Dansk Håndværk by Simon Jeppesen

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)


Tom Eltang

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.

biennalen for kunsthåndværk og design 2015


This is a dramatic exhibition and not just for the pieces in the show - the venue in a warehouse out at the Carlsberg site in Copenhagen is quite something.

Dating from the late 1960s, this building was a warehouse, Lagerkælder 3, a bottle store for Carlsberg brewery, and has a massive concrete structure, to support all the weight of beer that was kept here before it was transported out. Climbing up to the top floor by the concrete staircase it feels, in its abandoned state, like a multi-storey car park or an abandoned factory that might have had a role in The Killing. There is a huge steel lift but the stairs gave me a chance to explore a bit. The warehouse is about to undergo a massive refurbishment as offices and cultural spaces by the architects Gottlieb Paluden as part of the ongoing redevelopment of the whole Carlsberg site.



Emerging at the top floor the contrast is dramatic with white-painted concrete, extensive lighting and a new wooden floor for the exhibition space.

For Kunsthåndværk og Design - the Danish Craftwork and Design Association - the contrast between dereliction and swish display and between the architecture of industrial mass production and the highly individual skill and quality of the craft works on display must have been almost too good to believe as the venue for their biennial exhibition.

The theme for this year is Making is Connecting and the expressed aim is to explore new technologies, new materials and new techniques and to promote new connections or new collaborations between different disciplines within the professional works of craft, art, design and architecture.

There are new works from 28 craft artists or in some cases the works are a collaboration by two designers or makers.

At the opening of the exhibition these works, that I've reviewed briefly below, caught my attention and seemed to reflect best the interests and themes explored on this site but the exhibition as a whole is incredible.

Carlsberg Byen, Bryggernes Plads 11, 1799 Copenhagen V

The exhibition is open daily until the 29th of August. For more information see the Biennale web site.



Connecting Childhood by Annemette Beck and Mette Maya Gregersen

A collaboration between a ceramic artist and a textile designer using PVC rings and porcelain knots ... presumably the title suggests that returning to a more open or child-like way of playing with materials, exploring ideas without the restrictions of preconceptions, has produced something new and less conventional.

Coh&Co bicycle

Mette Walsted and Poul Harder Cohen

Here wood and carbon fibre replace a traditional metal frame to create a bicycle that has a level of craftsmanship normally associated with the work of Danish cabinet makers.

"Hand-built in Copenhagen using local materials, this is a sustainable injection into the throwaway culture that is prevalent in much of the cycle production industry. The aesthetic beauty of the bike compels us to take care of it."


Nominated for the Biennial Award


Lone Bedsted

Elements in wool with two colours for each, knitted on a jacquard machine, and connected in different ways.

Colours and patterns within each piece were inspired by trawling nets of local fishermen and Nordic knitting patterns.

Cross Roads

Vibeke Rohland

Vibeke again contrasts the heavy manufactured material of the backing - one of her 'commercial' designs for Kvadrat and the other a cotton denim - with the application of a thick apparently free-form impasto of silk-screen prints and paint. The Cross Roads of the title here refers to the "unpredictable factor that arises during the production of new work, where strict craftsmanship meets art in a free unfolding of expression".

The layers of pigment create complex levels of depth and changes dramatically the way the textile hangs and moves to show a complex relationship between freely applied areas of colour that over a large area take on the distinct qualities of a repeat pattern.

for other posts here about the work of Vibeke Rohland

De fire Temperamenter

The four temperaments by Helene Vonsild

Here weaving becomes an incredible combination of virtuoso skill and intellectual games. The same weave pattern is repeated in all four pieces but with very different materials - one is a heavy linen - one with fine wool and a silver thread - one with paper cord and a synthetic fibre so it curls and changes in unpredictable ways with any movement and one in silk with a waxed fibre that produces an incredible textile that has shape memory so it can be set into a position that it retains rather like working with paper for traditional Japanese paper sculptures.

For all four fabrics, the weave was adjusted and deconstructed on the loom and all four were conceived from the start as costumes whose form and cut was an integral part of the weaving process .... so concept, craftsmanship, mastery of technique and the execution of the design are absolutely and indivisibly united.

The designs represent the four temperaments of Melancholy, Sanguinity, Irascibility and the Phlegmatic.

See profile on Helene Vonsild for more about this piece and her work

Det er ikke svinets skyld

It is not the pig's fault by Inger Heebøll

Here multiples are used to give the modern breed of pig some sense of an individual personality although the text for the work points out that 20 million pigs are produced in Denmark each year so it becomes impossible to see them as individual.

These heads are contrasted with the freedom and naturalness of wild boars also modelled as part of the work.

Hjertet er Rødt

Red is the heart byJørgen Hansen and Bent Vinkler

Large concentric rings of interworked willow branches tied with braided bark encircle a gigantic vessel balanced on a rock. It is the striking contrast of textures and surfaces and the strong colours that make this piece mesmerising but it is the sweeping lines that seem to define and break and expand and constrict the space. The scale and the drama of the work challenges any attempt to define the work specifically as either sculpture or as a craft work. 

Ingen tite

No title by Søren Thygesen

Bricks that are sheared and then stacked to form an almost organic and sculptured shape.

Again this work challenges preconceptions that bricks, particularly modern bricks, should be rectangular and uniform: surely if bricks combine, they combine to form a flat vertical wall or a floor? ... but here bricks become the soft fluid surface of a structure as if seen through the distortion of water in a pool.

"The smooth bricks are sheared in profile where they conjoin. This method translates organic form into the aesthetics of the bricks." Søren Thygesen


Lamps by Lisbet Frills, Uffe Black Nielsen 

"Friis&Black's Nordic lamps exist at the crossroads where handcraftsmanship and architectural elements meet."

There are five rings with LED lights mounted on the second and fourth ring of this large lamps 840mm across and 360mm high.

Lighting has always played a strong part in Danish interiors and there is a long and well-established tradition of complex designs playing with directed and carefully controlled light and playing with the contrast between parts that are opaque and parts that are brightly illuminated.  

Tekstilt finér

Textile veneer by Else-Rikke Bruun

This work takes as a starting point the technique of weaving but translates it from textiles to timber with a solid wood warp and bands of veneer for the weft. The screen has a beautiful sinuous line and has a very strong texture that creates an amazing and dramatic contrast between the natural tone of the wood and deep shadow.

Things Change

Maria Bang Espersen

Five glass vessels appear to be conventional vases but the form is deliberately crude and each uses different materials for decoration with shards of glass, brick and stone. These alien materials cause the thin hand-blown glass to stress and crack and possibly, over a period of time, break into fragments.


Åsa Alm - carpenter Andrea Stokholm

Made in ash, the design of the chair plays clever games with conventional forms by using less common details of construction so here the overall shape is reminiscent of a good, well-made, country chair with a spindle back but the arms are robust, sweeping round and down with horizontal bars below the arm rest that echo the rails between the legs to give the piece much more character ... it is more like a sculpture and here that is emphasised by the dramatic light and shadow.