A NEW GENERATION
OF TEXTILE DESIGNERS
A new generation of Scandinavian textile designers and artists are reviving the ancient craft traditions. Their new expressions and techniques are questioning their surroundings and at the same time demonstrating visual beauty. We spoke to four of them catching our attention – from bridging the physical and the non-physical with her weaving, reviving Argentinian craft in her tapestries, to allowing the process decide her sculptural embroidery, and letting nature’s rhythms and cycles inspire a series of textile wall pieces
WORDS Jonna Dagliden Hunt
PHOTOGRAPHY Daniela Ferro, Theo Rosengren, Brian Burchard and Jonas
Mirjam Hemström researches macro and micro spatial features in pattern through rope making and dimensional hand weaving.
Mirjam Hemström is part of Studio Supersju which aims to highlight the material and weaving as a technique in a time of fast consumption of products as well as experiences. Publicly, they search for and experiment with new platforms as an attempt to spread the weave, and showcase their works in exhibitions and pop-ups as well as hold lectures and talks.
"Internally, we work as a collective, sharing and supporting each other in an art and design world that is often quite lined by competition and individualism," says Hemström who recently exhibited at Borås Textile Museum. The visitors could follow her on-going master degree project from the Swedish School of Textiles and see her collection The Metamorphosis of Weaving take form. "During the pre-study of the degree work, I was introduced to the museum’s rope wheel and shoe lace machine. This was where the idea of weaving dimensional weaves with own made, large scale threads took form."
"I am interested in the inner and the outer dimensions of art and design, and how textiles can bridge the physical and the non-physical. In my work, I explore materiality and interspace through spatial weaving."
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am preparing for the exhibition Ung Svensk Form 2021, where my largest piece from the collection “The Metamorphosis of Weaving” has been selected as one of the winners. It is going to be a one year long exhibition tour in different cities and possibly also abroad, so I have to make sure my 40 kilos’ large rag weave will handle it.
Your work "often revolves around designing sensations and emotions between the real and the fictitious”. How can this be manifested?
"Josef Albers wrote that “art is concerned with the discrepancy between physical fact and psychological effect”. Similarly, Kandinsky noted that “as long as the soul is joined to the body, it can as a rule only receive vibrations via the medium of feelings.” I am interested in the inner and the outer dimensions of art and design, and how textiles can bridge the physical and the non-physical. In my work, I explore materiality and interspace through spatial weaving. Layers, transparency, tactile-visual qualities and textiles’ ability to absorb, reflect, and conduct light all contribute to a multi-faced experience. My ambition is to offer people a mute conversation - an experience of interspace where the mind is given free play to dream or just rest.
Emilia Elfvik creates needle lace thread sculptures using a technique traditionally used for surface decoration. This is her piece Pushing Embroidery.
Emilia Elfvik's process is based on explorations in material, in search for impulses, information and surprises. After focusing on fashion studies, Elfvik moved to embroidery. She is fascinated by what happens in the meeting between technique and material, and the possibilities of what happen when letting that meeting shape the process. "Driven by a curiosity for the unpredictable, as a contrast to the otherwise often controlled and repetitive work with textile, I look for the process to be informed by the properties of the material and technique, rather than using it to manifest my own predetermined ideas," she says.
"Driven by a curiosity for the unpredictable, as a contrast to the otherwise often controlled and repetitive work with textile, I look for the process to be informed by the properties of the material and technique, rather than using it to manifest my own predetermined ideas."
The end as a means to make a tool
The end as a means to make a tool
You 'reprocess, reinvent and re-experience textile objects and processes' – how is this seen in your work?
"In my works Pushing Embroidery (2018) and Sculptural Embroidery (2019) I looked at a technique traditionally used for surface decoration, and investigated its ability to create shape. In the first, the embroidered flax threads interacts with gravity to create the shape of the sculptures. In the second, a three-dimensional embroidery canvas makes it possible to embroider the space between the fabrics, not only the surface. Both work showcase unconventional ways of working with embroidery and highlight properties of the materials used. Hopefully these offer the viewers new experiences of otherwise familiar material and techniques, which in turn challenges their preconceived notions in the same way as mine have been challenged."
Are you working on anything at the moment?
"I'm currently continuing to work with the technique of needle-lace, which I started working with in my Master’s thesis. Then I explored the potential of the manufacturing and tools of needle-lace making by developing a series of tools that enabled me to sculpt with the technique. I worked with magnified loops and body size sculptures, with an emphasis on the tools and their importance for the existence of the sculptures. I’m now investigating the potentials in the lace itself, working in a smaller scale closer to the traditional craft."
Kibun by Nan Na Hvass and Sofie Hannibal is a series of wall pieces inspired by nature.
NAN NA HVASS AND SOFIE HANNIBAL
Translating as 'mood' in Japanese, Kibun is a series of textile wall pieces by Nan Na Hvass and Sofie Hannibal, who also run the design studio Hvass&Hannibal in Copenhagen. They create limited edition handcrafted textile pieces, where each piece is made upon order, and produced locally and sustainably with great care for detail and quality.
"Visually the work is inspired by nature’s rhythms and cycles, and boiling these down to very pure graphic interpretations, showing soft gradations in hue and light," says Nan Na.
After an exhibition in Copenhagen I 2019, where they created a series of textile panels to be used as room dividers, the duo decided to launch Kibun as a separate project.
"Visually the work is inspired by nature’s rhythms and cycles, and boiling these down to very pure graphic interpretations, showing soft gradations in hue and light."
Describe your process.
"In the beginning we did a lot of the sewing work ourselves and did various experiments with different kinds of textiles to find the best option. Eventually we landed on a format with the wool fabric Remix from Kvadrat Textiles, and we developed a special wall mount as well. Now when creating the pieces, in order to maintain the highest possible quality in terms of craftmanship we work with a local seamstress who is extremely precise and talented, and each piece is made by hand. Remix has a beautiful play with colour. It is woven by two- and three-coloured yarns giving it a very special colour depth, where the same fabric can present itself as two different colours, depending on how it is paired with other colours."
You’re inspired by nature, describe more. How is this manifested in your work?
"Yes, we are very inspired by the soft, steady, cyclical rhythms of nature – especially transitions related to light: for instance, how changes in tone define the passing of a day, or how the movement of the sun changes the colour of the sky. Our motifs try to tell the story as simply as possible. Taking away every unnecessary detail, and remaining with the essence, or the purity of a scene. We also want to imitate how although these natural rhythms are foreseeable they always have small subtle elements of surprise, and so we like to put in some discreet irregularities in our colour transitions, or in how the colours complement each other within a piece. There is also an element of basic colour study: how we perceive colours, how they can only be understood in relation to one another. We like to play with contrasting light and temperature against one another. For instance, a small spark of bright warm light enveloped by a larger area of a cool subdued shade."
What can we learn from Japanese rituals and way of life?
"We are very interested and inspired by various Japanese principles in aesthetics. For instance, there is the Japanese term called “Ma” in arts and architecture etc. which refers to ‘negative space’ (such as a gap or a pause) being just as essential as the rest of the space in a given context. Our motifs relate a lot to this idea by containing quite a lot of what you could call empty space, or what we would prefer to see as a resting point, or a void full of opportunity. This relates a lot to what textiles do to spaces: E.g. how they add softness, warmth and ease to a room, while also creating areas for the eye to rest or pause. Something else very Japanese which we resonate with, is the idea of a subtle and unassuming beauty, and also the feeling of timeless tranquillity – this kind of tranquil beauty is something that we would love to achieve with our Kibun pieces."
Bettina Nelson creates tapestries with a nod to the 90s 'plastic fantastic' era, using the last remnants of the Argentinian fiber material Formio.
Backpacking through South America in her 20’s, Bettina Nelson found refuge in Buenos Aires and fell in love with the city. Her dream of returning was realised in the spring of 2019 when she became the first design resident at the Nordic Residency and Art Centre "Pavilion Nordico" in Buenos Aires. Working closely with local architect and craftswoman Dolores “Loli" Mallea at her Sur del Cruz- studio, she designed and developed the wicker chair Lola. The partnership with Loli was a huge personal and professional success and it became the first official design merge between the Nordic region and Argentina in this century. As a result she became an initiator and project manager of "PN1"- a project offering five designers the opportunity to work in close collaboration with local crafts and design studios in Buenos Aires. On her visit, one thing saddened her, namely the fact that Argentina had rapidly gone from a natural handcraft tradition to a heavy in-house plastic nation due to its growing oil industry.
"From this exclusive lot, I have woven tapestries with motifs of cigarettes and plastic straws, which is a flirtation with the 90s when the last formio factories were closed due to the rapidly growing plastic industry. "
"A clear indicator of this transition was apparently the many fields of a strong and beautiful, golden coloured when dried, perennial fibre plant that had been left to grow wild in Tigre, a delta area north of Buenos Aires. My Argentine colleagues spoke passionately about the plant, and how it was a great shame for it to have been abandoned like that. It was called Formio."
The natural fiber material formio was once an attractive material due to its excellent rope and string qualities and was therefore exported worldwide from Argentina from the beginning of the 19th century. Today, the material is no longer manufactured. However, after thorough research and with a little luck, Nelson found what is said to be the last remnant of the material in Buenos Aires. "From this exclusive lot, I have woven tapestries with motifs of cigarettes and plastic straws, which is a flirtation with the 90s when the last formio factories were closed due to the rapidly growing plastic industry. At the same time, I became a teenager with all its "plastic fantastic" - and sometimes stupid and toxic - attributes. Weaving these motifs into a material that plastic once replaced is for me a humble handling of stupid life choices and giving them a space to be remembered with dignity and not just with contempt," she says.