The picturesque town of Middelfart is home to the largest Nordic ceramics museum, CLAY Museum of Ceramic Art Denmark, which houses a collection of Danish and international pieces. In addition to visiting permanent exhibits inside the museum, you can venture outside on a curated tour around town and its scenic surroundings, combining local nature and culture with a collection of wonderful works of ceramic art.

The Ceramics Trail (Keramikruten) premiered in 2021. “The vision was always something that could develop and grow over the years,” says Pia Wirnfeldt, museum director. The trail is Wirnfeldt’s brainchild, and the idea has been brewing for some time. With her team at CLAY, she put a proposal together in 2018 and approached the local council in Middelfart. “From the outset, we had two intentions,” she explains. “We wanted to activate ceramic art as an element of beauty and identity outside the walls of CLAY, and to introduce Middelfart and the beautiful nature here.” However, like with many other initiatives, the pandemic delayed the plans.

CLAY Museum of Ceramic Art Denmark: The Ceramics Trail: a beautiful collaboration between art and nature

The sculpture in the forefront is Morten Løbner Espersen’s Magma. Photo: Ole Akhøj

“It gave us time to develop the idea further and to combine it with how we talk about and respond to climate change,” Wirnfeldt remembers. She realised that as well as enhancing visitors’ experience of nature, storytelling, and ceramic arts, they could also raise awareness of the effects of climate change on the local landscape. It turns out that clay is a great medium with which to approach looking at climate change and the impact of rising sea levels, and Middelfart is an ideal place for this, surrounded by water on three sides. “There’s a real and symbolic link between the medium of clay, the issues and challenges of rising sea levels and Middelfart,” she means. “Think about clay and water, and think about the key elements of ceramics.”

CLAY Museum of Ceramic Art Denmark: The Ceramics Trail: a beautiful collaboration between art and nature

Ingrid Askeland, Delirium DK. Photo: Ole Akhøj

Clay-findings instead of way-findings

The 2.3 km Ceramics Trail takes you on a scenic route which loops around the museum, continues along the water and through the pedestrianised area of Middelfart’s historic centre, and past the old church. There are currently 22 sculptures along the trail, presented by renowned author and ceramicist Peder Rasmussen, who with his trademark wit and experience talks you through each piece along the route.

During the process, the idea of clay-finding came up instead of way-finding, as a way of guiding visitors along the trail, using handmade tiles and colours instead of maps. CLAY worked closely with Tommerup Keramiske Værksted (Tommerup Ceramic Workcenter), which created the beautiful tiles for the trail, enabling you to walk or skip from stone to stone along the route. The distinctive tiles and stones were added in 2022, with shades of blues and greens fitting in with the natural environment.

CLAY Museum of Ceramic Art Denmark: The Ceramics Trail: a beautiful collaboration between art and nature

Betty Engholm, untitled, one sculpture from a larger sculpture group. Photo: Ole Akhøj

An all-round synergetic experience

To pick out the right spot and context for each piece takes time and thought. The process is a dialogue between the artists, CLAY’s ceramics experts and the local council, and together they decide where to place the sculptures. “For new additions to the trail, we always ask the artist, who in turn considers the local community, the immediate surroundings and its people,” Wirnfeldt adds. It goes without saying that the high quality of the ceramic sculptures and the artistic ambition behind every piece is crucial. Each artist works closely with the community and the surroundings, and the balance and understanding between the artists and the locals is a fundamental part of the process.

CLAY Museum of Ceramic Art Denmark: The Ceramics Trail: a beautiful collaboration between art and nature

Gunhild Rudjord, Krukke (Vase). Photo: Ole Akhøj

The local community continues to encourage and benefit from the Ceramics Trail, and its involvement and support are vital to its continued success and growth. This is bringing to life a vision that relies on a strong and positive working relationship between CLAY, the local council, and the people of Middelfart. Another central aspect of the project is the purpose of bringing art into the public space, making the experience of ceramic art more accessible and inclusive, and breaking down preconceptions and boundaries. Wirnfeldt explains; “the Ceramics Trail is an all-round synergetic experience.”

There are many good reasons to go to Middelfart, and a visit to CLAY and a stroll along the Ceramics Trail is a great place to start. “It’s wonderful to experience people’s reactions and responses to the Ceramics Trail, to witness their joy,” the founder concludes. And this is ultimately what CLAY sets out to do; increase people’s engagement with ceramics and awareness of climate change, through a unique experience of wonderful art and breathtaking nature.

CLAY Museum of Ceramic Art Denmark: The Ceramics Trail: a beautiful collaboration between art and nature

American artist MattWedel, Flower Tree. Photo: Ole Akhøj
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