Festival of Traditional Tyrolean Handicrafts

28. August 2018

It’s not possible to imagine our events calendar without the Traditional Handicrafts Festival – a day when the old traditions are experienced and celebrated. Values that have been passed down from generation to generation over the centuries. I met up with two master craftsmen who gave us a look at what we can expect from the weekend. And let me tell you: it will be impressive!

Sculpted from the Hardest Wood: Woodcarver Karl-Josef Röck

He can create masterpieces from the most unremarkable pieces of wood: Karl-Josef Röck is a woodcarver. I met up with him in his rustic store in the centre of Seefeld, where he works and sells his pieces. The wonderful smell of wood surrounds me as soon as I walk through the door. My eyes, as well as my nose, are also busy: I can see hundreds of pieces of all sizes. Karl-Josef is already at work. He has created a sculpture for the Handicrafts Festival that he will complete during the weekend. What it is remains a secret for the moment – I can only tell you that it is impressive! A beautiful sculpture from his favourite wood: the Swiss pine, which grows at a height of 1800m in the Alps. Karl-Josef loves it: “When you carve it, the scent spreads through the whole room”. Wood from the Swiss pine is extremely resinous but also long-lasting.

From Carving to Sculpting: The Love of Wood

Karl-Josef started carving when he was 15 years old but decided to train as a carpenter and bricklayer. It was later that he made his dream into a profession, when he successfully completed the training to become a sculptor. “That’s my dream job, to love what I am doing!” he says. Sculpting is more than a profession – it’s a passion.

From the Concept to the Sculpture: The Work Process

“How is a sculpture like this created?” I ask Karl-Josef, eying the massive sculpture near us. “I first sketch a lot” he explains. “And throw a lot of them in the bin” he adds with a laugh. So first the mental concepts are put down on paper and then transferred to the wood. He gets his inspiration mainly from nature – and from his faith. You can tell by his work: figures for cribs, sculptures of Mary, crucifixes and all kinds of animals can be found.

Karl-Josef’s art shows that traditional handicrafts from hundreds of years ago can still be fascinating and up-to-date. He lives his passion – you can see and feel it in his store. You should pay him a visit, not just at the Handicrafts Festival, but the next time you are out for a stroll through the centre of Seefeld!

Playing with Fire: Designer Smith Martin Albrecht

My next visit was to the smithy of Martin Albrecht. His passion is for warmer things: fire and iron. I can feel the heat as soon as I walk in as the hot oven brings me out in perspiration. It’s not only hot but also loud – a job for a real man! You can see that Martin’s craft is something special in his design studio: I’m amazed by some of the work hanging on the wall.

Experiencing Passion

The native Leutascher started his apprenticeship as a smith when he was only 15. He has developed his own style since then and found his own approach to this craft. In the truest sense of the words, he ‘burns with a passion’ for his profession! Perhaps the biggest compliment was paid by an older colleague: “Thanks for bringing our craft up to date again!” That gets to the heart of it: traditional handicrafts that are practised in the present day.

Fire, Strength and Precision: The Work Process

Martin works with a sculpture plenty of times before it is finished. The iron is heated up to three times in the glowing furnace. The temperature in the oven can reach 1100°C. Then it is worked with various tools. For example, the spring hammer, which comes from the year 1926 and is a fearsome tool. It crashes down onto the iron with a full 80kg of force and I carefully stand well away. I also keep a safe distance as Martin demonstrates the plasma cutter. Sparks spray out in all directions! It looks wonderful and it is fascinating how detailed and exact the cuts made with it are.

Martin’s craft knows no boundaries: he makes everything from filigree sculptures to massive 3D eagles! The Tyrolean eagle is his favourite subject as it is also a symbol of love for his homeland.

His works are known way outside the borders of the Tyrol: Andreas Gabalier has a pair of leather breeches in iron and one of his Tyrolean eagles hangs over the fireplace of skier Lindsey Vonn’s parents in America. Martin is never short of ideas: with so much creativity it is difficult to find the time to bring them all to life. The visit to Martin Albrecht’s design smithy also fired up my own passion for the smith’s handicraft.

The Handicrafts Festival: Colourful Traditions and Impressive Crafts

It’s not only Karl-Josef Röck and Martin Albrecht who will be appearing at the Traditional Handicrafts Festival. The visitor can expect to see many talented and impressive craftspeople: mask makers; embroiderers; felt makers; glassblowers; saddlers; pine-oil distillers; hand stampers; gold workers and many more!

The bakers produce culinary delicacies from their wood ovens, along with specialities from grandmother’s cookbook. Folk singers and brass bands provide the appropriate musical background.

Tip: Don’t miss the historic tractor parade on Saturday: the oldest tractor comes from the year 1939! Sunday’s highlight is the procession of hundreds of participants in traditional dress from all parts of the Alps.

The Traditional Handicrafts Festival is an event that is inspirational, where traditions dating back centuries are demonstrated and celebrated. And, in this way, we keep them alive and pass them on to the next generation. Values and customs that are kept alive in the Olympiaregion Seefeld!


Fotos: Tessa Mellinger, Toni Hiltpolt, Mike Rabensteiner

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