The 1:50 scale model of the Swedish warship Vasa, a scratch-built project that took Albert Lea artist and model ship builder Clayton Johnson over 7 years to complete, is on display in the Folke Bernadotte Library on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus. The Vasa will remain on display through March. A reception for the artist Clayton Johnson will be held in the Library, Wednesday, January 23 from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. The public is cordially invited to attend the reception or to visit the exhibition on the main floor of the Folke Bernadotte Library at any time.
The original Vasa was built in 1628 under the direction of King Gustaf II Adolf to expand his naval power in the Baltic region during the 30 Years War. It was launched on August 10, 1628, traveled only a short distance before turning on its port side and sinking in about 100 feet of water near the island of Beckholmen. Thanks to the preservative nature of the Baltic Sea water, over 98% of the Vasa was salvaged in the 1960s, restored and is now on display in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm.
Clayton Johnson’s interest in ships and ship building started early in life. He was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, to a naval family. Although he grew up in Wrenshall, Minnesota, there were always books on nautical subjects around the house. One of these was a compilation of National Geographic articles that included the archaeology of the Vasa. He began building models at the age of 10 but has only recently developed the skills to tackle a project as intricate as a 17th century warship.
Johnson began building the 1:50 scale model of the Vasa in 2005 and spent 7 and one-half years on the project. He cut out all parts, carved all the sculptures, detailed all the rigging, cast all of the guns, etc., from raw materials. The model was built
original Vasa was; with over 700 pieces of hull framing and with interior decks and cabins that are built after the originals. Most of the color differences in the hull are due to the use of different types of wood, not paint, and hull and deck planking was omitted to show hull and deck framing and the interior of the model. The director of research at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Fred Hocker, has called Johnson’s model the most accurate miniature representation of the Vasa in the world.
Aside from his work on the Vasa model, more of Clayton’s work can be seen in the Vasa Museum in the form of the upper and quarter deck artillery that he made, brought to Sweden and installed on the Vasa Museum’s 1:10 scale model. In addition, 1:50 scale artillery sets, like the ones on display with the Vasa model, are available for sale at the Vasa Museum store.
Clayton Johnson’s replica of the Swedish warship Vasa will be on display in Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library through March. The opening reception for the exhibition is open to the public and runs between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 23.