Friday, 12 July 2013

Weaving with Hands and Feet

Brandbjerg Hojskole near Jelling in Denmark was the setting for Flettetraef last week. This is the name given to the week-long biennial summer school run by Pileforeningen the Danish basket makers association. Topics this year were, the ubiquitous, cultivated willow and the increasingly popular willow bark employed in various ways, along with  rush and cardboard.

There were 10 tutors and about 90 participants, most of which were female and the majority over 35. So, really, it’s a kind of retreat for women, where they can escape their families and be fed, both physically and mentally, without having to do any shopping, washing, or washing up. There I met many strong women who have had plenty of very tough things to deal with in their lives but who smiled for most of the week. It cannot be a bad thing.
My students, like all the others, worked like crazy. I could see the light on in our workshop after 11pm most nights as they pushed themselves into new territory, wrestling with strips of cardboard and discovering things about it, and perhaps themselves, they hadn’t found before.

But the week was not just basket making. There were also  guided nature walks, keep fit classes, a trip to the royal burial mounds in Jelling, talks, meditation, communal singing and dancing, a fair on the Wednesday afternoon where you could buy books and baskets and materials, an exhibition of the students work and an end of week party.  Of course, all of this takes a huge amount of voluntary organisation by many people, but particularly in this instance by Else Marie Pedersen , Solveig Langballe and Suzanne Kampp for whom it had been two years in the planning and to whom everyone involved was extremely grateful.

All the  activities  I have mentioned  were of course  pre-programmed but on the final night we were given an extra curricula treat.

Whilst the basket makers occupied most of the building there was also another much smaller group staying at Brandbjerg who were either  learning, or practicing, Argentinian Tango, I’m not sure which. We hardly saw them all week but they were invited to come to the exhibition of our students work and after the celebration dinner their tutor gave  us a short talk about the origins of the dance and an explanation of the differences between Argentinian Tango and the more macho European version. His students then offered to put on a performance for us. Slightly overawed by the large audience and somewhat shyly they danced for us and in so doing gave something of themselves to us. It was a gesture that many of us found profoundly touching. I only had my phone with me so the quality is not good but you can see a short clip of one of the performances here.


  1. 'Weaving with Hands and Feet', bonito título y bonitos tejidos.

  2. Thank you, Carlos, for your comment, I am glad you like it/them.