The Shape of Things: THinking about Frida Hansen and the New Year

Barbara Burns has been thinking about Frida Hansen. Admiring many of her works, Barbara mused on a Facebook post in the Pulled Warp and Shaped Tapestry Group, “Many of her tapestries have unwoven warp which, in my eyes makes them shaped tapestries. What do you think?” I thought of a funny remark made by a slightly pudgy Minnesota state senator during a committee hearing years ago, when something came up about fitness and being in shape. ” In shape? I have a shape,” he said. “Isn’t round a shape?”

Whether Frida Hansen was weaving more traditional tapestry, with all the warps covered, or in her signature wool open warp transparency technique, flat was the shape she wove. No warps were pulled, and the edges of each weaving remained rectangular.

Her billedvev (tapestry) pieces were woven as flat art pieces, to be hung on the wall.

“Faraos Datter” 1897

But many of her woolen transparencies, in which some wool warp was left unwoven, were intended to be hung as portieres, or curtains. When hung, they may have been flat, or they may have been viewed while gathered onto a rod, as in these curtains hanging in the home of Anniken Thue, who wrote the definitive biography of Frida Hansen. Now these tapestries are shaped.

And even when a woolen Frida Hansen transparency hangs flat, if it hangs away from the wall, as in this mermaid in the Stavanger Art Museum, the light and shadows through the open warps add depth. Could that be considered a sort of shape?

To my way of thinking, Frida Hansen remains a queen of flat tapestry, whether weaving more traditional tapestries or in her transparency technique. Thanks Barbara, for a reason to think of Frida Hansen this morning.

And thinking about the new year: I am determined to get my new tapestry loom warped and in use. I bought it in August!

Now back to my sample for a tapestry about fire… Happy 2021.

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