In November 1870, Dr. Axel Beskov founded the Manilla School – a workhouse for visually impaired craftsmen in Stockholm. Initially there were nine people, most of them lived at the workhouse.
In 1889 a group of visually impaired craftsmen founded “De blindas förening” (the Association of the Blind) (DBF), a political independent organization whose purpose was to encourage the traditionally isolated group of visually impaired individuals to participate more actively in society via different social contexts such as musical events and lectures. But a large part of DBF’s work revolved around developing support for the artisans and their ability to live off their work.
In 1902 DBF purchased materials for brush binding and basket making collectively in order to reduce prices and be sold to the visually impaired craftsmen for purchase price. In 1906 a property was bought on Majorsgatan 12, it accommodated an office and library, brush binding factory, warehouse for raw materials, sales of raw material and a shop. These endeavors were the foundation for today’s Iris Hantverk.
According to the Iris Hantverk website:
Since August 2012, Richard Sparrenhök and Sara Edhäll run the company. In 2012 Socialdepartementet withdraw the aid disbursed for depot activities for visually impaired craftsmen. That had been the main revenue for that function since the 1950s. Iris Hantverk’s owner at that time then decided to sell the company to us – both having worked for many years in the company and its management. We are both very glad to take over and operate on this company that holds so much history and tradition. … We care much for the craftsmen and the survival of the brush binding manufactory. We believe that many like us appreciate the feeling and quality of a hand drawn brush made of natural materials.
Today they have 17 employees. The core of the business is the brush binding manufacturing at Sandsborgsvägen, Enskede where six visually impaired craftsmen from different cultures make brushes according to an old Swedish tradition.
Starting out as a block of wood, each brush face is sawed, milled, and sanded. Holes are then drilled into the wood, and the bristle knots are wired through the holes, tying together the main components. A broad variety of bristle materials are used, varying according to the brush’s function: horse hair, cereal root, goat hair, and coconut fiber are just a few of the fine bristle materials.
Their products are sold in two shops in Stockholm and Ingebretsen’s carries some of their wonderful products too. You can see them here. They are available in the store and online so you can have these handcrafted products in your home. Here are a couple items and their description from the Iris Hantverk website:
Computer Brush: A perfect accessory for your desktop. It looks good and comes in handy when you should dust off your monitor and keyboard. The short part gives easy access between the keys and the bright bristles sweeps of the screen without generating static electricity. The brush is made of oak and dark and light horsehair.
Mushroom Brush: Fresh mushrooms lose flavor when rinsed in water – dirt and soil should be brushed or cut off. This handy mushroom brush in oiled birch and horsehair effectively removes dirt and debris without damaging fungus. The brush also works great as a bread baking brush with molds having small and detailed patterns.
Red Cedarwood Balls: The scent refreshes your closet and dressing room. Placing red cedar in the closet is an old cleaning tip – the fragrance works as a natural pest repellent. The balls can be spread out in the closet but be sure not to put them directly on your clothes when the wood may leave grease stains. When the scent wears off you can sand lightly with fine sandpaper.
Nail brush: Made with oil treated oak and tampico fibre. Double-sided nail brush which is both stylish and comfortable to hold. Tampico fibre is elastic and waterproof with a certain stiffness but without becoming all too hard which makes the material nice and handy for cleaning the hands and nails. The shorter stiffer bristles on the top of the brush will effectively access and remove dirt under the nail.