Inspired by the basalt columns in Kálfshamarsvík I designed various columnar structures thinking about the concept of a pile of angled forms. I wanted to use Icelandic materials so started to wash some of the sheep fleece available to us. After 5 washes the smell had gone! I carded some black, grey and white and used it to felt some samples. I had ideas of wrapping it around another columnar form creating layers. More samples were made and I introduced some lime green wool inspired by the lichen marks on the rocks. The inner parts became black columns which I stuffed with waste yarn from the looms.
I then found the knitting machine, although in a poor state I managed to make some samples using Icelandic wool from the supermarket in various shades of grey. My samples developed to include holes and uneven hems. These became the outer columnar layer which wrapped around more black knitted columns.
I experimented with adding lime green embroidery in numerous ways and then piled them up at different angles.
These forms are developing further with thoughts of alternative knitted techniques, fabric wrapping, including other Icelandic materials and also making on a much larger and smaller scale.
There is a timelessness here at what seems like the edge of the world, daylight from about 3am to nearly midnight and barely any darker in the hours of ‘night’.
Yesterday, waking to watch the sunrise from my window I noted how it was rising only 90 degrees from where it had set five hours previously. During our last two weeks here the daylight will increase further, by about 8 minutes each day – and after we leave there are still three weeks to go till the high-point of the sun’s year here in the North.
We work in the studios whenever we wish; the space is barely a dozen steps from our bedrooms. Our time is our own and our work unfolds within this quiet space where, through the studio window, there is a vast view north towards the Arctic where day has already fully taken over from night.
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.