The Outcome of the Auction to Preserve Wille Sundqvist’s Tools

Wille Sundqvist standing in front of two tool chests. The tool chest mentioned in the story below is the one to the left.

Many of you have asked how the crowdfunding campaign to save Wille Sundqvist’s tools turned out, which we first wrote about here. With a goal of $4,000, the campaign raised $19,183 in just a couple days. Here’s what happened.

When Jögge Sundqvist’s father Wille Sundqvist died in 2018, Jögge and his two brothers assumed that many of Wille’s tools, sculptures and items from his shop would go to them, particularly to Jögge, who has been instrumental in keeping his father’s legacy alive by teaching traditional carving methods via books, videos and classes around the world. Wille lived his last years in Högland, a small village in the Bjurholm Municipality.

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And although Jögge and his brothers have been in agreement throughout the entire process of dealing with their father’s estate, there have been others who have not; as so often happens with families, wills and second marriages, things got complicated.

Wille made many horses in his lifetime, including this one in 1991.
The only items that were given to Jögge and his brothers were three horses their father made when he was between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. This is the one that was given to Jögge.

For the first 10 years of Jögge’s life, he and his family lived in an apartment where his dad had his little workshop in the boys’ bedroom. Jögge and his brothers slept on stacked beds next to their father’s workbench, chopping block, axes and saws, and a beautiful tool chest with a precise interior with parts that flipped in and folded out so that every tool had its special place. It’s a long and private story, but even after offering to spend what translates to nearly $1,800 USD months prior to this most recent auction, Jögge and his brothers were unable to gain ownership of their father’s tool chest.

Eventually Wille’s house was sold and all its contents were put up for auction. If Jögge or either of his brothers wanted anything that was still available, they were going to have to buy it. When a Facebook announcement came up about the auction Jögge instinctively posted something along the lines of hoping that the people who buy his father’s remaining tools and things take care of his father’s heritage and share his stories.

In less than 20 minutes Jögge received a message from Ty Thornock.

Jögge first met Ty several years ago. Jögge was teaching up north and Ty, who lived close by, sent Jögge a message and said he wanted to say hi and have a fika (coffee).

“So we did,” Jögge says. “We had a coffee. And that was right after my father’s death. And then all of a sudden he shows me a spoon he made with some kolrosing in it. And it was a picture of my father, in the spoon blade. And I was totally – it was so nice of him. It was so gentle and so warm and he did it in such a beautiful way. And I was so happy to have that spoon. So this is one of the treasures now in my home. He actually gave it to me. He was such a nice guy.”

The spoon Ty made for Jögge.

Ty and Jögge have kept in touch, and Jögge says that Ty has also generously helped him write about kolrosing techniques for his new forthcoming book about Scandinavian chip carving.

So Ty’s a great guy. And he messages Jögge to ask, “Do you want me to set up a GoFundMe?”

Now Jögge had never heard of GoFundMe.

Ty asked how much Jögge thought he needed to cover the tools. Thinking of only the tools and nothing else, Jögge suggested $4,000 USD and sent Ty a picture of Wille. At 6 p.m., Ty posted the campaign on the GoFundMe website. And Jögge? Well, he was invited to dinner at woodworker Beth Moen’s place.

“We had a wonderful evening, good food and we had such a good time together,” Jögge says. “I mean, we’ve known each other since the early ’80s and we’re deep friends.”

Once home that evening, at about 11 p.m., Jögge finally looked at his phone again. “What?” was all he could say.

The campaign had already raised $15,000 USD.

“That was so amazing,” he says. “I couldn’t believe my eyes. I said, there must be something wrong with this. Because I know the slöjd world. I’ve been teaching in Europe, England, United States, Japan, all over. And I know many people in the slöjd world aren’t very rich people. So I was totally blown away. I called my brothers and said, ‘Wow. This is amazing. The slöjd community did it. Now we can buy tools and items from this auction as we want.’”

A few months after Wille died, Jögge had reached out to the municipality of Bjurholm to talk about creating some sort of installation, a memory room if you will. The problem? It’s one of the smallest municipalities in Sweden, just 2,500 people, and not a lot of money is available for such endeavors. And when all the problems with obtaining the items began, the conversations halted. But now? Jögge entered the auction with a new vision.

“I had this in my mind that maybe we could buy things that could represent my father in the room with some text, some videos, some items and some tools,” he says. “So during the auction I tried to buy stuff that would represent his workshop. So I got the chopping block, I got some axes, I got some sketches, I got his apron, I got his signs from the workshop – I think I have a pretty decent collection now, which is special in showing who he was. So I’m very happy about getting all these things.”

Jögge was able to buy his father’s axe at the auction, but missed the saw.
This is the back cover photo from Wille Sundqvist’s book “Tälja med kniv och yxa,” (“Swedish Carving Techniques”). Wille carved on the train when he was traveling. Jögge was able to purchase one of his father’s leather’s aprons at the auction, thanks to money raised.

Jögge says he also felt a sense of relief knowing these items weren’t purchased using his money or his brothers’ money.

“This is the slöjd community in the world that stood up and said, Fight for it! Go for it!,” he says. “And without that I don’t know if I would have been able to actually have the power to do that because it takes – when you lose a father, which you had taken a responsibility for the cultural heritage that he tried to pass on, it’s so tough. And it was so emotional to go there in the workshop and see all the people in the workshop, looking at the things and wanting to buy them and all that stuff. I couldn’t stand it. So I was just sitting outside waiting for the auction to begin. But then knowing that people around the world were in my back, so to say, was just kind of, I was so happy, you know. When I came home, feeling that, OK, well we solved this, we finally kept a private collection and managed to spread the word about my father, with a little help from my friends.”

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And the funding truly was worldwide. Jögge laughs and says only a few Swedes contributed money to the campaign, simply because they couldn’t understand it.

“This way of financing things in Sweden is way beyond,” Jögge says. “It’s not happening at all. We have no tradition of private people giving money to others. Because we have a social democratic society you apply for grants or official funding.”

Some of the Swedes who were following this on social media even sent Jögge private messages. “Oh, something is going on?” Jögge says, reciting a typical message. “‘Do you actually need money?’ They couldn’t realize it was happening! It was so special. For a Swede, seeing this, it was blowing my mind in a way.”

Wille Sundqvist’s tool chest

Jögge and his brothers still don’t have the tool chest, some meaningful sculptures and some items that are personally important to them. There’s still a lot of hurt.

“For us, it’s not the money,” he says. “I have to be clear about that. It’s not the money. Even though I’m not a rich man. For me it’s the memory and the stories about father and what he actually achieved with his work that I want to preserve.”

But because of the grand generosity of the worldwide slöjd and woodworking community, Jögge was able to save many of his father’s personal effects. The remaining money will be used to support the Wille Sundqvist and Bill Coperthwaite Slöjd Fellowship, a grant that is awarded every year to craftspeople around the world who are dedicated to sharing their crafts with other people. Jögge says recipients have included Beth Moen, JoJo Wood, Jarrod Dahl, Peter Follansbee, Robin Wood and Masashi Kutsuwa.

“That feels like a really good thing, that this money can come back to people in that way,” he says.

Jögge is also reserving some money to resume talks with Bjurholm Municipality, with hopes of creating a space to honor his father’s legacy.

“So that’s the plan!” Jögge says. “And I hope it’s going to work out.”

— Kara Gebhart Uhl


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