Dorotea Salomonsson, known as “Snickar-Dea”, was a wood carver. She lived and worked in the parishes of Junsele and Ramsele in Ångermanland.
Dorotea Salomonsson was born in Vallen, Junsele in 1853 as Märta Dorotea Grön. She was the daughter of Johan Erik Mårtensson Grön, a sailor in the Crown’s service, and his wife Dorotea Josefsdotter. Her father had been born in Skravelsjö, outside of Umeå. The couple had eight children. During the period of 1834 to 1865 her father served in rote 114, a section of the Crown’s fleet which was maintained by the peasants of Vallen. On joining up he was given the soldier’s name of Grön.
Dorotea Salomonsson received schooling in Junselevallen. In 1866 she moved to Åkerbränna, north of Junsele, to work as a maid. She also worked for a household in Långvattnet, and around 1870 she worked for Erik Östlund, pastor in Vallen. He had a daughter who was good at woodcarving, and received encouragement by those around her to develop her craft. The two girls began to work together. According to contemporary accounts, they spurred each other on in improving their knife skills.
Dorotea Salomonsson married Elias Salomonsson in 1875. He had been born 1851 in Tarasjöberg, Junsele parish, and was the son of Salomon Salomonsson, a settler, and Eva Dorotea Ersdotter. The young couple initially lived in Tarasjöberg where Elias Salomonsson worked as a cobbler. He was later listed in the records as resident and a tenant. The couple had ten children, the youngest of whom was born in Tarasjönäs where the family had moved in the autumn of 1897. However, the family faced opposition to their decision to settle there. Elias Salomonsson believed he had the right to fell trees and to construct his house on Crown territory, being a citizen of the realm. However, there was no legal evidence for this belief and he was forced by both the authorities and the local chief forester to tear down his newly built home. In 1913 Elias Salomonsson became famous as “the man from Tarasjö” after he travelled to Stockholm to petition the government. His case was written up in the newspapers Nya Norrland and Dagens Nyheter. The latter sent a photographer who took two pictures: one was of Dorotea Salomonsson and her prized cow, Vallmo, beside a temporary cattle shelter. The other was of the Salomonsson couple in front of their newly built barn and farm buildings. The couple eventually won their case. Along with ten of their neighbours Elias and Dorotea Salomonsson became the first tenant farmers on the Crown lands of Tarasjönäs.
Despite the brave and costly fight against the authorities, Dorotea Salomonsson continued to be constantly busy with her handicrafts and carved wooden figures as a means to gain an income. What had been a carefree hobby in her youth became a vital source of income. Dorotea Salomonsson was in temporary accounts described as the solid support behind “the man from Tarasjö”. Dorotea Salomonsson also engaged in her own campaign in which she successfully won the right gather material for her handicrafts from the forest. Demand for her wooden figures increased. She found a market in the village and increased her contribution to the family’s income. According to her daughter Erika, her mother’s wood carving took prime place during the family’s struggle to ensure their right to live in their house.
Dorotea Salomonsson became well known for her wooden figurines of four-legged animals, including dogs, goats, cows, pigs, and horses. Sometimes she also made wooden dolls. Her preferred raw material tended to be alderwood, out of which she confidently carved wooden figures, which were realistically portrayed and sometimes included humorous details. She became widely known for her detailed miniature carvings of Sami people and their reindeer, dogs and reindeer harnesses. She used what she saw around her as her models. During the winter, several Sami villages still grazed their reindeer near where she lived. Her wooden figures carefully replicated the different positions and roles of the harnessed reindeer as well as the Sami’s equipment used when travelling with sleighs and skis. Further, she discovered her own method of painting the small figurines. She often began by painting a light background using oils, and then added the dark and striped elements using birchbark smoke. She created reindeer antlers out of leather, which then treated to stiffen it. When asked how she was able to create such realistic figures she apparently answered: “I have seen their like”. It was for exactly these kinds of slightly awkward, yet light-hearted, responses that Dorotea Salomonsson was remembered by her neighbours.
Dorotea Salomonsson’s wood carvings were noted as artworks by contemporaries. In 1910, when the construction work was ongoing on the Crown lands, she displayed some of her work at an exhibition organised by the then vibrant handicrafts association in Sollefteå. The displayed work comprised a group of Sami and their reindeer. She displayed similarly themed pieces at the 1914 Baltic Exhibition in Malmö, where she was awarded a diploma for her efforts.
One cold day in January 1928 Dorotea Salomonsson went outside carrying a receptacle filled with glowing coals in order to warm up her earthen cellar. During the work she suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, which caused her death. Today one can see a building at the place where she and Elias Salomonsson lived during the latter part of their lives, which bears the name Salomonstorp. It is not, however, identical to their original house and is not in the exact same spot.