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).