Crafting a Better Future


Photo by Heidi Zilmer


Photo by Heidi Zilmer


Photo by Heidi Zilmer


Photo by Heidi Zilmer


Photo by Heidi Zilmer


Photo by Heidi Zilmer


Photo by Heidi Zilmer


Photo by Heidi Zilmer


Encouraging young adults to thrive and find success in life isn’t a simple task to take on – Despite this, craftsman and designer Heidi Zilmer is doing exactly that, right now, in Greenland with “Project Sanasa.”

Design, craftsmanship and art can be a method to understand processes and behaviours; it can be an eye opener and a way finder for young adults to establish themselves in our world today. And this is what the Sanasa project is all about.

Sanasa is Greenlandic for “let’s create something together” and is a social project that aims to teach the craft skills of painting to young adults and to encourage them to choose a creative way in life. The initiator is Heidi Zilmer, trained craftsman and designer. The project is funded by the municipality of Kujalleq and Oak Foundation Denmark with support from a vast variety of sponsors.

“I’m teaching a skill that none of the participants have had any experience with before. Everyone is on an equal level, which means they can learn a new skill in communion with each other. In this way, creativity flourishes,” says Heidi Zilmer.

Photo by Heidi Zilmer

Heidi Zilmer and her team of young adults are painting and decorating a community house with different painting techniques, to make the grey concrete look like a brick house with notes, insects and pieces of paper hanging on the wall. On top of the brick painting, every participant is painting a dark silhouette of their face on a hand-painted piece of “paper” with a 3D painted piece of tape and shadows to create an illusion.

The painting techniques require a perception of three-dimensional space and special painting skills that Heidi is teaching her students as they work along. And also, not to forget, good old hard manual labour, like washing, priming and building a scaffolding.

“While painting in 3D requires a steady hand and precision, a lot of the surrounding work demands discipline and physical strength, which is a great thing for the students to learn,” says Heidi Zilmer.

A Better Future
There are a lot of reasons why and how you could or should contribute to the creative growth of other people. You don’t have to be a big corporation to do a little bit of CSR. The smallest things can lead to the biggest changes. Which is one of the reasons why Heidi Zilmer initiated the Sanasa project.

“One of my students is a true artist. He was tasked with painting the butterflies that decorate the brick wall and benches, and he has created them to perfection. Maybe he has found a new creative resource in his life, and maybe this will lead him to become an artist – This maybe, is why I devote all my effort into these kinds of projects,” says Heidi Zilmer.

Photo by Heidi Zilmer

Young Adults
The Sanasa project focuses on young adults that haven’t had the easiest start in adult life but who are still resourceful and focused young adults. They learn to respect each other in these projects, where everyone’s skill is equal. The project is meant to inspire and encourage them to concider a craft education, and supply Greenland with craftsman skills that are needed all over the country.
“If you want to attract the attention and interest of someone, you have to show them how creative skills are used in a real project, rather than just telling them about it in a classroom. So, if you want to teach young adults about creating wall art and paint in 3D, you should instruct them on how to, and then let them do it themselves. Of course, they might make mistakes while doing it, but that is just a natural part of the learning process,” says Heidi Zilmer

Photo by Heidi Zilmer

Greenlandic Roots
Giving something back to the community isn’t new to Heidi Zilmer. She has been a craft teacher for 16 years and has helped many communities with different projects all over the country. Also from her own workshop in Odder, Denmark, she has been working for a long time to keep old painting and crafting techniques alive. But when she discovered her own Greenlandic roots only ten years ago, she realised how much more there was to learn and now the communities are teaching her.

“Although I love painting and teaching my craft, and also the fact that I’m contributing to the life of the community, I’m also being taught many new things by the Greenlandic culture in these communities – a culture I discovered was a part me only ten years ago. Therefore, I am gaining so much back in return, just by being here, getting to know my family, and learning and experiencing more about my own roots,” says Heidi Zilmer

If you would like to know more about Heidi Zilmer and her company Zilmers, please read her company profile here.

Companies mentioned in this article

The goal of DANISH™ is to promote Danish architecture and design in a broad perspective, and demonstrate all the potentials in these fields.

Read our story