Carl Malmsten and Education

While Carl Malmsten (1888-1972) was still a high school student, Malmsten with classmates of a similar persuasion, composed a letter to the Board of Education, protesting against the unimaginative, dogmatic teaching in school and its paralytic effect on the pupil´s natural desire for activity. Needless to say, the letter went unanswered.

In 1922-1924 Carl Malmsten was invited to the Nääs College of Arts and Crafts to teach on summer courses for handicraft teachers. He found the instruction there hidebound and old fashioned. The same old parcel carriers and towel hangers that had been made for generations were still on the programme.

Malmsten wanted the children to use their own imagination without restriction, and instead of interminable hours of sandpapering they were allowed to paint their work in bright colours. If handicraft was not redious but fun, this would encourage the pupils to continue. The courses split up into two camps - Malmstenites and "Old Believers".

No reform materialised, everything remained as before. Carl Malmsten dreamed of founding a folk high school for arts and crafts, and in 1944 his plans looked like coming true. At that time the Municipality of Nacka had acquired Stora Nyckelviken, a Country estate overlooking the inlet from the Baltic to Stockholm. The property included a large greenfield site, and this was where he proposed building the Nyckelviken Folk High School for Handicraft and Tradition Art.

The Municipaltiy made land available, but it would take lot of money to get the project started. A foundation was set up for the purpose, campus designs were prepared by the architect Nils Tesch and a foundation stone was laid. A Friends of Nyckelviken Folk High School organisation was set up to finance the project, which was also to receive royalty payments from factories manufacturing Malmsten furniture. But it was no use. The financial difficulties were insuperable and the project was abandoned.

It must have looked as if Malmsten´s plans for an arts an crafts folk high school were doomed; but a project, admittedly on much smaller scale, eventually materialised at Vickleby on the island of Öland. In 1957 Malmsten acquired Capellagården at Vickleby, and there he founded a residential school of crafts. The curriculum included long winter courses an shortcycle courses during the summer vacation. Capellagården developed into the apple of Malmsten´s eye. Although he handed over its managment to a younger generation in 1965, he returned to Öland every summer.

On 20th July 1972 he paid his final visit to the island. That same evning a fire broke out in his home at Bergshamra, near Stockholm. His health and strength were already badly undermined by cancer, and perhaps it was the shock of what happened that hastened the course of is illness. He was admitted to hospital i Borgholm, dying there on 13th August 1972. He is buried, as he had wished, in Vickleby churchyard. (J.W 1999)