Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Following the Thread: Swedish hand-weaving traditions and Contemporary textiles, part 2

I've been meaning to make my second blog post about my Swedish textile adventures for a while now.  No excuse other than daily life seems to take most of my time with school house renovations underway.  I will be giving a public talk about my Swedish hand-weaving research called Following the Thread: Swedish Hand-weaving Traditions and Contemporary Textiles at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery on Sunday Dec. 16th at 2pm in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island...if you are able, please come!

              (above: detail from a 15th century royal tapestry taken for my father, a beekeeper)

To start off where I finished in Part 1, my first week in Sweden was spent in Stockholm.  This gave me a chance to visit the major museums of the country and see how hand-weaving and textiles are represented in exhibitions and collections. I visited the National Museum in Stockhom, directly across the water from the Swedish Royal Palace. I was very impressed with the quantity and quality of textiles in the museum:  they were a strong presence in both the temporary and permanent exhibitions and exhibited easily alongside design and fine art.  The range of textiles was quite impressive as well:  historic tapestries from the 15th Century, textile design from the 1900s - 2000, and contemporary textile art.

Just like with the exhibition "Vav/Weave" at the Nordic Museum, I was lucky in the timing of my visit to the National Museum.  An exhibition entitled "Slow Art" highlighted a tendency in contemporary art practice to embrace slow, process-based methods of art-making - perhaps as a reaction to the high-speed of today's world.  The exhibition featured a selection of Swedish-based artists, each using what could be called craft-based materials and work methods.  There were four hand-weavers represented in the exhibition, plus a few embroidery-based works - including the life-sized clawfoot bathtub embroidered on organza (above) by Helen Dahlman entitled "Sanitary Furniture" (2012).

This handwoven rug above and detail below is by Malou Andersson, entitled "Tracks" (2008), 150cm x 105cm and was part of the "Slow Art" exhibition at the National Museum.  It is a short pile rug depicting tracks in the dirty winter slush and snow.  This piece of Swedish textile art is a good example of a contemporary approach to textile art in Sweden: using a traditional rug-weaving technique to depict an interpretation of photo-based imagery in a limited colour palette.  Andersson dyed all the wool herself, over-dyeing natural shades of white, light grey and dark grey wool.

The large tapestry above with the sheep detail below is by Swedish tapestry artist Annika Ekdahl, entitled "Road Movie: Visiting Mom" (2010).  It measures 227 cm x 297 cm and was impressively enormous when I viewed it in the museum.  Annika Ekdahl weaves one square metre per month and her tapestries are meticulously planned.  She dyes all the wool herself in small batches, creating subtle variations in colour and a rich palette.  I especially like the detail of the sheep...

This double ikat wall hanging is by Irene Agbaje, entitled "Binary" (1990), and measures 212cm x 144cm.  Hand-woven from cotton, both the warp and weft threads are dyed prior to weaving and the pattern is then created during the weaving process as warp and weft intersect.

I have always appreciated the fuzzy, static-like edges of ikat.  I use ikat in my own work and am never meticulous enough to have perfect ikat colour edges, and I love the effect of "messy" ikat: the shifting of the dyed threads looking like a directional coloured pencil drawing.

During my visit to Stockholm's National Museum, I also took in the exhibition "Design 19002000" which focused on Swedish design across all the materials (textiles, wood, glass, metal, ceramics, furniture, product design).  I discovered these wonderful damask weavings (above) from the early 1900s.  I love the use of imagery and simple pattern weaves and they reminded me of some of the effects created by my own inlay work.

 Innovative textile design extended to the use of weaving techniques in furniture design.  The lounge chair pictured above is made from a wooden frame and bands of woven jute which are then woven together to create the seat and back of the chair.  Variations of this chair design were everywhere in Sweden and I really appreciated the integration of woven aesthetics into the design of everyday objects.

Another chair in the "Design 19002000" exhibition using woven ikat cloth for upholstery.  This sensibility to high quality materials referencing hand-woven techniques was such a pleasure to witness. Simple white ikat dashes in indigo blue....

The woven art tapestry/rug above was one of my favourite pieces I had the opportunity to see while in Sweden.  Woven by the Marta Mass-Fjetterstrom (MMF) weaving studio in Bastad in the first half of the 20th century, this piece exemplifies the style and loveliness of the art rugs woven by the MMF studio...the stylization of natural forms into patterns referencing woven patterns, a symmetry that is not quite perfect and the richness of subtle variations and mixtures of colours.  I had the chance to visit the MMF studio in the south of Sweden on a rainy Friday afternoon in September and I will devote a whole blog post to the subject in the future....

This tapestry above depicts the football player Bubba Smith.  Woven in 1969 by famous Swedish textile artist Helena Hernmarck (known for her giant photo-realistic tapestries, now living in the US), she uses a mix of tapestry techniques, inlay techniques, and a variety of different textures of yarn to build the imagery.  I really like the use of tapestry to depict what is perceived as such a macho sport.

The tapestry above was designed by Barbro Sprinchorn in 1966 and woven by the Marta Mass-Fjetterstrom weaving studio I mentioned earlier.  Interesting to see the MMF designs getting a little looser and impressionistic.

A little out of focus, and so bright, the detail above is from a larger weaving entitled "Rosornas gang" by Margareta Hallek in 1983.  I really like the use of woven pattern (rosepath) used as part of a tapestry.  The depth and texture is very dynamic and gives an interesting push and pull between foreground and background.

I promise less time will pass between this and my next installment about my Swedish textile odyssey!  Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

support a P.E.I artisan

When I found out I had been chosen as the recipient of the 2012 W.B. Bruce European Fine Art Travel Scholarship, I felt pretty darn lucky.  The chance to travel Sweden and research a subject I am crazy about - hand-weaving.  I did receive a nice chunk of change from the Brucebo Foundation to complete my travels and research, but traveling is expensive. Staying in hostels, buying supermarket groceries to make my own meals, traveling as much as possible by public transit...even when traveling on a budget, these things add up when one is traveling for five plus weeks.

So, I sought out some supplementary funding. I applied for a Professional Development Grant from the Prince Edward Island Craft Council and I was successful.  This extra bit of money helped me make the most of my incredible opportunity.  And now I am back home on PEI, with a wealth of experience and exposure to Swedish textiles to share with the arts/craft community here.  And research that will influence my weaving practice for years to come. 

(My most recent weaving since returning from Sweden:  a small run of cotton and linen tea/hand towels...definitely influenced by all the incredible table linens I saw in Sweden)

The P.E.I Craft Council just launched an Indigogo campaign as a fundraiser for their Professional Development Fund.  The money raised will go directly to Island artisans who are seeking to improve their skill set and expose themselves to greater challenges within their given discipline.  This could mean attending workshops, traveling to mount an exhibition, or supplement a research project like my own.  As one of the most recent recipients of the PEICC Professional Development Grant, I was asked to lend a hand by appearing in the short mini doc produced by film-maker Rachael Hicken and talking about my experience and the value of this funding for Island craftspeople and on the link below to take a look and if you would like to donate, you have a chance to contribute to the further education and development of our rich pool of Island talent.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Following the Thread: Swedish Handweaving..rya front and back

I've been meaning to get back to my blog and keep the Swedish handweaving story going....and I will!  A full post about my visit to the National Museum in Stockholm will be written tomorrow.  In the meantime, out of my many many photos I have from my research and travels, I realized there were more than a few of them that didn't make it into my last post about the Nordic Museum.  So, I decided to post a few of them today from the Nordic Museum's Vav/Weave exhibition.

Rya, or what we call pile or shag weaving, is very popular in Sweden.  Wool and rags are used for the pile to create a lush, warm textile.  What I found fascinating about rya weavings was the contrast between the front and back of the textile.  The front was the rya shag, full of texture and colour and dimension, while the back is like a map to how the cloth was constructed.   The image below is the back of the rya weaving you see above.  It is like a code where what appear to be subtle accents of colour are actually explosions of colour when the textile is viewed from the front (ie. the diagonal orange stripes seen on the rya side).

This rya textile in white and red was one of my favourites in the Vav/Weave exhibit.  I liked the simplicity of the colours and the almost-but-not-quite orderly arrangement of the red spots.  Below is the back of the textile where the red rya pattern becomes a series of horizontal dashes.

Both of the these textiles are examples of contemporary handweaving in Sweden influenced by traditional techniques.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

following the thread: Swedish Handweaving Traditions and Contemporary Textiles, part:1

Well, I am back home on little Prince Edward Island.  I arrived in Halifax last Monday morning after more than five weeks of traveling and research in Sweden as the recipient of the Brucebo European Fine Art Travel Scholarship.  Damien joined me in Stockholm in early October and we traveled to Gotland island in Sweden (in the Baltic Sea) and then to Norway.  I have an incredible amount of photographs.  I saw beautiful handwoven Swedish textiles and witnessed a vibrant textile culture where art, craft and design are integrated and fluid.  I learned a lot and am inspired to let the experience influence my weaving practice....

Over the next few weeks, I would like to share my photographs and my research on my blog.  I meant to do this while I was traveling, but I couldn't figure out how to blog using my iPad.  So, now that I am back, I will present my Swedish textile adventure chronologically, starting with my arrival in Stockholm, with a central focus on Swedish hand-weaving traditions and contemporary textiles.  I would like to thank the generous support of the Brucebo Foundation of Sweden and the Craft Council of Prince Edward Island in funding this research project.

On September 14, I arrived in Stockholm.  My first six days in Sweden were spent visiting the National Museum, the Nordic Museum, Konstfack University College of Art, a 19th Century silk mill, and many shops.  With perfect timing, the Nordic Museum (above, Nordiska Museet, it looked like a castle, but was built to house this museum) on the city island of Djurgarden was showing a large exhibition called "Vav/Weave" with an emphasis on traditional Swedish handweaving and its influence on contemporary weaving within the culture.  I visited this exhibit twice, once as a preview, and again a couple of days later when I had a meeting with the curators of the exhibition (Anna-Karin Amberg), as well as a booking to weave on one of the ten looms set up in the exhibition.

The exhibition was set up using these house frames, referencing the domestic place of historic textile production within Sweden.  I thought this was a fantastic way to present the themes of the exhibition as well as the work itself.  The two smaller "houses" running parallel to each other housed the ten looms which were each set up with a traditional Swedish pattern or technique.  Visitors could book a loom to try their hand at weaving, and even take their weaving home with them by cutting it off the loom when finished.  There was a studio coordinator who was there at all times to assist anyone who was weaving and make sure everything was running smoothly (her name was Linnea).

There were examples of both historical weaving from the museum's collection, and contemporary weaving inspired by traditional techniques, patterns and colours.  The weaving above is contemporary, woven using patterns and colours reflected in the the historical weavings on display.

These weavings with a white plain weave background and blue and red patterning were historically used to decorate the festivity room in the home.  Like a lot of Swedish weaving, the warp was generally linen while the coloured weft was wool.  Blue and red were colours that indicated wealth, having blue or red present in your hand-woven textiles meant that you could afford to purchase dyes or dyed yarns that came from far away (blue and red dyes are generally not found in local natural dyes and needed to be imported).

Rya weavings with their shag pile were everywhere and very strong in both historical and contemporary weaving.  Originally meant to keep fishermen warm on the boats without stiffening up when wet like sheepskin or other animal furs, the rya weaving evolved into a bed cover (with the pile on the inside for warmth), and then as a wall hanging to insulate and decorate, and lastly, as a rug to use on the floor as wooden floors started to become common in Sweden beginning in 1840.  Today in Sweden, rya is mostly used in rugs, handging textile art, and cushions.

Most looms in Sweden are made in Sweden by A. K. Snickeriverkstad Oxaback.  They are mostly a variation of counterbalance, with the harnesses hanging as in the the photo above (different system than Canadian Leclerc counterbalance looms).  There are also many countermarche looms, but again, set up a little differently than North American countermarche systems.

The red and white weaving above was what I wove in the exhibition.  I got to weave for about 4 hours, just enough time to weave this Rosepath pattern in fine wool weft and a linen warp.

 Historic ikat weaving from Nordic Museum's collection.

 Contemporary Swedish weaving in traditional patterns.

One of the pieces by a student of HV Skola, Sweden oldest weaving school.  I really like how the pattern has been reduced to white texture, and then a composition emerges by highlighting select rectangles in orange/yellow....a nice twist.

From the Museum's historic collection. Lots of red, lots of rich, saturated colours.  Lots of variations of diamonds or bird's eye.

Below you can see a historic example of Rolaken technique, a type of tapestry weaving used mostly as bench covers or cushion covers.

Simple twill in linen above.  I really appreciated the simplicity of design and quality of materials that resulted in humble but sophisticated cloth.

 Above: a variation of rosepath in lovely colours.  Linen warp and fine wool weft.

 Variation of bird's eye with stripe compositions, from Museum's historic collection.

Double weave in striking, high contract colours...pretty sure it is linen warp with wool weft (historic collection).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Off I go!

Tonight, I fly out of Halifax headed to Sweden.  I've got a brief stopover early in the morning in Iceland, and then on to Stockholm.  I'm planning on documenting my travels and research on my blog so stay tuned!  I just need to figure out how to upload photos to my blog from my iPad.....

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Well, I made it to the end of the summer.  I finished work at Green Gables yesterday and head to Sweden two weeks from tomorrow by way of Iceland.  Each day for the next two weeks will have it's own "to do" list as I work out all the logistics and finish booking my accommodations and train pass.  I am so excited and the whole adventure is starting to feel real.  And having two weeks for final prep is perfect - and what a luxury not have to do it all around my work schedule.

In the meantime, I thought I would post some photos of Charlottetown's second annual Art in the Open festival which happened this pas Saturday.  A magical day and night of outdoor art all over the downtown parks.  This event makes me love my city and the whole experience is inspiring, thought-provoking and kinda euphoric....I was much too busy to have a project in the festival this year, but I helped Damien with a series of signal flags installed in Victoria Park.

 Sarah Saunders' Cryosphere.

 Kelly Casely and Matt Bowness' balloon people.

 And two of Damien's 18 signal flags.

These photos only demonstrate a fraction of Art in the Open's awesomeness this year....there was so much more!!  Giant spiderweb!  Real sheep with LED lights!  A bed in the woods!  And so much more......

Friday, July 27, 2012

end of july

I can't believe how the summer is flying by.  In a month and a half, I will be in Sweden.  I've got my itinerary nailed down, as well as accomodations, and am now working on contacting the places I would like to visit for researching.  My Swedish textile oddyssey will take me to seven or eight towns and cities across Sweden, ending on the island of Gotland where I will give a public lecture to the Brucebo Foundation about my's starting to feel very real and I am so excited about this incredible adventure.

Working full-time, planning my trip to Sweden and working on the school house hasn't left a lot of time for weaving. But, I have had a chance to sew a baby blanket out of handwoven cloth I wove at the Weaver's Guild studio (in the spring) and red cotton flannel.  It will be for a friend who is about to have her first baby.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a hammock on-line.  A wide, woven, cotton hammock for the school house.  Even if there is still so much work to do, I can always take a break from it all, lay in my hammock and look up at the poplars....

Friday, June 29, 2012

school house days

 Before Damien ripped own all of the fake wood paneling (painted white).  Wood wainscoting painted turquoise green underneath....

.... As well as evidence of two large windows on the south eastside of the building.

 Seven giant windows on one side, painted orange and blue.

Horizontal bands of six different colours of paint.  Maybe where the chalkboard used to be?

 Seven large windows looking south-west.

 Entryway with door to kitchen area, stairs and back door.  Front door behind me in mirror.

 Dusk on the front stoop.

 Morning from the front stoop.

 Back of house with second floor deck.  The fire pit I built last weekend.


 Beautiful stand of birch leading to path through the woods.

 Big planters I found in the basement.

Halliday beach.  So close to the school house (15-20 minute walk), huge red cliffs, big sandstone slabs worn smooth on the beach.  Friday morning with Mille.  The strawberry u-pick wasn't open yet for the season, so we explored the shore....I had never been here before, and Mille only a few times!!  I am so excited that this little part of PEI will be my neighborhood over the years to come.