an excellent opportunity to further develop our endeavour existed. The experience gained pushed us to found the non-profit organisation Surprise Laboratory International. We commenced planning a future program which would stretch over several years. We are now at a point of realization and the southern part of Öland is a location which suits our purposes very well.   
Öland annually offers a rich and diverse number of cultural events and large numbers of artists are drawn to the island. This will facilitate the creation of a new center for wood sculpture. Potential partners already exist locally; JAGS Museum in the village of Segerstad with its unique collection of wood sculptures, Capellagården School of Crafts with an internationally renowned wood crafts program, Öland´s Folkhögskola with a number of arts focused programs. Mörbylånga township, Kalmar County and Kalmar Art Museum have all expressed ambitions in promoting the arts. The Nordic countries as well as the other countries surrounding the Baltic Sea have a rich history of wood art and rich cultural treasures in sculptural wooden objects dating back to medieval times. The rediscovery and salvation of the 1700th century warship Kronan is a world unique archaeological treasure.   
Material-based art as a fenomena is currently widely acclaimed. Wood media has profound links to our history as well as being a material for the future. Surprise Laboratory International aims at contributing to the art-forms future development, as well as promoting utilization of the material wood in public spaces. By establishing a wood sculpture center, we call for public opinion in favour of this remarkable and sustainable natural resource. Also, in this respect Öland is outstanding considering the regions plentiful supply of locally grown suitable timbers.
Our specific plans include organizing the first new workshop in 2022. The artists that we aim to include in the first Öland workshop will be invited during the autumn of 2021. Prior to the workshop the artists will have the opportunity to research and pursue ideas and designs for the project and a local contact network for the artists will be in place. The theme will be monumental, ceremonial wood sculpture for public spaces.
Our vision is the evolution of an art/craft laboratory, in which the artists will research the material connecting to practical/technical, aesthetic, and sustainability issues and qualities. In conjunction to the workshops, seminars will be held on the theme of wood media art in public spaces and exhibitions of the outcome from the project will be organized.
Surprise Laboratory International 2022
Surprise Lab workshop 2022
Surprise Lab workshop 2022
Foto Anna Karlsson
Foto Anna Karlsson
Foto Anna Karlsson
Foto Anna Karlsson
Näsby, Öland
Näsby, Öland
A center for sculptural woodwork on the southeastern coast of Öland.
We have initiated a national workshop on the island of Öland during the summer of 2022 from May 29 to June 5. The workshop participants have been selected for invitation in view of their diverse capacities and shifting backgrounds. Artists, sculptors and architects who, during the span of one week, will inspire each other and together build new insights on various aspects of wood media public art and wood as a sustainable material for monumental artworks. A craft/art laboratory within the field of contemporary sculptural woodwork will develop where unique works will be created.  The workshop results will be featured in an exhibition on the workshop site, Näsby Nav.
​​​​​​​This is the first workshop project in our endeavors to create an arena for international collaboration, skills-sharing and development. Our long-term vision, resembling Nordiska Akvarellsällskapets, who after only eleven years realized their vision in Nordisk Akvarellmuseet in Skärhamn, Tjörn.
The theme of the 2022 workshop is ceremonial wood sculpture.
In Sweden we live within a unique wood culture. Wood is present in so many aspects of our everyday lives, used industrially, in the building sector, and in traditional sloyd. But where is wood found in today's art? The theme is derived from a Nordic tradition of wood sculpture. In the Öland/Småland region medieval ecclesiastic wood sculpture is found in abundance. The archaeological finds from the royal ship Kronan are world unique cultural treasures. Our focus, however, is on contemporary expression and materiality. The basis being wood craft as method and transmission of tacit knowledge.
The workshop will be concluded in an open seminar under the topic Wood Sculpture as Public Art.
An exhibition featuring the works created during the workshop will be curated and shown on the site of the workshop, Näsby Nav.
This is the first of a series of workshop projects. 2023 we expect to invite artist from the countries bordering the Baltic Sea.
Surprise Laboratory International was founded in 2009 and was preceded by the international workshop project JoINT 2008 – An International Arena for Woodworking Culture which was held in Mariestad. The JoINT project exceeded the expectations of everyone involved. Experience of this creative collaboration has provided energy for new endeavours.
In order to widen our perspectives, we have developed collaborations with a diverse group of partners including Nordisk Kulturfond, Kulturrådet, Mörbylånga Kommun, Capellagården, Ölands Folkhögskola, Kalmar Konstmuseum and J.A.G.S Museum.
In connection to the Surprise Lab project other activities have been initiated. Examples are:
Rutor, ränd och rosor – I spåren av JAGS a summer course in wood sculpture held at Ölands Folkhögskola for the second consecutive year.
The Almfossil Workshop a four-day wood sculpture event held in Seby, Öland in June 2001.​​​​​​​
S.L.I. project group
Lars Apelmo, Per Brandstedt, Lies-Marie Hoffman, Carl-Oscar Karlsson
Näsby Nav, Öland, home of the 2022 workshop
Näsby Nav
Näsby Nav
Background, Almfossil 2021, wood sculpture workshop
Almfossil 2021 was a 4-day wood sculpture workshop held in the village of Seby on the south-eastern coast of the island of Öland in June 2021. A small scale (pandemic scale) test project performed by the Surprise Lab project group with a few guests which was covered by the local newspapers.
Our aim was to test logistics, material sourcing, tools and machinery and to discuss how to best continue working on future workshop projects.
​​​​​​​An important decision was made. The pandemic situation being what it was in the spring and summer of 2021 with all the uncertainties concerning restrictions we decided to go ahead and plan for a larger scale Swedish national test project the coming year, Surprise Laboratory International 2022.  
Seby, Öland June 2021
Seby, Öland June 2021
Background, JoINT 2008
JoINT provided an arena for the woodworking culture from four different continents - Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe - to come together to share, to explore, and to create.
Leading crafts people from Japan, Australia, Senegal and Sweden were invited to participate in a collective workshop, seminar, and exhibition in Mariestad, Sweden during the spring and summer of 2008.
There are long traditions of working with wood in art, crafts and everyday functional objects in these countries. The ambition was to provide a meeting place for professional artists and crafts people who work with the same material within a theme that is as universal as woodworking itself: Working together - sitting together: Seating in public places.
Sweden is, together with a small number of other countries around the world, endowed with plentiful forest timbers and a long tradition of working with wood. We live with a unique wood culture; our country's economy is largely dependent on forestry products. Wood is used industrially, in the building sector, and in traditional sloyd. But where is wood found in today's crafts? art? These are questions we often have asked ourselves when meeting with colleagues from around the world. What role, if any, does this material play today? Johan Huldt, then President of Svensk Form, a leading design journal, has written: "In Sweden we have succeeded in maintaining fluid boundaries between art, crafts, industrial design, and art design. These disciplines enrich each other and have greatly contributed to Sweden's global reputation in the field of design."
"JoINT - an International Arena for Woodworking Culture" -- represented our devotion to working towards an increased international exchange of ideas between leading crafts people within a woodworking discipline. This project provided information about international woodworking that reached both Swedish and international crafts people as well as an art-loving public.
The JoINT exhibition consisted of pieces that each workshop participant brought with them, as well as pieces resulting from the workshop. The exhibition was held in four venues in western Sweden starting at Brandstedts TräGård in June 2008. The exhibition was also shown at Designtorg Trä, Orsa, Kronhusbodarna, Göteborg and Steneby Konsthall, Dals Långed.
The workshop took place at Brandstedts TräGård, Mariestad, Sweden, May 11 –18, 2008. It was documented and a catalogue was printed.
A seminar was held in connection to the workshop, May 19 –20, 2008, at the DaCapo School of Crafts (the Mariestad branch of the University of Gothenburg) in order to reach a wider range crafts people interested in art and woodworking.
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