In January I visited Denmark for the week, during which time I was able to meet and talk with some of the most experienced – and most promising new – textile hand-weavers, rug-makers and textile designers. I was also able to find out about Danish basketry and visit a number of craft and design shops in Odense and Copenhagen, with the best of Danish craft and Design. I hope to write several postings about my visit as there was so much to see and enjoy. To start with, here´s a short and personal guide to some of the textile designers and Danish hand-weavers I met, and some of the Danish design galleries and craft shops I visited in Copenhagen and Odense (Denmark´s third-largest city). Unfortunately I´ve had problems with WordPress recently so this posting is a lot shorter and less complete than I had intended it to be. But at least you have links for several of the weavers and craft galleries / shops so you can find out more…
Lotte Dalgaard, Danish hand-weaver and designer of one-off garment fabrics. I had arranged to meet and interview this exciting Danish hand weaver well in advance of my visit and was so delighted to be able to meet Lotte in person at her beautiful farmhouse not far from Roskilde (famous for its Jazz Festival and Viking Museum). Lotte has been working for over ten years to develop innovative hand-loomed fabrics with attractive pleats, folds, frills and crinkles. The fabric is then taken to the design studio of Ann Schmidt in Copenhagen, a very original Danish fashion designer, who shapes it into garments – without cutting. This idea of loom-formed textiles is exciting for hand-weavers because the cloth itself becomes a protagonist, not simply a backdrop for pattern-cutting design skills. Ann herself has an obvious skill and passion for working in this way, inspired by the simplicit of Japanese textiles and style. is information about a possible course and Lotte´s inspiring weaving book –
Collapse Weave “Magical Materials” course with Lotte Dalgaard – I am hoping that Lotte will be able to come to give a course on the weave techniques she has developed, focussing on active (elastic, shrinking) and passive (non-elastic, non-shrinking) yarns so if you are interested contact me.
Magical Materials book by Lotte Dalgaard – This is the most inspiring book I have read about designing and weaving crinkly, pleated, textured fabrics. Beautifully illustrated and densely packed with expert information you can get your copy (with cd translation in English) directly from Lotte Dalgaard.
Shared Weave Studio in Copenhagen – Vaevevaerkstedet.dk is home to 6 weavers who share the huge open studio space and, although not open to the public, sometimes hold open studios. The weavers include Berthe Forchhammer, Textile tutor at the Copenhagen Design School, rug weaver, Pia Jensen, cutting edge Textile Designer Karina Nielson, rug weaver Ida Kornerup , and young textile graduate Jacob Bille. Each has his or her own personal style and focus. Karina Nielson represents the cutting edge of textile design graduates in Denmark. Awarded a 3-year bursary from the Danish government to research traditional textile techniques, she none-the-less works with innovative and high-tech materials and multi-shaft looms, to produce designs which are then sold to industry. Textiles with special acoustic insulation properties and textiles which are encapsulated in a kind of high strength plastic for use in furniture are two of her projects to date. She is clearly a talent to watch and you can see some of her textiles at the Style Park website, although the photos do not do justice to her work.
Lotte also introduced me to the well-known Danish tapestry weaver, Charlotte Shroeder. Charlotte´s sensitivity for colour is combined with her painterly design skills, resulting in tapestries woven with great skill in both large- and small-scales. The day I visited the studio Charlotte had samples woven for a rug commission she was to make for a Danish church. Interestingly, the Danish church is a great patron for hand-weavers today, and Charlotte was one of quite a number of weavers I got to know who had received church commissions. This seems to be something culturally very Danish; I can´t imagine my local church in Spain commissioning me to make an altar rug or church vestments! It was good to see Charlotte and Lotte discussing the sample, weaver-to-weaver. Open discussion, sharing of information and co-operative ways of working – through the formation of exhibititing groups, co-operative weave groups, and shared studio spaces – also seem to be very Danish. Of course this strengthens the sector and encourages higher standards throughout. It is something that I have not come accross in Spain yet, where each weaver tends to work completely on her own and there are few opportunities to share information.
Another weaver I got to know was Helle Baslund, and her wood-cut artist husband, Jens. Living in a rural part of Denmark, in a traditional Danish cottage overlooking the Baltic Sea, Helle is a multi-faceted textile artist. Not only does she weave largescale, accomplished tapestries, but also makes painted Swedish-style baskets from split wood and paints. The day we visited Helle she gave us a wonderful Danish-style lunch with the open sandwiches made from home-made rye bread and the delicious marinaded herrings and accompanied by schnaps. You can see Helle´s work, exhibited in the national Danish Tapestry exhibition in 2009.
Anna Norgaard is a weaver of a completely different kind as she works at the Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde, painstakingly weaving authentic reproduction sails for the Viking Ships which form part of this living museum. It was fascinating to be able to listen to Anna as she wove on the vertical, warp-weighted loom which archaeologists believe was the type of loom they used. I noticed that warp was under high tension and, being made of a very sticky wool, made creating an open shed difficult; every pick Anna wove involved manually opening up the sticky yarns. Interestingly, Viking sails were made of wool, not linen, and coated with horse fat and ochre which made them not only extremely heavy but water and weather-proof. Anna works most days at the museum and is very willing to share her knowledge with visitors. The museum, set by one of Denmark´s famous fjords, is worth a visit in its own right, of course.
Annette Holdensen was the last weaver I was lucky enough to meet in Denmark, but certainly not the least! For Annette´s work has been featured in many Danish museums and galleries. A weaver for 20 years, starting early when she was still a teenager, Annette later branched out into sculptural basketry and art installation work. Her long and prolific career and achievements have been recognised by the Danish government and even though Annette is officially retired, the day I visited her she was showing a series of painted flowers, a series of pieces made for … part of a group exhibition! Of course Annette is part of an exhibiting group – she is Danish and as I said before, collaboration comes naturally to them. Annette doesn´t have a website but just google her name and you will find a number of references to her work and career. Annette came across as a generous and confident textile artist. It was good to talk with her and see how she had progressed from making very traditional linen towels to large-scale art installations made using basketry techniques and exhibited in a rugged rural setting. I also spoke with Annette about her experiences of voluntary work assistants – again, something which seems far more common in Denmark than in Spain. Having temporary studio assistants is something I am thinking about as I am reaching a stage where I have too many ideas and projects to work on on my own.
My visit to Denmark would not have come about at all had it not been for Jette Mellgren and Jan her husband. Jette and Jan are a very dynamic duo and it was great to see them in their home and workshops and learn about their latest projects. Jette showed me two exhibitions which she had worked on – including a contemporary basketry exhibition working with recycled cables (organised to coincide with the climate summit at Copenhagen at the end of 2009), in which Tim Johnson, Helle Baslund and Lois Walpole participated. Jette has also published two attractive basketry books in Danish – one on live willow fencing and a second book on basketry forms and techniques. Both are published by Klematis. Last but not least are the international projects which Jette and Jan work on, including an ongoing project working with traditional craft makers in Uganda. In addition to the willow basketry web site (click on her name above) Jette and Jan have a website devoted to the Adult Education School they run in Odense and another devoted to their projects. Both are very open to working on international projects worldwide, so if your association, school or group has ideas for future projects, have a look at their website and maybe you can work with them in future!
A big thank you to Jette and Jan, Lotte and the many talented and hard-working weavers I met in Denmark. I feel very encouraged and inspired as a result of spending some time with you!