Denmark is known for its classic design icons such as Arne Jacobsen’s The Egg, the Y chair by Hans J. Wegner and Georg Jensen’s jewellery. Originally these were handmade by skilled craftsmen in local workshops supporting the proud tradition of Danish craft. However, due to the lower cost of labor overseas, the production of almost everything, including those iconic designs, has been moved to other countries. This has triggered a backlash among up-and-coming Danish designers who either craft their products themselves or try to find local producers. To support this, I have decided to create a network of Danish designers, craftsmen and producers called North of Eden, where they can exchange knowledge and become aware of each others existence.
Products developed in an environment where the design process is situated close to production are often more honest. The proximity ensures that the design does not overshadow the material and that the material does not have to meet unnatural requirements. The craftsmen knows the limitations and possibilities of the materials are and the designer knows how to work these possibilities into something beautiful. So by combining these two aspects throughout the entire process, material and design go hand in hand instead of forcing one to adapt to the other. This was also how the classic Danish design icons were developed. The final product was always developed and designed in a close collaboration between the designer and the craftsman enabling a true story to be told – a story of the craftsman’s hands and the designer’s mind.
Danish makers, craftsmen and designers are still keeping this alive today. Denmark has a booming craft scene; take a look at what’s made in Aarhus – its second-largest city.
ByFio, meaning ’by thread’, is a new social enterprise based in Aarhus. ByFio aims to create jobs for women with different ethnic backgrounds. through a workshop where they make bracelets out of local materials. The workshop is being developed in a collaboration between Ann Katrin Dybdahl, the manager of Kvindehuset (“The women’s house” – a place with social activities for women from different cultures), Astrid Skibsted, who is a textile designer, and Lise Bach Lystlund, myself, co-founder of North of Eden. Ann Katrin, Astrid and I met by coincidence and quickly realised that we had a mutual passion and saw a need for a place like byFio.
The bracelets are made using thread woven by a 100-year-old local craft firm, Aarhus Possementfabrik. The clasp consists of a button made by an emblem factory, Jydsk Emblem Fabrik, based in a small suburb to Aarhus. Along with Aarhus Possementfabrik they have a great historical background, supplying small buttons for the uniforms of the Royal Danish Life Guards who protect the Danish Royal Family.
We finalised the designs after a lot of meetings and visits to our suppliers, to really understand the limitations of our materials and are hoping to begin production later this summer.
KIRSE is a one-woman company making handcrafted items, best-known for her beautiful folded, textural posters. As Katri – the woman behind KIRSE – says,
“I believe in creating things that are more than what they appear to be. Your artwork has to show the work you put into it, it should almost (and with my work usually always) be physically evident – life that you can touch.”
Katri moved to Aarhus from Riga, Latvia, five years ago to study. During her first year in Aarhus, she spent a lot of time home alone, looking for a project to immerse herself in. She has always been passionate about creating things, especially things that are handmade, so during the nights she started folding paper. In the beginning it did not have a specific purpose but it resulted in 1447 tiny folds that came together into a pattern of mint coloured hearts on white background. From then on she spent several years playing around, developing several techniques to fine tune the elements of the folds and apply graphic design on top of the folded base. She also experimented a lot with creating surface patterns using paper.
Katri describes KIRSE as “a lifestyle factory with a cherry on top”. Alongside her posters, Katri also does embroidery and creates accessories; no matter what the product, she always adds an “a-ha” moment to her designs – a beautiful object at face value, with a second layer of experience.