Before arriving at the Textile Centre in Blonduos, Iceland my thoughts about the Residency were that it would be an exciting challenge, one I hoped would take me in a new direction for my work. Up until now my work has been mostly concept led so the idea of working from nature would be a new and thrilling adventure. I hoped to be inspired by the incredible landscape of Iceland, be totally absorbed in the surroundings and also to learn more about the Icelandic culture.
So far, I have been overwhelmingly inspired and we have only just started exploring. The landscape is spectacular, like nothing I have seen before. The glacial valleys are full of winding rivers and trickling waterfalls running down the most colossal snow topped mountains. The feeling of space, fresh pure air and only the sounds of birds is a delight.
Now settled in to the Centre I have started to work on some ideas, inspired by the breath-taking basalt column cove at Kálfshamarsvík on the north west coast of Skagi Peninsula.
These unusual rock formations formed over 2 million years ago fascinated me. The angles, the shapes, the layering effect and the cold grey colours highlighted by areas of lime green lichen sparked my creativity. I immediately started to draw, getting a feel for the structures.
My drawings developed from shapes and patterns and I began to formulate design ideas in textile forms, thinking about the resources of materials available and the colours of the land.
Next I will start to play around with textures and explore the abundance of sheep wool we have.
See my next post for what happens next.
Using the black wool in the studio (washed and carded from raw fleece) I have been investigating its properties for felting, making some simple bowls with the black wool on the inside and wool dyed with rhubarb root and with lichen, which I brought from home, on the outside. Black inside the bowls is very effective contrasting well with the outer surface colour.
There may be a chance to use Icelandic plants for natural dyeing by the end of the month but it depends on how the Spring progresses. The wild lupins (introduced into Iceland in the first half of the 20th century to counter erosion) are in bud and growing fast. In the almost constant daylight and with temperatures forecast to reach the low to mid teens over the next week or two they may well be ready to use.
With Icelandic yarn bought in the local supermarkets I have also been felting some knitted pieces producing quite a different texture.
I am beginning to create samples of textured felting for a potential work which is in the very early stages of development. Hopefully I’ll be able to report on this at a later time.
What an amazing place this is. Echoes of the familiar and yet so very different! I have been out gathering materials where the the River Blanda flows into the Húnaflói bay at Blönduós and the beaches at Kálfshamarsvík.
Last season’s dried lyme-grass and lupin stems from Blönduós; kelp and angelica stems washed up amongst the basalt columnars along the shore line of Kálfshamarsvík.
Using a palmbinding technique, the lyme-grass makes a strong cordage which can be made into the base of a single looped basket. The length of cordage grows quickly, but trimming and tidying the ends left behind takes the time.
The soft, sandy colours of the dried grass reflect the tussocks now greening over on the hillsides and those contrasted against the black sand of the shore.
The weather has been pretty amazing, considering we were all expecting rain and gales. Bright starts to almost every day so far.This morning, it was not only bright but much warmer so I headed off down to the shoreline at the mouth of the estuary of the river Blanda, to check out the latest bird migration arrivals, just in case some Puffins had put in an appearance. In this lovely, quiet, unspoiled part of the world you cannot help but notice and be engaged by the huge variety of bird life that come here each summer to breed. Some of
them, like the 200 or so of Arctic Terns that arrived this morning have flown from the Antarctic to be here, a journey of around 12,000 miles which they will repeat, by returning there at the end of summer. They dive, flutter and squabble, dipping their bills and feet, deftly lifting fish from the water, true swallows of the sea. The tide was out and I could walk down to the waters edge where, minutes before a small flock of shore birds had been searching for food. I could not help but note the pattern of their foot prints intermingled with mine. A reminder that we all leave a mark on this planet no matter who we are or what we are about. In addition to the Arctic Terns, we have seen around 38 other different species of bird,
Raven to Redwing and Ptarmigan (Annette) and from our windows most notable and, it has to be said, most noisy, two pairs of Red Throated Divers and a large flock of bickering Black-tailed Godwits. Happy days!