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STITCHES

From HÅNDVÆRK bookazine no. 5 about
Karen Marie Dehn and Anneberg Kulturpark
(Anneberg Culture Park)

April 2021

Buy HÅNDVÆRK bookazine no. 5 here

Anneberg Kulturpark (Anneberg Culture Park) (source annebergkulturpark.dk) at the former mental asylum in Nykøbing Sjælland is a culture park with an artist wing (where Karen Marie Dehn, among others, has a workshop), a local food hub, a consecrated church, a gourmet restaurant and exhibition facilities as well as a hotel and conference facilities in the planning phase.

The former hospital is Denmark’s largest facility in the ‘Bedre Byggeskik’ (Better Architecture) style and consists of about 45 buildings situated in a landscaped area with clear inspiration from English garden cities.

The hospital was designed by Kristoffer Varming (1865–1936) and constructed in stages from 1913 to 1921. The hospital closed in 2015, as the function moved to Slagelse. Today, the area is called the Anneberg Park or ‘The yellow town behind the wood’.

 

On 1 March 2018, the Danish state sold the central facility in Annebergparken, also known as Grønnegårdskomplekset (The Grønnegård Complex), to Gitte Klausen and Morten Schantz. Their vision for the place is to revitalize it by restoring the garden and the 12 buildings in their section with respect for the original ideas, materials and craft tradition in order to underscore the unique architecture to the future benefit of locals and outside visitors alike.

Since both buildings and the garden are listed, the project takes place in consultation with the Danish Agency of Culture and Palaces.

 

Karen Marie Dehn, 60 years

Married, two adult children

Lives in Rødovre and in Odsherred, has a workshop at Anneberg Kulturpark in the town of Nykøbing Sjælland

Trained as a needlecraft teacher from Håndarbejdets Fremmes Seminarium (Danish Handcrafts Guild’s College of Education) in Copenhagen

A naturally born communicator and a needlecraft teacher by training. Kind but firm. Profoundly competent and meets her students at eye level. Never judges right or wrong but measures the value of the effort in joy. The joy of making. Embroiders because it is a way for her to express herself – like painting with yarn.

 When I was looking for someone with knowledge about how to use embroidery to mend or extend the lifetime of clothing that was either showing signs of wear or had indelible stains, I thought of Karen Marie, whom I knew slightly.

After completing her training at Håndarbejdets Fremmes Seminarium as a needlecraft teacher in 1989, Karen Marie taught for several years in a special needs/rehabilitation workshop where needlecraft was a means rather than an end.

Just under 20 years ago, her professional life took an unanticipated turn. In connection with a cutting course she was encouraged to develop and sell patterns and sewing instructions for a needlecraft magazine. She accepted the invitation, and from here, one step led to the next. One series of patterns turned to many, and gradually her working life came to include a growing number of hours as a freelancer. After a few years she gave up the safety net of her teaching position. Since then, she has developed patterns non-stop for magazines, written books and held workshops and courses.

Designing sewing patterns and making clothing have now largely given way to embroidery. That turn began with a book about reused clothing that was published in 2007.

SENSUOUS EMBROIDERY

When I was training to become a teacher, in the 1980s, I did not look forward to the embroidery lessons. The course had an absolute requirement of correctness, and if one’s sewing wasn’t just right, it was all wrong. I learned all the basic techniques at the college but chose to specialize in clothing,’ she tells me as we meet in her new studio at Anneberg Kulturpark.

Today, I think it’s a hundred million times more fun to embroider, it’s much calmer, and I experience it as a more creative activity. I really enjoy the tactile aspect, and I love the possibilities it gives me for shaping my design, how a few small stitches in a different colour or yarn in a different thickness can change the expression completely.

You wanted to ask me about embroidery on worn or stained clothes. Embroidery is brilliant for mending or alterations, and the possibilities are limitless. It was in connection with my work on the book about reused clothes that my own interest was piqued.’

The book came out in 2007 (and has long since sold out from the publisher) – it must have been a brave move to publish this the year before the financial crisis. In my own recollection, the time leading up to 2008 was a time of unbridled consumerism and a culmination of the throw-away culture.

Truth be told, we are still consuming far in excess of what is reasonable, but a countermovement is gradually taking shape. With the climate crisis breathing down our necks and in protest against previous generations’ reckless use of resources, we are now rejecting excessive consumption. To varying degrees and with varying consistency.

The cities and their inherent narrative of consumption as a lifestyle are seeing a (slight) drop in population numbers. Self-sufficiency and home-baked bread have become part of the contemporary story of success, and a personal wardrobe based on reuse combined with sewing, knitting and embroidery is as stylish as it gets.

The natural consequence of taking up needlecraft, or any other craft, is a greater respect for materials and a better understanding of how time-consuming it is to make a given product. This also makes us more inclined to maintain and care for what we have created with our own hands and to extend its life by mending it. For previous generations, mending was an economic necessity and should ideally be as invisible as possible.

That is no longer the case. ‘Visible Mending’ is a growing trend. Mending cafés have become popular, and courses and workshops in needlecraft and other crafts are highly sought-after and often have long waiting lists.

WORKSHOP

We are sitting in one of Karen Marie’s sunlit rooms, the studio is close to her summer cottage and just over an hour’s drive from Copenhagen, where she lives, and where she holds many of her well-attended workshops. Workshops where the attendants often use embroidery to cover up a stain or a tear.

A workshop more than an hour away from home – are you about to move out of the city?

I’m not the kind of person that has a detailed five-year plan, never was. I do something, and something happens, then I do something again … – but, maybe?

This lack of long-term planning doesn’t mean that I’m not seeking to develop my business. Had I not been such an early mover when it came to using the possibilities of the Internet, I would not be where I am today. No blog, YouTube channel or, now, Instagram account – no company.’

A few weeks before my visit, Karen Marie had held an ‘embroidery event’ for several hundred embroidery fans who follow her on Instagram. Together, apart.

Before the event, the attendants had bought the PDF pamphlet from my web shop, and I was the online host of the event and was able to offer instructions so they would learn something. It is important to me to offer actual learning content. During and after the event the attendants have followed each other’s work via a # on Instagram. It won’t be the last time I host that sort of online event, but I am also planning more face-to-face workshops, both in Copenhagen and around the country, but I could also imagine holding one here,’ she says, happy about her new place.

 My students are a mixed lot. There are women in their 20s with no or very limited prior skills, and what they know, they know from YouTube. There are also women who know how to embroider but lack inspiration. Often, mothers and daughters or pairs of friends join a workshop as a shared activity; that’s nice. It doesn’t matter that their skill levels vary; in a face-to-face workshop I never have more than 10 participants, so it’s easy to guide them all to make sure they encounter challenges at the right level.

  

MENDING

 What made me think of Karen Marie when I wanted to talk about embroidery and mending was a specific post on her Instagram account. A detail from a wedding dress: a creme-coloured base with beautiful embroidery in white and creme and the text ‘I embroidered the stains away.

#mendingmatters #flowerembroidery

Karen Marie explains: ‘I don’t normally take embroidery commissions, so initially I turned the request down when a colleague tried to put me and the client in touch with each other, but she insisted, and on one of my trips to Jutland to do a workshop I met the bride’s mother. The story was that the wedding dress was sewn in hand-woven wool and silk fabric that the bride’s mother had woven for her own wedding in the 1980s. Since then, the dress had been stored in a box. Now, the daughter was getting married and was hoping to use her mother’s dress. However, in the box, the dress had developed some tiny rust stains, a lot of them, both on the front and along the hem, and they were hoping I could embroider them away.

It was easy to envision a beautiful result, they gave me free hands, understood the extent of the task and were willing to pay for my work, so I accepted the challenge.

I didn’t count the number of hours, and you shouldn’t, you should just do the very best you can, but I think it probably took me a week. I can’t show you the dress, it has been returned to the client, and the wedding has been held. What I can show you instead is a pair of jeans that I mended using the Japanese Sashiko technique, which is the topic of my next workshop.

Anneberg Kulturpark (kilde annebergkulturpark.dk) i det tidligere sindssygehospital i Nykøbing Sjælland

er en kulturpark med kunstnerfløj (hvor blandt andre Karen Marie Dehn har værksted), lokal fødevarehub, indviet kirke, gourmetrestaurant og udstillingsfaciliteter, foruden hotel og konferenceanlæg, som er under planlægning.

Hospitalet er Danmarks største anlæg i stilen Bedre Byggeskik og består af ca. 45 bygninger beliggende i et haveanlæg med tydelig inspiration fra de engelske havebyer.

Hospitalet er tegnet af Kristoffer Varming (1865-1936) og gradvist opført i perioden 1913-21. Hospitalet blev nedlagt i 2015, hvor funktionen flyttede til Slagelse. I dag kaldes området for Annebergparken eller “Den gule by bag skoven”.

 

Den 1. marts 2018 solgte den danske stat det centrale anlæg i Annebergparken, også kaldet Grønnegårdskomplekset, til Gitte Klausen og Morten Schantz. Deres vision for stedet er at vække anlægget til live gennem at restaurere de i alt 12 bygninger og haven i respekt for de oprindelige tanker, materialer og håndværksmæssige traditioner, for derigennem at understrege den unikke arkitektur til fremtidig glæde for både lokale beboere og gæster.

Da både bygninger og haveanlæg er fredede, sker dette i samråd med Slots- og Kulturstyrelsen.

Karen Marie Dehn, 60 år
Gift, to voksne børn
Bor i Rødovre og i Odsherred, har værksted i Anneberg Kulturpark i Nykøbing Sjælland

Uddannet håndarbejdslærer fra Håndarbejdets Fremmes Seminarium i København

Formidler af Guds nåde og håndarbejdslærer af uddannelse. Hun er venlig, men bestemt. Hun er fagligt kompetent og møder sine elever i øjenhøjde. Hun dømmer ikke rigtigt eller forkert, men måler værdien af indsatsen i glæde. Skaberglæde. Selv broderer hun, fordi det er en måde at udtrykke sig på. Hun maler med tråd.

Da jeg søgte viden om at reparere og forlænge livet på garderobestykker, som enten er slidte eller ved et uheld har fået pletter, ved at dekorere med broderi, kom jeg i tanke om Karen Marie, som jeg kendte lidt på forhånd.

Karen Marie blev færdig på Håndarbejdets Fremmes Seminarium som håndarbejdslærer i 1989 og arbejdede derefter i en del år på et socialpædagogisk produktionsværksted, hvor håndarbejdet var et værktøj snarere end et mål i sig selv.

For knap 20 år siden tog hendes arbejdsliv uplanlagt en ny drejning. I forbindelse med et kursus i tilskæring blev hun opfordret til at udvikle og sælge snitmønstre og sy-vejledninger til et håndarbejdsmagasin. Den udfordring tog hun imod, og herfra gik det slag i slag. En serie snitmønstre blev til mange, og langsomt forandrede hendes arbejdsliv sig til at indeholde en større og større andel timer som selvstændig. Efter nogle år valgte hun sikkerhedsnettet fra sin ansættelse helt fra. Hun har siden uafbrudt udviklet opskrifter for blade og magasiner, skrevet bøger og holdt workshops og kurser.

Snitmønstre og syning af beklædningsgenstande er nu mere eller mindre afløst af broderi. Det begyndte med en bog om genbrugstøj, som udkom i 2007.

DET SANSELIGE BRODERI

“Da jeg selv gik på seminariet i 80’erne, var jeg ikke spor begejstret for broderitimerne, undervisningen var omgærdet med et ufravigeligt krav om korrekthed, og hvis ikke det, man syede, var rigtigt, så var det helt forkert. Jeg lærte alle de grundlæggende teknikker på seminariet, men jeg valgte at specialisere mig i beklædning”, fortæller hun, da vi mødes på hendes nye værksted i Anneberg Kulturpark i Nykøbing Sjælland.

“Nu synes jeg, at det er hundrede millioner gange sjovere at brodere, det er meget roligere, og jeg oplever det som mere kreativt. Jeg har stor glæde ved det taktile, og jeg er vild med de muligheder, jeg har for at påvirke mit motiv, få små sting med en anden farve eller en anden tykkelse garn kan ændre hele billedet.”

“Du ville gerne tale om broderi på slidt og plettet tøj. Broderiet er genialt til reparation og forandring, og der er uanede muligheder. Det var netop i forbindelse med mit arbejde med genbrugsbogen, jeg selv blev vakt.”

Bogen er fra 2007 (og for længst udsolgt fra forlaget), det har været en modig udgivelse året inden finanskrisen. Selv husker jeg perioden op til 2008 som en periode, hvor forbruget stak helt af, som en kulmination af brug og smid væk-kulturen.

Hånden på strygejernet – vi forbruger stadig langt ud over al rimelighed, men modbevægelsen er til at få øje på. Med klimakrisens ånde i nakken og som protest mod tidligere generationers skødesløse omgang med ressourcerne vender vi ryggen til forbrugsfesten. Helt eller delvist, mere eller mindre konsekvent.

De store byer og deres iboende forestilling om forbrug som en livsstil oplever (en lille) fraflytning. Selvforsyning og hjemmebag er en del af den moderne succesfortælling, og det er i høj kurs at genbruge og at supplere med at sy, strikke og brodere sig til en personlig garderobe.

Den naturlige konsekvens af at udføre håndarbejde og håndværk er, at man får respekt for materialerne og forståelse for, hvor tidskrævende det er at fremstille et givent produkt. Heraf vokser lysten til at passe på det, man har skabt, og til at forlænge dets liv gennem at reparere. I tidligere generationer var en reparation noget, man udførte af økonomisk nød og gemte af vejen.

Sådan er det ikke nu. ‘Visible mending’ er en voksende trend. Reparationscafeer er blevet et tilløbsstykke, og kurser og workshops i håndarbejds- og håndværksfag af mange slags har kronede dage og flere steder lange ventelister.

 

 

WORKSHOP

Vi sidder i det ene af Karen Maries lyse rum, værkstedet ligger tæt på hendes sommerhus og i godt og vel en times afstand fra København, hvor hun bor, og hvor hun afholder mange af sine velbesøgte workshops. Workshops, hvor deltagerne ikke sjældent vælger at brodere over pletter eller at reparere.

Værksted mere end en time hjemmefra, er du på vej til at flytte fra byen?

“Jeg er ikke sådan en med forkromede femårsplaner, det har jeg aldrig været. Jeg gør noget, og så sker der noget, og så gør jeg noget mere… – men måske?

Fraværet af langsigtede planer betyder ikke, at jeg ikke arbejder med at udvikle min virksomhed. Havde jeg ikke været så tidlig med at udnytte internettets muligheder, så havde jeg ikke været, hvor jeg er i dag. Uden blog, YouTube-kanal og nu min Instagram-konto, ingen virksomhed.”

Få uger inden jeg ankom, havde Karen Marie afholdt ‘broderifest’ for flere hundrede broderiglade følgere på Instagram. Sammen hver for sig.

“Deltagerne havde på forhånd købt oplægget på en pdf fra min webshop, online var jeg festens vært og kunne instruere, så de rent faktisk lærte noget. Det er vigtigt for mig, at jeg tilbyder et reelt fagligt indhold. Undervejs og efterfølgende har deltagerne fulgt med i hinandens arbejde via et # på Instagram. Det bliver ikke den sidste af den slags onlinebegivenheder, men der venter også flere fysiske workshops, både i København og rundt i landet, men jeg kan også forestille mig at holde workshop her”, fortæller hun helt glad for sit nye sted.

 

“Mine elever er en broget skare. Der er kvinder i 20’erne helt uden forkundskaber eller med sparsomme forudsætninger, som de har skaffet sig ved at se på YouTube. Der kommer også modne kvinder, som kan brodere, men som savner inspiration. Ofte kommer mødre og døtre eller venindepar på en workshop som en fælles aktivitet, det er hyggeligt. Det spiller ingen rolle, at deres niveau er forskelligt, på en fysisk workshop har jeg maks. 10 deltagere og kan sagtens nå at guide dem alle, så de møder udfordringer på rette niveau.”

 

 

NÅR MAN VIL REPARERE

Det, som fik pilen til at pege på Karen Marie, da jeg ville tale om broderi og reparation, var en specifik post på hendes Instagram. Et detaljebillede af en brudekjole, cremefarvet bund og kunstfærdigt hvidt og cremefarvet broderi og teksten, “Jeg har broderet pletterne væk”.

#mendingmatters #blomsterbroderi

Karen Marie uddyber: “Jeg påtager mig normalt ikke broderiopgaver og afslog også i første omgang, da en kollega forsøgte at etablere kontakt mellem mig og kunden, men hun insisterede, og på en af mine ture til Jylland for at holde workshop mødte jeg brudens mor. Historien er, at brudekjolen var syet af et stykke håndvævet uld- og silketekstil, vævet af brudens mor i 80’erne til hende selv. Kjolen har siden været pakket ned. Nu skulle datteren giftes og helst i sin mors kjole. Under nedpakningen havde kjolen imidlertid fået små rustpletter, mange pletter, både på bærestykket og langs bundsømmen, og det var dem, de gerne så, at jeg broderede væk.

Det var let at forestille sig, at det kunne gøres smukt, de gav mig frie hænder og forstod omfanget af opgaven og var villige til at honorere arbejdet, og jeg takkede derfor ja til udfordringen.

Jeg har ikke talt timer, og det skal man ikke, man skal bare gøre arbejdet så godt som overhovedet muligt, men jeg vil gætte på, at det tog en uge. Kjolen kan du ikke få at se, den er afleveret, og brylluppet har stået. Hvad du derimod kan se, er et par jeans, som jeg har repareret ved hjælp af den japanske Sashiko-teknik – min næste workshop tager udgangspunkt i Sashiko.”

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