This closeness to nature has been part of Ole’s life since his early childhood. Both his father and grandfather were hunters and growing up outdoors made a career spent chained to a desk an unlikely choice. “I could not imagine working in an office job. I love the outdoors far too much for that.” In Ole’s case, he discovered his calling during an internship in a small village joinery. He soon realised that he enjoyed crafting his own creations. The master craftsman immediately offered him an apprenticeship and Ole began his vocational training at 16. After completing his journeyman exams, he spent the next three years as a wandering journeyman.
The journeyman tradition among craftsmen has a history extending back more than 800 years. What was once a mandatory step on the path to becoming an independent craftsman is now voluntary. Young craftsmen primarily use the time to improve their craft, broaden their horizons and escape from their familiar environment, explains Ole. What was the appeal for him? The idea of freedom, above all. The journeyman phase had its highs and lows. “When you are travelling through a rural area and there are very few cars and you are soaked to the bone from being out in the rain and cannot find a place to sleep, then you sometimes ask: What am I doing here?” But the next day always brings a change of heart: “You quickly learn to keep your spirits up and keep on moving forward.”
While journeying, I expanded my horizons many times over.
During his journeyman years, Ole travelled through different countries and worked on construction sites far different from those in Europe. “For example, in Asia the scaffolding is made entirely of bamboo rather than metal.” The machines can also be somewhat “adventurous”. “Often you only have a hand planer and a circular saw – which only works when you twist the wires together. You just have to get used to that.” Communication problems are also completely normal. Instead of an architectural drawing, a model may need to be quickly constructed to show the workers just how the finished building is supposed to look.
Once he had returned home, he completed his craftsman’s diploma and became an independent artisan. Ole’s joinery offers a broad range of services: from manufacturing doors and windows to restoring buildings and also furniture. The diversity is the best part of his job, says Ole. “I enjoy producing the parts and then putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle. They create a finished product which is always unique.” Because he spends a lot of time in the section of forest that he owns, he can literally watch the wood growing. When the trees are ready, he fells them himself and uses the wood to create his own works.
Sustainability has always been a particularly important aspect of his work. “We only use certified wood which we purchase from our regional lumber supplier.” Ole also fells his own trees, mills the wood and stores it so that it is ready for use after several years of storage and drying. “I recommend that anyone who wants to make a contribution to using sustainable wood focus on regional suppliers. In other words: ask the local joiner.” This is also why he sees a lot of opportunities for the joinery trade in the future: “I believe that people are once again becoming increasingly interested in individual and good quality instead of mass produced furniture.”
The journeyman years – whatever the trade, they all have one thing in common: the time which certified journeymen spend travelling. But what is the story behind this centuries-old tradition?