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Baskets with Steen Madsen in Denmark

Resident Artisan Emily Derke is traveling in Scandinavia as part of the Artisan Development Program, and recently spent some time weaving willow with Steen Madsen in Denmark. Read more in her latest blog post. 

Posted on May 5, 2022
by Emily Derke

I just left Denmark after spending 8 days weaving with willow at Steen Madsen's house. Two other weavers met me there. Jes from New York and Phera from Chicago. As I exited the airport in Copenahgen, I was glad to see their smiling faces waiting for me at the door. We made our way back to Steen's house, after about an hour of travel by train and car. We refueled upon arrival with some hot coffee, dense bread, and fragrant cheese. 

I met Steen several years ago when he was teaching in Decorah, Iowa, and have really admired his deep knowledge of many materials and crafts, while being extremely fun to spend time with. 

Jes, Phera, and I dug through the many baskets around the house and workshop to consider what kinds of things we might like to make and learn. One project we all decided to do was a fitched oval basket.  

None of us had much experience with the using wood slats for a base. We split out oak or ash with an axe, then thinned it down with a draw knife. 

There are some little details of projects that I can really get excited about. For my base I used a old chunk of oak that had previously been used to to secure the top of a thatched roof. Also called the crow wood, as the crows find this nice to sit on. 

The fitched baskets look simple, but are actually quite a lot of work and a good challenge. As Steen guided us through each step, we learned the little details of hand positions if one is making a french or english style basket, and subtle twists and bends of the willow when completing a border to get just the right shapes and angles.

We did a few different types of things between the three of us, as Steen worked with our individual interests and levels of independence and skill. 

Throughout the week we managed to make 11 baskets between the three of us while Steen kept us challenged and curious, well fed, and in good company.

Between the basket collections,  new plants, history, old things to look at, a trip out to the coast, and a steady stream of fresh brewed coffee, we had a packed week of fun and learning. Thanks to Steen for having us, and Jes and Phera for the good trip together.