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Congratulations to Kristian Olsen Frandsen, who receives this year’s Tormek Scholarship Award with his table “FiKa”- a piece that combines traditional and contemporary craft techniques. During the last two years, Kristian has studied at Capellagården’s School of craft and design at Öland (Sweden) and he now looks forward to new challenges in his promising career.
For 29-year-old Kristian, who grew up in the village of Føvling in the Danish countryside, working with carpentry has not always been a given.
“I grew up on a farm where I always had access to a workshop, but it did not interest me when I was younger, instead it was music that attracted me. It was not until I was 22 years old that I felt I wanted to do something else, and that is when I discovered cabinet making.”
He then began studies in cabinet making at Copenhagen Technical College. A few months into the course the opportunity arose to do a three-week long internship in the carpentry workshop at Denmark’s Royal Palace – Amalienborg. The work began with production, in the form of stands for the timber warehouse, but Kristian also got the opportunity to design and produce chairs for the sketching studio. The work was appreciated; three weeks turned into three months leading to an apprenticeship, where he worked with traditional handcrafts. For example, he limned 600-year-old Chinese chairs to make new, exact copies – a real learning process since it involves designing cabriole-legs and making cut-outs.
After the apprenticeship period came the offer of project employment at the Danish Royal Court. Based on functional requirements, he had to design and produce a piece of furniture with multiple functions for the back seat of a Tesla Model S. A real learning process according to Kristian, since the whole design was based on a fixed frame with fixed dimensions.
His time at the Danish Court got Kristian motivated to develop his woodworking idiom, which was the main reason he applied to Capellagården at Öland after his project employment finished.
“Here I encountered the phenomenon ‘fika’, a Swedish concept which is similar to ‘having coffee’. This later became the inspiration for my final exam. I wanted to create a place for meeting, but also to encourage people to interact, which was the reason I built a backgammon board into one of the drawers”. Kristian slowly pulls out the game, whose upper surface is made of stingray skin.
Kristian wanted to challenge himself as a craftsman during his final exam, and therefore designed a lot of details into his piece, like curves in the drawers, asymmetrical shapes and cane weaving. The inspiration came, amongst others, from the Japanese Tansu technique, but there are also strong references to Danish modernism. Traditional materials like ash, birch and cane weaving are mixed with exotic elements like satin wood, ebony, stingray skin and staghorn. Kristian was highly efficient during the project.
“You are assigned a number of hours to complete your piece”. I was allocated 320 hours, but only needed to use 170 of these during my practical work. I am efficient when I work but it is also important that the sharpening and honing of the tool is fast and easy, so that I can focus on my goal”, he explains.
Kristian has encountered Tormek in many of the workshops he has been in, and the system has been of great help during his gesäll (journeyman's test). It is the versatility and ability to adapt the sharpening to your own needs that makes Kristian appreciate Tormek. Since he wants to work with hand tools, he sees the scholarship award as a good start for the future, which includes many dreams.
“I also like ordinary carpentry, such as restoration, and would gladly combine cabinet making with that. I want to continue to create and produce, but also want the ‘ordinary person’, like myself, to be able to buy my crafts. It is a difficult balance”, he says and takes a sip of coffee before continuing.
“The dream would be to start a handcraft school with small classes, perhaps only 6-7 students, where they really get the chance to lift themselves and develop their skills.”
And the inspiration for that particular dream is within sight. After the upcoming move back to Denmark, trips to Japan and Australia await, where his goal is to get new impressions and perspectives.
“Japan has more traditional craftsmanship, whilst Australia is more modern in its tradition. These will be exciting contrasts to explore. I am also going to visit some contacts to see how they started up their businesses, and hopefully be able to get tips and advice for my own future”, he says.
The jury’s citation reads:
With top class craftsmanship, Kristian has with his piece “FiKa “- captured a part of the Scandinavian soul. With a warm expression, playfulness and elegance, we are invited to a functional piece of furniture that we all want to sit around and interact with each other. Tormek is proud to have been of help in the work and wishes Kristian good luck with future projects.