Thanks to generous grant support from the American-Scandinavian Foundation, I am planning a weaving adventure in Stavanger, Norway, in May 2019. As a fellow in the Scandinavian Folk Arts and Cultural Traditions program, I will study the life, works, and weaving techniques of famed Norwegian tapestry artist Frida Hansen.
In the past few years there has been a resurgence of interest in Frida Hansen (1855-1931). The Stavanger Kunstmuseum held a retrospective in 2015 and published a book, Frida Hansen: Art Nouveau i Full Blomst (Frida Hansen: Art Nouveau in Full Bloom). Hansen fit perfectly into the national romantic period at the end of the 19th century; she studied traditional coverlet and tapestry techniques, and dyes. She was deeply interested in the qualities of Norwegian wool and medieval Norwegian tapestry techniques.
From that traditional base, she became an innovative, internationally recognized artist. Her signature transparency technique, which she patented, included weaving with sections of unwoven warp threads. I want to study and master her transparency technique.
From May 4-22, I will be reside at Frida Hansens Hus in Stavanger. I will examine several of Hansen’s works in depth at the Stavanger Kunstmuseum, analyze the weave structures, and discuss her work with the curator. I will weave a number of samples in order to master Hansen’s signature open-warp transparency technique, and identify other trademark aspects of her billedvev (tapestry) technique.
Frida Hansen used yarn with a lustrous, hard finish, spun from the wool of Norway’s spelsau sheep. I will test various brands to determine which commercially-available Norwegian yarns work best for her techniques. I will plan a larger piece to be completed after the residency.
Following my time in Stavanger I will travel to interview contemporary tapestry weavers. How does the work of Frida Hansen, and traditional Norwegian billedvev (tapestry), inform their current work?
This fellowship will enhance my weaving practice and enrich my teaching. I’ll share my research following the residency with an article in the Norwegian Textile Letter and lectures at Norway House, the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, and the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.
And of course I will post along the way…