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Simon in Sibratsgfäll

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Simon in Sibratsgfäll

Simon Hofer is no stranger to the European scene. His wife, the artist Ronja Svaneborg, also works in Copenhagen. And yet the pair make their home in an idyllic town in Bregenzerwald.

Though originally from Lustenau, Simon Hofer learned his craft in Glasgow, Berlin and Copenhagen. After many years away, however, these cities couldn’t compete with the idyllic nature of home. Simon now lives with his partner, artist Ronja Svaneborg and his two sons, Oskar and Carlo, in Sibratsgfäll. Here Simon practices his woodworking craft: Like music, it is his passion.

It was music that originally drew Simon to Scotland after completing school. The vibrant music scene there was attractive to the young rocker for obvious reason, so he packed his bags and went.As a sociable, open person and a fantastic drummer, he quickly met new people in the Glasgow scene. In no time, he befriended not only numerous other musicians, but also his partner Ronja. He also joined a new band with whom he later signed a record contract. Having experienced his first taste of success, he could easily have become a musician and

yet from an early age, Simon was fascinated by any and everything wood related: carving, building model figures… he was happy as long as he was working with wood. So it was that after a few years in Scotland, his passion for woodworking was reignited when he discovered a Social Enterprise called GalGael. This social group was devoted to the retention and handing-down of old craftsmanship methods such as traditional boat making in particular. In the four years that followed, Simon collaborated with the group, learning to build and refurbish boats. He also created furniture, sculptures and half-timbered houses on the side.When Ronja became pregnant, the pair made the decision to raise the child closer to home as opposed to in Scotland. Because she was originally from Denmark and he from Lustenau, they decided to split the difference and try Berlin. Simon quickly found work in a restoration company where he worked for many months on restoring a Baroque stairwell entrance.

Simon liked life in the big city and yet working sixty hours a week for little pay and enduring the general pressures of the job market proved to be too difficult for the young family. Berlin was just the intermission: Next up was a move to Ronja’s home in Copenhagen. This move allowed Simon to pursue his interests in boat building once more. He soon found a job at the largest rowing club in Denmark, which had a workshop directly on the ocean but no trained boat builder had worked there for quite some time. The city seemed to be the perfect fit for the family.For four years, Simon worked at the Danske Studenters Roklub in Svanemøllen Bay. His main task was building boats and repairing two, four and six-person rowboats made from wood. During this time, he also met other artists, furniture designers and craftspeople. And thanks to his artist wife, Ronja, Simon gained access to Copenhagen’s designer scene. One thing led to another, and he once again became engrossed in furniture building and created prototypes and special edition pieces for artists and designers in addition to boat crafting.

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In order to deepen his interdisciplinary collaboration and to offer a platform for other craftspeople and artists, Simon founded the LIM exhibition series. LIM acted like a glue to connect different people and their work across various disciplines.Together, a network of designers, architects, boat builders, printers, visual artists and even a gold smith turned LIM into a successful project.

In the meantime, Simon, Ronja and the kids have been living in Sibratsgfäll for about two years. For Simon, it was clear that he wished to one day live in Bregenzerwald, where during his childhood he spent time in Schönenbach fishing with his father and enjoying time outdoors in nature. The choice of where to live ultimately boiled down to Sibratsgfäll, where they found the real estate to be attractive. Today, Simon works as a carpenter and the interdisciplinary skills that he learned whilst in Denmark still serve him well today, so much so that he feels truly comfortable at the meeting point of craftsmanship and art. Using traditional methods to put his ideas into practice, finding and offering solutions, these are the hallmarks of Simon Hofer. Naturally, his portfolio is just as diverse as his lifestyle. He’s crafted a roof truss in the middle of the Rhine river as an art installation for Ronja Svaneborg with the same skills needed to make beds, nightstands and other objects for everyday use. In doing so, he emphasises the aesthetics of objects in equal measure to their practical use.Simon wishes to further develop his skills in this regard: to create furniture, prototypes and special editions for carpenters and other companies. But more than anything, Simon enjoys putting his ideas and visions into practice.

Simon would also like to offer a platform within Bregenzerwald similar to LIM, which he founded in Denmark, to make interdisciplinary exchange easier. Naturally, he hasn’t given up boat building either. Simon has already put feelers out in Lake Constance, where he would like to build and restore boats once more.Most importantly, he would like to share the knowledge he gained form living in Scotland and Denmark with others. In Bregenzerwald, he could imagine to build kayaks. Having a larger workshop wouldn’t be bad either and what Sibratsgfäll lacks in water it more than makes up for in timber.

Author: Bartholomäus Natter