Everybody who has been to Spitsbergen will have seen the immense volumes of driftwood that you can find on most beaches there. Most of it came from Siberia and drifted across the Arctic Ocean to Spitsbergen, just as Fridtof Nansen’s Fram did from 1893 to 1896. This is a journey that countless logs of driftwood do every year until today. A lot of it is actually coming from forestry in Siberia, where the logs are flooded down the large rivers. A lot is getting lost during this process.
Other driftwood comes from natural sources or any other kind of wood that is getting lost. Any of this can be the raw material for our Spitsbergen driftwood picture frames (except wood that is of historical value, such as parts of wrecks, as this is protected). In other words, it is a renewable resource – there is new driftwood coming every year.
Driftwood has been used as a semi-natural resource for many decades or actually centuries by trappers and others. They used it to heat their huts and sometimes also to build them or anything else they needed.
In the 1970s, there was even a saw mill in Hiorthhamn, opposite of Longyearbyen in Adventfjord, to produce building material from driftwood, but this did not turn out to be economical in the end.
I had carried the idea of picture frames from Spitsbergen driftwood around with me for some time. But the logistics are challenging and it took years from the idea to the first picture frame being made and available.
On my voyages around Spitsbergen I collect suitable pieces of driftwood when the opportunity arises and take them to Longyearbyen. There, they have to be stored for at least a year to dry properly before further processing. This is then done by master carpenter Wolfgang Zach who is living and working in Longyearbyen.
The idea was clearly to preserve the looks and atmosphere of the original driftwood that took the long journey across the Arctic Ocean. Cutting up driftwood may bring a surprise: outside, it appears very much weather-beaten and grey, but once sawn up, it looks actually fresh just like a piece of wood fresh from the building supplies centre. This was obviously not what we were looking for when we started making picture frames from Spitsbergen driftwood!
In the end, the picture frames took the long journey from Spitsbergen to Europe on SV Antigua after she had finished her season in the Arctic.
A long journey, from a forest in Siberia down a river like Lena or Yenisei, across the Arctic Ocean – possibly quite close to the North Pole – to an arctic coast somewhere in Spitsbergen, and from there to the workshop in Longyearbyen and finally to the Spitzbergen.de logistics centre in Germany not far from the Baltic Sea!
We started collecting the first pieces of driftwood in 2014 to experiment with some early designs, and the first 16 frames became available in 2017. They were sold out within a few days, so it was an easy decision to continue with the project and get another collection on the way.
The raw material for all picture frames is exclusively real Spitsbergen-driftwood, which found the way to the workshop in Longyearbyen and to our shipping department in Germany described as above. Collecting young driftwood that does not have any historical value is legal. A license is required for export, which we apply for every year from the Sysselmannen.
The driftwood for the 2018 picture frames was collected in 2017 in Grumantbyen in Isfjord (the 2018 collection was made on Waldenøya and in Reliktbukta – very promising materials, but they still need to dry some time).
This time we decided to produce picture frames in two sizes. The larger ones can be used with photo holders sized 50×60 cm, while the smaller ones have space for a picture holder sized 30×40 cm (the smaller ones are sold out!). We made 10 frames per size. The frames of the two versions have their respective size and design, but little variations occur naturally and sizes may vary by a few millimetres – they are unique, due to the natural raw material and the manual work involved in the craftsmanship. The back side is polished even, the front shows largely the original surface that was created by sea and ice, wind and weather, gravel and rocks. There is also a narrow stripe of polished wood on the front for contrast.
Scope of delivery
The delivery includes the picture frame without picture, glass or back board. Glass and back board are easily available in specialised shops. There is a lot of room for individual ideas when it comes to those parts, and shipping glass plates is obviously difficult, so we have decided to ship the driftwood frames without them. So you don’t pay for items that you may possibly not want to have.
Standard frameless picture holders can easily be set into the frames from the back side. The frameless picture holder is then fixed with small nails or screws (recommended) – so a little bit of manual work is required to install the picture of your choice, but that is easy and quickly done for example with a cordless screwdriver. Everything is prepared to the point where you just have to remove some screws, put the frameless picture holder in and then screw the screws back in again.
The driftwood picture frames come for 188.50 Euro (large frame) or 168.50 Euro (small frames - currently sold out!) including VAT if applicable depending on your country and shipping within Germany. Extra shipping costs apply for shipping to other countries.
Sizes and ordering
Outside: 60 x 70 cm
Inside (front; space for visible picture): 48 x 59 cm
Inside (back; space for frameless picture holder): 50 x 60 cm
Small frame (currently sold out):
Outside: 40 x 50 cm
Inside (front; space for visible picture): 28,5 x 39 cm
Inside (back; space for frameless picture holder): 30 x 40 cm
Germany – 20 Euro
EU – 30 Euro
Other countries – 40 Euro
Initially we had 10 frames per version (small and large) – available while stocks last. The small ones are sold out.