Lotte Dalgaard is one of Denmark’s most exciting hand-weavers, creating one-off fabrics with special pleated, crinkled, puckered effects in the weave, which are then transformed into unique and unusual high-end garments by Danish fashion designer Ann Schmidt. I was able to visit and interview Lotte in her studio in early January 2010 and in September Lotte will be running a special one-week collapse fabric weaving course at Anna Champeney Textile Studio in Galicia, Spain.
Lotte Dalgaard and her architect husband, Flemming, live in a cosy Danish farmhouse to the west of Copenhagen, not far from Roskilde, famous for its Jazz Festival and Viking Museum. When I visited her Denmark was in the grip of one of the coldest spells of weather for many years, with daytime sub-zero temperatures into double figures. The farmhouse was a magical sight in the snow, and it was there, in a converted farm building, that Lotte has her spacious and light weave studio, overlooking the Danish countryside with its open fields and wide skies.
Lotte’s textiles are the result of over 10 years experimentation with the new generation of yarns being developed by the textile industry, ranging from light-reflective and paper yarns to very fine overtwisted wools and metallic yarns, monofilament yarns and special shrinking yarns. The very fact that Lotte has access to these kinds of yarns in Denmark is due to the fact that she, along with other hand-weavers and the Design School in Copenhagen, set up a Yarn Purchasing Association. Collaborative ventures, co-operatives and exhibiting groups are very normal in Denmark – in many different crafts – and the Purchasing Association is a clear example of how everybody benefits from this approach. Committee members of the Association who work at the Design School attend some of the international yarn fairs in Europe and buy new yarns which are beyond the reach of individual makers because of the huge minimum quantities specified by the yarn companies. The Association makes the yarns available to individual makers, usually professionals, who can buy in smaller quantities. Anyone can become a member of the Association upon paying a membership fee, and in the UK, a number of the yarns are now sold by the Handweavers’ Studio in London.
Lotte was amongst the first people to have access to these exciting new yarns in Denmark and quickly began to realise their potential for creating unusually-textured fabrics. In fact, it is true to say that access to these yarns transformed her way of working, and she now focuses almost exclusively on these textiles. When Lotte met Ann Schmidt, the original and very individual Copenhagen fashion designer (you could say fashion artist), it was the perfect recipe for a collaboration. Ann’s approach to fashion design – with a clear emphasis on creating architectural clothing designs on the mannekin, by folding cloth and forming it, rather than by simply pattern cutting was perfect for Lotte’s handwoven textiles. The results are one-off pieces which are textile garments at their most poetic. They are extremely beautiful, eye-catching, extremely individual, and at the same time beautifully wearable; Lotte gave me a midnight blue-black pleated dress to try on and you really feel quite different when you put it on as the fabric and its unusual form invites you to move in a different way.
The garments display some of the simplicity and elegant understatement of Japanese textiles – which have always been a strong influence in Ann Schmidt’s work. Nevertheless, this simplicity is deceptive because it is the result of a long meditative process, exploring the different possibilities of forming the fabric on the mannekin. I was able to visit Ann’s Studio the day that Lotte took in a new piece of fabric which I had watched her finish the night before. Ann’s mannekin was draped with a new piece of cloth, with double-weave and huge floats. This is destined to be the next one-of-a-kind garment.
I really enjoyed talking with Lotte about textiles, because I recognise and know the passion and excitement she has in exploring the different materials and really getting to know their properties and how to handle them. She is a weaver´s weaver, very expert in her knowledge of her subject, and very close to her materials. And yet she has been able to “take-off” and, thanks to her collaboration with Ann Schmidt, is able to make quite remarkable woven objects.
A few years ago Lotte was encouraged by British weaver Ann Richards to write down all the knowledge she had acquired. The result was Magical Materials, a book about collapse weave published by Fiber Feber. An English translation by Ann Richards brings the Danish publication within the reach of an English-speaking audience and you can read the review I wrote in the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (winter 2009). Books like this are so important for hand-weaving generally in Europe as they help to raise standards, encourage innovation, and, in this case, try out new yarns.
The textile industry has undergone massive changes in the last 50 years, and unless hand-weavers can access the same new innovative yarns to experiment with, they will fall behind. As a hand-weaver today I have to ask myself Why Make Hand-made Textiles? In the work of Lotte Dalgaard and her collaboration with Ann Schmidt I find an answer.
- Lotte´s book “Magical Materials” (Magiske Materialer e vaever) is available directly from her by email, with English translation on cd
- Weave Tuition and Cottage Holidays at Anna Champeney Estudio Textil in Galicia, north Spain
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