I spent the month of October living in a small Icelandic coastal town named Blönduós, home to eight-hundred people who farm sheep, fish and run the town's daily activities, Blönduós did not come together as a community until the late 19th century. Today it is a popular tourist stop for road trippers driving along the country's ring road.
The town is home to the Icelandic Textile Center and Museum, where I took part in an 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 the textile medium. The residency is still fairly new and has been running for five years, and it's popularity among textile artists continues to grow.
During my time at the residency I challenged myself to work on a project that would push me out of my comfort zone... weaving yardage! I have taken weaving courses during my studies under the direction of some amazing mentors and I feel the only way to improve any skill is repetition. This residency was the perfect time to stretch my weaving muscles where I chose very difficult threads to work with (fine silk and linen) while learning how to work on traditional Scandinavian countermarch looms. Working on a beautiful old loom was the greatest part of the experience and I was able to adjust to it quickly. At the end of the month I was happy with my results and walked away with both an incredible life experience and some beautiful handwoven cloth. Not to mention I managed to squeeze in some time to try my hand dying yarns with local mushrooms.
Besides the remarkable old looms, the textile center is filled with amazing women who 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 family's 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 hand craft. You can find out more about the tapestry and textile residency here.
I’m looking forward to instructing a three day natural dye workshop at Natalie Gerber Studio & Workshops studio this March 16th – 18th. 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. Hope to see you there!