By Karen K. Hansen
Copenhagen is a bicycler’s city, and a hub-and-spokes approach makes the most of limited time to explore the crafts scene in this design capital. With a few Danish coins, you can rent a bike from street stands. Or you can walk this route, taking in the street vibe as you discover other treasures and pleasures.
While Copenhagen’s city center is the hub, it’s a mere starting point. Following different “spokes” into nearby neighborhoods offers contrasting experiences, from hip and gritty to museum quality.
When dark winter days finally give way to springtime sunlight, determined Danes enjoy artfully crafted cuisine at sidewalk cafes and bars, surrounded by heaters and fleece throws.
The Hub: City Center
Informationscenter for dansk kunsthåndverk
Amagertorv 1,1 (upstairs)
Pick up Danish Crafts’ trilingual Guide to Shops & Galleries and a detailed city map, and you’re off! Danish Crafts markets Danish crafts internationally, which can be difficult for individual crafters to afford.
Food Match: At Café Europa, it’s about pricey espresso and beautiful people. Also: vegetarian brunches, yogurt and berries, smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches), burgers, carpaccios, and salads.
Owner-ceramicists Ditte Reckweg and Jelena Schou Nordentoft choose and display pieces in a way that makes the space itself art. The elements are Danish and other European vessels, tableware, jewelry, furniture, boxes, tea lights, bags, lamps, textiles, and a baby item or two. Stilleben’s shopkeeper/illustrator, Monika Petersen, says, “A lot of it is very light and white.” Still, current bestsellers are bright, knob-shaped wall hooks. The juxtaposition is perfect.
Food Match: Kisses for cozy Kafe Kys’ artfully presented, more modestly priced cuisine and drinks. Sandwiches (including vegetarian) to go and fleecy throws for undeterred outdoor diners.
The jury-selected members of this cooperative are top flight – and many employ materials and techniques feasible for home-based crafters. They turn all kinds of stuff – wood, string, silicone, felt, stones, metals, porcelain, plastic, rubber – into jewelry that ranges from elegant to whimsical. The latest rage is rare Greenland gold. Bits of it are doled out to jewelry makers who exhibit their inspirations. Manager Anne Mette Kildegaard Larsen clued me in expertly on artists, materials, trends, and techniques.
Food Match: For authentic smørrebrød, Café Sorgenfri (Worry Free) is worth the few blocks walk. I loved the herring in all guises!
Nørre Farimagsgade 74
Panduro has plentiful materials for “art in your own style:” beads, stamps, ribbon, stencils, boxes, shells, paints, mannequins, scrapbooking materials, kits. The “wow” is in the back: a treasure of papers in countless idea-sparking textures and colors.
Food Match: Plan your project over Hansens Flødeis at Frederiksborggades Is & Konfekture. A third-generation Hansen mixes the ice cream from fresh milk and cream with no additives. Bring DK cash.
Spoke One: Nørrebro
Phone: +45 35 36 05 27
(No website. Call for shop hours)
Nørrebro is a hot mix of young people, immigrants on budgets, and business owners with style and chutzpah. In this repurposed cheese-making shop, clothing designers Karen, Marina, and Trine, and jewelry maker Stine cater to women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. They take turns minding the shop, and, honestly, if a design or color doesn’t make you look fabulous, they’ll suggest something else!
Emmerys Bakery and Café
Food Match: Organic and green, Emmerys Bakery and Café purveys handmade and imported goods: breads, cakes, coffee, tea, chocolate, cheese, wine, oil, pasta, rice, and drinks. Score a window seat or craft a picnic. They offer taste tests!
Along Elmegade, tiny boutiques lure fashionistas and runway wannabes. The sleek clothes at 5 Fünf made me wish for a bigger suitcase! Elmegade leads to Sankt Hans Torv plaza, chockablock with trend-setters, students, lovers, and bikers, seeing and being seen.
Spoke Two: Bredgade
Det danske kunstindustrimuseet
Danish crafters recommend The Danish Museum of Art & Design for its decorative and applied arts. You can touch and even taste many pieces in the all-age-friendly Design Studio.
Food Match: Swedish crafter Karin Eriksson recommends the spinach and goat cheese omelet at the museum’s café, where you relax on classic Danish furniture by Hans Wegner and Poul Kjærholm.
One works in the polished city center, the other in rough-around-the-edges Nørrebro. One is male, the other female. One works with the hardest materials, the other with the softest. Both are passionate about making things with their hands. And you can meet them in their Copenhagen shops.
City Center Crafter: Kim Buck
Goldsmith, jewelry maker, artist
Rådhusstræde 10, 1260 København K, Denmark
Phone: +45 33 14 57 07
Book about Buck’s life and work: Det er tanken, der tæller. (It’s the Thought that Counts.) Narayana Press 2007, ISBN 978-87-17-03983-4
Kim Buck crafted a response to Christian Denmark-for-the-Danes politicians, whom he thinks preach but do not practice “faith, hope, and love.” It is a gold charm with a cross, star and crescent, and star of David. Buck is a shining example of the Danish trend of handcraft to mind craft. However, while working, he is “never consciously thinking about these things. You can’t use your intuition if you talk too much.” He grew up in his father’s metal factory, making things with his hands. Now he has his own shop and designs for Georg Jensen. International galleries exhibit his art.
Working primarily with gold, silver, aluminum, and plastic, Buck crafts “jewelry about jewelry.” The story is often “it’s the thought that counts,” and that thought may differ for the same piece of jewelry, depending on the person. Buck explains, “Traditionally, the husband buys a ring like an investment. When he gives it to his wife, she receives a token of his love.”
Buck’s designs are decidedly contemporary and his techniques advanced, including computerized milling. His values are traditional: “It’s very important for me that the jewelry is easy to wear. I hand finish all pieces so they are high-quality. I don’t make anything that is fragile and will come apart.” Hands and mind engaged, Buck works above his ground floor shop. Making an appointment would be gracious if you want to chat.
Nørrebro Crafter: Trine Pingel
Clothing designer and maker, shop co-owner
Blågårdsgate 3, 2200 København N, Denmark
Phone: +45 35 36 05 27
(No website. Call for shop hours.)
“I will change that,” says Trine Pingel. Although she is talking specifically about the absence of party clothes, change is a general theme at Klædebo. In the edgy, evolving Nørrebro district, Pingel co-owns Klædebo with Stine Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Marina Lindquist, and Karen Pers. They create dresses, tops, skirts, jewelry, and accessories ideal for cosmopolitan daywear and work. And they take turns in the shop.
Inspired by runway fashions in Paris, Milan, London, and New York, Pingel designs for “real women who are not rail thin.” Think of it as hip fashion for women with hips. Pingel and her colleagues create a few good designs and change the looks with different materials and colors. “They must be simple because making them ourselves takes a long time, and we will make small changes for a customer so the clothes fit perfectly.”
Fashions change, and Pingel predicts, “There has been a lot of volume, but I think that will disappear next season. I’ve always been into 1940s style. Even if it doesn’t look like it in my designs, I often go back to that classic period. The fabric is smooth around the body.” That should be perfect for the party clothes she plans to introduce. Things are always changing – except Pingel’s passion for creating things with her hands.
About the Author:
Karen K. Hansen grew up on traditional Minnesota farm-girl crafts: baking, sewing, needlework, ornaments, and jewelry. Now she crafts words and music in Minneapolis. She has worked in Germany, France, and Norway, and hangs out a lot in the UK.