“I don’t think you ever forget your first sight of Holmen. It’s seared into my memory and is clearly just one of the most breathtaking places on the planet.
The Lofoten Islands are a long way from anywhere and being invited to gather up my tools and head to the Arctic Circle to teach traditional blacksmithing skills was an opportunity not to be missed. I have practiced my trade in some pretty extreme places (including the outback of Australia and the mountains of northern Spain) but nothing has compared to forging at Holmen.
The first mission was to actually get all the equipment out to Norway – a logistical feat in itself. I had been buying up tools for the previous three months before shipping, including getting hold of two beautiful old Peter Wright London pattern anvils. These are classic pieces that I thought would be proud to find a new home over the sea but they are also very heavy. It turns out it’s quite unusual to ship blacksmithing equipment to the Lofoten Islands but after a mountain of paperwork, hours of phone calls and some liberal use of export legislation all the gear was dispatched, only to disappear! “Somewhere in the Norwegian Sea” is still, to this day, one of the best answers I’ve had to the question of where a missing pallet is. It’s a big place, the Norwegian Sea, so having arrived at Holmen to set up the new workshop and waited three days with no word of where all the tools were this was somewhat unnerving.
That said those three days waiting really were extremely enjoyable – there are far worse places to be than in a stunning hotel at the edge of the world with two world class chefs, a skilful mixologist and a fellow knife maker. Swirling snow, raging seas and long hours of darkness all being smoothed by cocktails, fishing trips and long… long dinners. To my great relief the pallet arrived eventually from the UK and we were able to set up the new workshop. This is now housed in an old fishing shed that sits on stilts over the shore in front of the restaurant.
Holmen is not only the most remote place that I’ve worked but also one of the most unique – with the snow covered mountains looming in the background and the sound of the tide rising under the floorboards it makes a wonderful experience. To be able to show guests how to forge knives using the traditional skills in a setting like this is special, not only for them but for me as well. Blacksmithing is as much about harnessing the elements as it is about creating beautiful objects – at Holmen they do the same. From the sea and the land, with wind and fire Kitchen On The Edge Of The World serves up delights unlike any other.”
Written by Alex Pole