Simon Jeppesen is a photo journalist and his book presents twelve portraits - both pen portraits and images - of twelve people in their work places. The publishers explain that these are people who have skills and abilities that mean that they can do something special and that they have something special to teach us.
As the full title of the book is Tolv portaætter, Dansk Håndværk, Udfordring mellem tradition og fornyelse … Twelve portraits, Danish Crafts, Challenge between tradition and innovation … there is also an implication that these artisans are adapting and trying to make their skills applicable now but, unless the rest of us appreciate that, those skills and an alternative approach to making things is threatened.
One of the subjects, Heidi Zilmer, was at northmodern at the Bella Center in Copenhagen earlier in the month to show her hand-painted wallpaper and while looking at the exhibition of work at northmodern by the ceramicists of Den Danske Keramikfabrik, I bumped into and talked with Tine Broksø and Karen Kjælgård-Larsen - the subject of a second of the ‘portraits’ Claydies - who are very much part of the factory group but were not showing their own ceramic work at northmodern. Tyge Axel Holm is a furniture maker and Tom Eltang makes tobacco pipes so in most ways all are traditional or conventional artisans or makers.
However, others included in the book might not be working in what we see as obvious crafts … those crafts that by association are seen as rural or traditional country crafts such as weaving or basket making … but the selection here is deliberately more controversial and much more thought provoking to reinforce the point that not all hand-made products are about nostalgia or conform to a romantic view of craftsmanship.
Christian Korsgaard Knattrup Sørensen is a skilled bricklayer, Poul-Henning Kamp a programmer and data manager, and Jens Peter Bredholt an instrument maker. The work of Mahdi Kazemi, a joiner, Frank Thuesen a welder and metal worker, Karina Mott a tailor and Nina Løjborg an upholster are perhaps closer to our preconceptions about what someone who ‘works with their hands’ should be like.
So this book is not about style or about the techniques of the work and not even about the work produced, but presents strong arguments for independence and about individuality and diversity when we think about how and why we work … much broader and much much more important issues than how traditional crafts might be encouraged as commendable but slightly extreme or unusual or obscure ways of making everyday things.
Tolv portrætter, Dansk Håndværk by Simon Jeppesen published by Hovedland (2015)
Nina Løjborg and Karina Schubert
Claydies - Tine Broksø and Karen Kjælgård-Larsen
My grasp of Danish is worse than feeble, but I’m about to begin language classes and will certainly return to this book for a more thorough review once my grasp of the text is not dependent on Google translate.