New scholarship in memory of Nelson craftsman

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Thorkild Hansen, son of the famous Nelson goldsmith Jens Hansen, is remembered as an intelligent, creative craftsman and a devoted father.

Dan Allen

Thorkild Hansen, son of the famous Nelson goldsmith Jens Hansen, is remembered as an intelligent, creative craftsman and a devoted father.

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A new scholarship will be created at the Nelson Center for Fine Woodworking in memory of one of its teachers, craftsman Thorkild Hansen, who passed away over the weekend.

Son of the famous silversmith Nelson Jens Hansen, Hansen is remembered as a brilliant jeweler, woodworker, artist and craftsman, and as a man who inspired others by ardently embracing his passion.

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Hansen, 52, followed his late father into the silversmithing and jewelry profession until he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable asbestos-related cancer, in 2005.

Hansen said before things He is believed to have contracted mesothelioma from working as a trainee goldsmith at the family business in the early 1980s when there was asbestos in the workshop.

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After embarking on cancer treatment, in 2007 Hansen started carpentry and did some training at the New Zealand Center for Fine Woodworking in Wakapwaka. Making furniture was one of the things he always wanted to do, and he was so talented that he continued to teach at the centre.

Helen Geary, director of the Center for Fine Woodworking, said she has become good friends with Hansen, who has been a big part of the center for the past 14 years. Without his input, she said, the school would not have survived and thrived.

Brothers Thorkild Hansen, left and Halfdan Hansen in Jens Hansen jewelry in Nelson, with a large-scale model of the ring from The Lord of the Rings.

Martin de Reuter

Brothers Thorkild Hansen, left and Halfdan Hansen in Jens Hansen jewelry in Nelson, with a large-scale model of the ring from The Lord of the Rings.

Hansen has studied on a range of short courses and full-time furniture makers’ programmes.

“The skills he gained from making jewelry made the transition very easy for him,” Jerry said.

She said the students in his short courses went with a beautifully designed wooden block.

“He was very clever that way. People would take it home and show it.”

As a not-for-profit organization, Jerry said, the center has had its ups and downs over the years, but Hansen had a great passion for woodworking and was such a natural teacher that his support for the center has been steadfast.

“Thorkild is stuck with us through thick and thin,” she said. “That’s what he wanted to do, is to share his knowledge and skills.

“Everything he did, he did with passion and the best that he could,” Jerry said. “As a teacher, he really instilled that, going forward and being the best you can be and how fulfilling and fun it gives you.”

She said Hansen died at home on Saturday surrounded by his family after a “long and brave struggle” with mesothelioma, and that the thoughts of the center’s staff were with his wife, Miriam and their children.

Martin de Ruyter / The Stuff

Brothers Thorkild and Halfdan Hansen of Jens Hansen Jewelry in Nelson talk about their family business in this 2018 video.

In memory of Hansen, the center was establishing a grant in his name for a place in an intensive beginner carpentry program, which was Hansen’s “baby.” The grant, which will start next year, will go to someone under the age of 25 from the upper South Island.

Jerry said that prior to Hansen’s death I discussed with him the establishment of the scholarship as a way to honor him.

Besides jewelry and woodwork, Hansen has been involved in the Nelson community in several other ways, including The Boathouse. He was a life member of the FC Nelson football club.

Miriam Hansen said her husband was smart, creative, could make or fix just about anything, and was a devoted father.

The Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce also praised Hansen in a Facebook post, saying he is a “creative force at the center of the arts industry in New Zealand, a maker of beautiful things and an excellent human being in all respects” missed by many.

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