The uncomfortable spine twisting, back and shoulder straining work required to set the looms up are leaving their trace on me, so appropriate to theme of my work. After all that I have set up a loom and managed to get an acceptable shed and started weaving pockets to contain objects that represented the things we were discovering in Iceland.
A lot of the items have been gathered on our walks around the shore, like the husks of the lupin seed from last years flowers to the empty mussel shell from the beach, some are from visits to places of interest, the tanned fish skin, and some from the leavings in the studios. I have arranged them in a contrived manner to make the work visually pleasing. At this stage, the first is nearly finished, but it requires some terracotta pebbles that occasionally appear on the beaches and as the sun is shining it’s time to go out and collect some.
On our ramblings around the coast, there has been many opportunities to take textural photographs. The black sand at the mouth of the river Blanda where its turquoise water pours into the Arctic Ocean, is particularly interesting. The sand is very soft and easily moved by the tides, waves and outflow of the river, I noticed that there are different traces of leavings as the waves deposit fine ephemeral lines in the sand each time the tide recedes.
In addition to texture there are lots of opportunities to collect images for colour reference for future work
Progressing with my columnar forms inspired by the basalt rocks they continue to evolve. Motivated by the sensations from the colours and textures I experienced walking amongst the rocks I made some knitted samples. I decided the reverse side seemed to suit the surface I was after. Due to the old and missing parts of the knitting machine I was unable to knit circular knitting. Therefore, knitted squares had to be hand stitched together instead. I used Icelandic wool with a rough texture in several grey shades. Some have holes and jagged hems to accentuate the aged sense and some have lime green embroidery inspired by the lichen stains and providing a great contrast to the dark grey.
I continued to experiment with a few more techniques. and created some larger samples with ridges and different tones of grey.
How I position these finished columnar pieces will be an important part of the work, creating stacks of angled forms as if they have been organically assembled. I want to express the diverse formations constructed from these solidified lava flows millions of years ago. There will be several little piles expressed in different Icelandic materials, with a view to making many more to add to each pile. This will add an expression of the vast quantity of such stunning formations.
The Norse god Odin has two pet ravens, Hugin and Munin. He sends them out each morning to fly around the world and gather news. When they return they sit on his shoulders and tell him all they have seen and heard. Their names come from the old Norse language and are generally translated as Hugin = Thought and Munin = Memory. In a verse from the old Norse poem Grimnismál, Odin says:
“Hugin and Munin
Fly every day
Over all the world
I worry for Hugin
That he might not return,
But I worry more for Munin.” 1
The understanding here is that the ravens are spiritual extensions of Odin and if they do not return he effectively loses a part of himself.
There are times as you get older that your own faculties of thought and memory are not as dependable as they used to be. I am not necessarily talking about the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s but just the recall of certain words or names that shift position just as you are about to speak, as well as when you can only describe what it is you mean in a roundabout way because you can’t remember the exact word. Recently I was making a cake and was looking in the cupboard for some ground almonds, but the only word I could summon for this ingredient was ‘almond dust’! Close but not quite right.
Watching the ravens fly and call here in Blonduos and with a concern from time to time for my own thought and memory I find I have a possible theme to work on. I am felting, knitting and layering with black wool to expose gaps in and around the connected fibres and to tangle and knot other fibres that are not already broken and fragmented. It somehow feels appropriate.
1 The Poetic Edda. Grímnismál, stanza 20. Translated by Daniel McCoy. From: https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/others/hugin-and-munin/ [accessed 10.5.19]
Looking around the studios at Textilsetur here in Iceland, traces left behind by textile artists who have passed through the place over the years peep out at you wherever you look. From every, shelf and drawer, tumble discarded and leftover materials, jumbled up yarns and warp ends in boxes, paper bags of washed horsehair and greasy Icelandic sheep fleece in carrier bags. Even the back stairs down to the basement, the wooden treads worn and warped from years of footfall trace the preferred route of the students who were schooled here between the late 1800’s and 1974.
I had already decided the structure of the weaving I planned to do, before I arrived and it seemed to me the essence of those ‘leavings’ was an appropriate theme for my work.
It has taken quite a while to set a loom up to weave. The looms are rather antiquated countermarch and in need of some tender loving care. The inside of the property is kept very dry and warm and the looms are in the loft space, although there is a humidifier running, they are worn and the wood is brittle. I am glad I had a fairly indestructible monofilament warp with me, which, while hard to see in the rather basic lighting, wasn’t going to catch and break on the odd splinters in the lease sticks and beams.
Finally, after nearly two weeks, the warp is set up and I’m ready to go!
Working with new materials and learning new skills.
The kelp discovered on the beaches of Kálfshamarsvík, with the blackened,
elongated stem-like structures known as stipes and the holdfasts (root-like structures which anchor the kelp to the substrate of the ocean), was irresistible.
However, it wasn’t until we returned to the Textile Centre at Blönduós that I found the beautiful, intensely black fleece which was available for us to use. A perfect combination of materials and felting seemed to be the logical choice.
This was a definite gap in my knowledge, but thanks to the expertise of Delia Salter and Tara Kennedy I was soon washing, carding and rolling my own felt vessel. The contrast of hard and soft surfaces created a compelling and haptic form.
I continued to experiment with the contorted stipes and tried to contain them within a looped square structure made with hemp twine.
I am interested in the dynamic energy and the negative spaces created by the intersected black lines of the kelp in contrast to the softness and small gaps produced by the looped twine. Lots more work to be done…