Friendly Plastic in Denmark

From the moment I landed and met Barbara Lees, my host for the next 4 days, we did not stop talking and laughing.


This is Barbara and two of her “friends”.  she makes puppets to help tell stories to the children in her local church.  They are full of character and totally compelling to watch as they take over the conversation from Barbara who fades into the background when she is working with them.

We drove through lovely Danish countryside from Billund to her home which is sandwiched between a fjord and the sea on the east coast of Denmark.  There we met the lovely and very talented Karin Schmidt who had thoughtfully prepared some lunch.



This is Karin, otherwise known as Rubber Karin because she does amazing things with inner tubes from anything from bicycles to tractors.  Karin is holding up her boot straps which she has made with rubber and Friendly Plastic.  If you want to know more about Karin you can visit her website, although she is pretty shy and does not like to blow her own trumpet, so Barbara does it for her, and the pair of them teach Friendly Plastic to the enthusiastic Danes.  In fact I am going to suggest that you really MUST visit her website because you will see something extraordinary.  Barbara also creates the most wonderful jewellery, and you can see her work and her courses here.





These are some of Karin’s beautiful and very precise designs for earrings.  Karin measures things, and therefore gets everything to match up perfectly.  This, as you know is anathema to me (and Barbara), consequently I am in awe of her attention to detail and precision.  She spends ages coming up with ingenious ways to help her achieve the precision she seeks.  Some of her cleverness will be available to all via Barbara in the form of tutorials.20130911_164127

More of Karin’s beautiful things.




We spent the whole of the first afternoon talking, showing and sharing.  Here are a couple of the teaching boards that Barbara has in her studio, very much smarter than my plastic takeaway boxes!  If you do a course with her this gives you a flavour of what you can expect.20130911_164257

The Danish style of using Friendly Plastic seems to have a clarity to it, and in Barbara’s case a distinctly organic feel.  Barbara and all her students have been working with the electric griddle and what I call a mini flame thrower, which is in fact a flexible necked camping lighter.  These tools can give great effects, and I am quite taken with the mini flame thrower, and now have one thanks to Barbara, so will be experimenting.  Using only dry heat, and for the largest part, bottom heat, restricts what can be done with Friendly Plastic, but Barbara and Karin have been pushing themselves and experimenting, and have come up with some lovely ways of working.20130911_164319

However, having shown them how to use hot water and a heat gun, I have converts to these methods of warming Friendly Plastic, so I eagerly anticipate some exciting things from the Danish FP Brigade!

Barbara, Karin and I spent two very happy days showing and sharing techniques.  I did not expect to learn so much from them, particularly as I have been working with Friendly Plastic for 23 years now.  However, my conceit was crushed to dust by their clever innovations and pursuance of ideas and techniques that I, for one reason or another, never fully investigated in my Friendly Plastic journey.  Many things I had briefly looked at, but not pursued.  Not only have they pursued them, they have come up with some fantastic results.  So watch this space for future showcasing of Karin and Barbara’s work.

We did not spend all day in the studio, the weather was too lovely, and the beach too close.  Beach combing is inevitable when you get three curious and artistic people together on the lovely Danish strand, and the colours, shapes and textures begged to be examined.   20130913_095320

The flint was so pretty that I collected some to make into jewellery20130913_103914

The seed pods and leaves and dead flower heads had enticing textures, so we carted them all home and took impressions of them.  The textures were wonderful.20130913_111733

After 2 and half days of pure creative pleasure and good food kindly supplied by Barbara’s husband (fantastic cooking Svend, thank you), I suppose it was time to actually work!  Barbara had found a great classroom space in a converted goods yard building in Aarhus.  Light and airy with plenty of space,

10 students from all over Denmark and Norway came for the weekend, and fortunately for me, they all spoke very good English.  However, Barbara was on hand to make sure important points were clearly conveyed in Danish.20130914_143822

The novelty of heatguns changes the way the Danes work with Friendly Plastic.20130914_143826

Very clever folk, these Danish Friendly Plastic ladies.  Lisbeth, in the middle makes wonderful jewellery featuring little houses made of Friendly Plastic.  I will showcase some of her work in another post.  The lady on the right whose name I have rudely forgotten makes “reborn” baby dolls in polymer clay, and she is extremely skilled at doing so.20130914_155213

Barbara made us all some muffins, and this lady had to varnish her pieces very quickly or there would have been no muffin left to use as a secure place for drying her work!

At the close of play on Saturday, Karin kindly took me to the Aros museum as I had expressed a wish to see some contemporary art.  We went to the very top of the building and sauntered round the Rainbow.  A fantastic viewing gallery with glass in all the colours of the rainbow, graduated around the circle.  The views over Aarhus were stunning, the Rainbow changed the whole experience from being a lovely view into an overwhelming colour experience and visual delight, with added views! 20130914_161614

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The main reason for going to Aros (I was not aware of the Rainbow at the time) was to see “Boy” by Ron Mueck.  This is a painstakingly detailed and accurated sculpture of a boy crouching down wearing just his shorts.  That in itself is remarkable, but when you see the scale of the piece, it is AMAZING!20130914_163512 20130914_163549 20130914_163635 20130914_163650 20130914_163722 20130914_163757

Makes me want to see much more of this artist’s work, particularly as I know he plays with scale and exhibits ginourmous pieces along side miniature sculptures, all equally detailed and realistic.  He plays with our minds.


Apparently,  breakfast on a Sunday in Denmark involves a visit to the local bakery where you buy Breakfast Rolls and pastries (yes, Danish Pastries!).  Barbara treated us to a delicious selection of tasty treats which we had to eat hastily before the class began – we had spent too much time admiring all the lovely yummy things on the bakery shelves!  My favourites were the really scrummy grain laiden crunchy and chewy breads


By the end of Sunday everyone was tired (and stuffed with patries, bread and muffins!), but we gathered around the table where we had a show and tell.20130915_154451

I know this must be Lisbeth’s because of the little house!20130915_154530

This must be some of the samples that I made along with Barbara and Karin to illustrate the processes during the class.20130915_154544

Memory fails me as to who created these lovely pieces, but everyone had different things, despite seeing exactly the same demos.  I love that.

Partial Oooze and a clever use of rub on transfers make for some interesting pieces.20130915_154711

Wiggly wire and experiments with Cloud Clay base, wrapped china and medieval beads.20130915_154748 20130915_154815 20130915_154845

My kind next door neighbour, Lesley gave me some of her old china to smash up,  An odd thing to cart to Denmark I know, but the broken pieces were very useful in teaching everyone how to wrap with Friendly Plastic and finish with tubeads for bails.20130915_155104

Because everyone had worked so intensively, they had not seen a lot of anyone else’s work during the weekend, so the show and tell induced a lot of conversation, discussion and revelation.

At 4pm on Sunday, the class came to an end, and after clearing up, it was time to go our separate ways.  I had so much fun, forged strong friendships, learnt a lot, and reminded myself that there are some very clever and ingenious people out there,  There is always more to learn, and Barbara Lees and Rubber Karin will keep my feet firmly on the ground! Barbara and Karin

Karin and Barbara at the beach.  Thank you ladies for the MOST WONDERFUL time.Barbara and Liz

Here’s to new friendships, and I include the camera operator in that!