“Polar Bear, Polar Bear, Does Anyone Care?”

The title of this small tapestry (9.5″ x 15.5″) is “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, Does Anyone Care?”  Surely not our current president, a climate change denier who proposes a 31% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency.  Why not add a Trump tower to the wilderness? (Or maybe it is a Trump luxury hotel.)


It began as a test piece for my billedvev (Norwegian tapestry) workshop at Vesterheim in September.  I’ve been toying with various ideas for student samplers or small pieces, and with various setts, warp, and weft yarn.  Perhaps a simplified animal shape with outlining?  Traditional Norwegian tapestries use a great deal of outlining.  Look at the animals in the border of this tapestry of the three wise men, from 1717 in Gudbrandsdal.


I chose a polar bear, which turned out to be more difficult to weave than I anticipated.  The flat section of the back end was difficult to weave nicely, and to outline, without making a slit longer than four passes. My first attempt didn’t work so well, and Mr. Bear would have had a pointed rear end.  I ripped it out, and managed it better when I tried again.  That is a constant lesson about tapestry weaving.  There will always be un-weaving. And it will always be worth it.

The polar bear needed a setting, so I added rocks, mountains, and ice floes in the water. What else would be reminiscent of old Norwegian billedvev, I wondered.  I thought of the crazy, jagged city buildings in the background of the old Bible-themed tapestries.  The boxy buildings behind the virgins in this tapestry owned by the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum are quite abstracted.


You see the building that came to my mind. Trump, always there, ubiquitous, jarring, as wrong as our president as the building is in the wilderness.

Another reason I started this piece on my Glimakra tapestry loom was to have weaving to demonstrate at the Vesterheim spring fund-raising brunch.  By the time of the brunch, I had woven to the top of the polar bear. My friend Laurann Gilbertson looked at and said, “Is it a lemming?”  No!  I showed the rest of the cartoon to visitors and asked them if they knew what the boxy shape with a “T” on it was. One person said, “Is it the seed saver building in Svalbard?”  Funny–I’m pretty sure that is a bunker, not a tower. Another person said, “T–is that for Telemark?”  Well, it was a Norwegian crowd. Here was my corner at the brunch.


diamond-background.jpgAs I moved to the solid blue sky, I wove the background in diamonds, which I have seen in Norwegian tapestries.  It’s a little tedious to weave the shapes without using contrasting colors; I was always checking to see whether I had woven one or two shots while weaving up the shapes. I loved the result; if you hold it up to the light you can see the distinct shapes within one color, just made by the way it is woven.

Finally I decided to add a couple of stars.  This star shape is found on old medieval tapestries; in this close-up you can see them embellish the sky and the horse.


I think I figured them out fairly well.


All in all, it was a fun test of various weaving issues.  I even ended up unweaving a portion of it after I took it off the loom and realized that a small section of mountain snow just looked like a mistake. I unwove the light color, and wove in the building color, row by row.

On the the next tests now–and to NORWAY.  Happily, there was a opening on the Vesterheim Textile Tour to Copenhagen and Norway, leaving June 12.


One comment

  1. It is great to see you pick up where Lila left off. Loved her political tapestries and now the polar bear from you! Love it! Patty