For the month of October I have been living in a small Icelandic town named Blönduós. This coastal town is home to eight-hundred Icelanders who farm sheep, fish and run the towns daily activities. Like many towns and villages around Iceland, Blönduós did not emerge as a village until the late 19th century. Today this town is a popular tourist stop for road trippers driving along the country's ring road.
Blönduós is home to the Icelandic Textile Center and Museum, here I took part in the artist residency. The center aims to promote and develop Icelandic and international textiles by encouraging research and education in the field of textile art and design. The residency provides visiting students, scholars, and artists with working spaces to conduct their artistic practice, research, and study-trips within textiles. Textilsetur, is still fairly new and has been running for five years, it's popularity among textile artists continues to grow.
During my residency I challenged myself to work on a project that would my push me out of comfort zone... weaving yardage! Previously I had taken weaving courses during my studies under the direction of some amazing mentors. Even so, the only way to improve any skill is repetition... this residency proved ample time to stretch my weaving muscles. Not only did I choose very difficult threads to work with (fine silk and linen), I also had to learn how to work on a traditional Scandinavian loom. Previously I had worked with Jack Looms, this weaving studio only housed Countermarch looms. Working on a beautiful old loom was all part of the experience, I adjusted pretty quickly. At the end of the month I walked away with some decent handwoven cloth, and even had the chance to try my hand dying yarns with local mushrooms.
Besides the remarkable old looms, the textile center is filled with amazing women that have a strong presence in the residency and their community. One of these women, Jóhanna Pálmadóttir, the Director/Project manager of the center was raised in Blönduós and took over her families' sheep farm after studying textiles in Denmark. Jóhanna is passionate about sheep, her country and it's history. Currently, she is heading an amazing tapestry project inspired by the Vatnsdæla saga. The forty-six meter tapestry continues to be embroidered by guests and artists. The goal of the project is to revive the Vatnsdæla saga in a modern way, while using the old traditions of handcraft. You can find out more about the tapestry and textile residency here: http://textilsetur.com/latest/
Upon my return to Calgary I am looking very forward to instructing a three-day natural dye workshop through Natalie Gerber's studio. In this workshop, we will explore how to create a natural indigo vat (blue), learn techniques to carefully extract madder (red), and work with the historic Osage plant (yellow). I will be bringing some beautiful Icelandic wool skeins for the occasion. Check out the "workshop" page above for more info, hope to see you there!