THE LONG WAY HOME!
Steinar Helle returned to Holmedal in the late 1920s. As many Norwegians, he had travelled to America after WWI in order to see the world and explore its opportunities. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the “roaring 20’s” that was taking place at the time there was something about the stillness of western Norway that he missed. When Steinar made the decision to return home, he brought with him from America the understanding that skills and ideas coupled with the energy to see it to the end created an opportunity to try something special Even in the wilderness of the Norwegian west.
While Steinars story was writing itself, another journey was unfolding. The journey of his brother. Sigmund had spent the past decade learning the temperament of steel from their father, Bernd. Their father was the village blacksmith a vital trade in rural Norway. Later taking this passion further by exploring the craft of steel at the forefront of metallurgy in large Norwegian steel plants. When finally, the two journeys merged they decided they wanted to make a tool.
When looking through the local community it became apparent that most of the knives used by the farmers in their day-to-day lives could be vastly improved and made to a much higher standard. At the same time, the local farmers also had an ornamental “dress knife” that would adorn their belt in church on Sundays. So the brothers set out to bring those two worlds together. A knife that would do the heavy work around forest and farm, but high quality and artistic enough to wear to the most formal occasion. From that day in 1932, the measure of a good Helle knife isn’t just functionality and durability but just because a tool is these two things doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful too. A company had begun to take shape that would set a new standard in Scandinavian knife production.
Steinar and Sigmund pursued these goals relentlessly based on the mindset that something half done is not done. It is easy to see the determination shared between the two brothers when visiting the old workshop located on the family farm. Following the stone paved water channels on the mountain hillside, built by the brothers themselves to harness the snow and rain that naturally ran of the surrounding mountains to power the factory where it sits today.
Besides determination and inspiration, you also need to know how to interact with a wider audience when you make a tool you hope will help people across the world. Sigmund being the engineer worked on developing production, Steinar, armed with the experience of his travels saw the opportunities to help Helle expand. By the 1940s the brothers targeted international markets. A transition that can be physically witnessed on the Helle knives of the period as they begun to mark them proudly in English “Made in Norway”. While Holmedal today might be the smallest knife capital in the world, we still hope that our way of life and philosophy in how to create products can serve as a lantern in todays society. Our products look and feel the way they do today because Helle has always been about not just introducing Holmedal to the world, but the world to Holmedal. Today we happily welcome visitors from around to world.
Maintaining tradition and principles while always being open to new ideas has defined Helle. Affected by the tides of history and changes in the world that every company with a true heritage share. The Helle family along with its craft people have worked hard to keep production at the factory in Holmedal. Remaining true to those original beliefs.
Now as the third generation moves Helle forward into the future. The grandsons of the founders of Helle still carry the same ethos forward. Here in the words of Svein-Erik he talks of his and Jan Steffens journey back home just like their Grandfathers.
Svein-Erik says: “Myself and Jan Steffen never felt we had to take over the business. We did so because we genuinely believe that the Helle way of creating has a place in today’s world. That maintaining production in our home community has a value that cannot be measured in coins. That items should be made by people who like what they are doing, who are good at what they do, and live good lives close to nature. Items that we can proudly say have both functional and aesthetical qualities, that are built to last. Items that have a home. Items that have a soul. That is the essence of something made by Helle. That is what me and Jan Steffen set out to preserve. That was our way home.”
“Maintaining production in our home community and not falling for the temptation to earn a little bit more would have been the end of our values. We all play a part in society and our responsibility is more than the product. It is existentiell!” Svein-Erik Helle / Outdoor entusiast