Farm Handcrafts in Ulten
Fam. Erhard Paris
39016 Ulten / St. NikolausUlten / St. Nikolaus
- baskets of all shapes and sizes
- decorative items
- wickerwork with wool
- wooden jewellery
Oberhof farm lies above the village of St. Nikolaus in the valley of Ultental, not far from St. Moritz chapel, the oldest Gothic hilltop church in the valley, and close to Schwemmalm skiing and hiking area. 16 Tyrolean ‘Grauvieh’ cattle are kept in the stable of this organic farm specializing in meat production. It is here, at 1,400 metres above sea level, that Erhard Paris has breathed new life into the ancient craft of wickerwork and set up a workshop, his ‘Ultner Flechtwerkstatt’, in the stable of Oberhof farm. As an expert in the field, he holds courses and talks.
Working with natural materials has fascinated Erhard Paris from an early age and as a child he used to find all the things he needed in the woods and meadows around the family farm. He then gathered the requisite know-how in his years of training as a weaver, wood turner and wood carver. “That was when the passion for wickerwork took hold of me and never let go”, recalls the farmer. In front of his workshop, piles of rods and twigs wait to be woven. “I like experimenting with various materials and forms”, stresses the creative agriculturalist. His goal is to develop something unique that has never been created before in this form. What he particularly likes about wicker objects is their “light, porous aspect and the fact that they allow me to be so versatile”.
The basic material for his wicker works of art is willow, but he also makes use of other things, and the young farmer brings hazel, larch and birch twigs back from his forays into his woods. Once in the workshop again, he prepares these for weaving. He scarifies the hazel canes with a sharp knife, bends them over his knee and skillfully breaks out long slips of uniform thickness. “You need a lot of time, patience and dexterity”, Paris explains, as he separates the twigs from the bark with well- rehearsed cuts. Then he has to position the ‘ribs’, the basic structure of wickerwork, and his nimble fingers wind the slips around them, twig by twig. If these are dry, they have to be softened in boiling water beforehand to make them more pliable.
The farmer’s varied product range shows off the unlimited possibilities of wickerwork. Perfectly formed baskets in all shapes and sizes are stacked up in his workshop alongside decorative wicker items such as saucers, lanterns, plant pots, lamps and lots more. The art of wickerwork goes back over 2000 years. The artisan is convinced that “the ancient techniques passed down through generations, combined with new ideas, result in eye-catching objects for home and garden”. The beauty of each intricate wicker object lies in the detail. Only when wicker workers possess sufficient staying power and experience can tiny mistakes be avoided. This is also the case for working with wool, the farmer’s latest passion. He likes using wool from mountain sheep in Ultental and combines this with wood to turn out unique items.
Take the ‘Meran Süd’ exit from the Meran-Bozen dual carriageway (for Lana industrial estate). Carry on towards Lana and ‘Ultental‘ and follow the road to Ultental as far as St. Nikolaus. Turn off for St. Moritz in the centre of the village and follow the road about four kilometres up the hill. Oberhof farm is on the right-hand side beneath the road.