A Traditional Krokbragd: Pretty in Pink

One of the pieces on loan from the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum for the Norway House/Weavers Guild of Minnesota show, “Traditional Norwegian Weavings: American Reboot,” is a krokbragd coverlet, chosen for the striking colors in its bands.

Vesterheim-krokbragd

A traditional krokbragd coverlet from the collection of the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum

Sometimes textiles in the museum have detailed provenances and specific dates; this one does not.  Curator Laurann Gilbertson guesses that it was not woven before the late 1800s, as the addition of bright pink means that chemical dyes were used.  Also, it has hemmed ends, rather than fringe.  At least in the coverlets at Vesterheim, fringed ends became more common in the first decades of the 20th century.

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Claire Caughey Most. Photo by Jenny Rediske

Krokbragd bed coverlets were commonly found in most regions of Norway.  It remains a popular weave structure for contemporary weavers in Norway and the U.S.; nearly all of the members of the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group have woven at least one.

Claire Caughy Most, from Stillwater, Minnesota, has explored luminosity in a series of krokbragd weavings, and the American Reboot show includes “Beyond Midnight #2.”  Claire uses the same technique as the 19th century piece, but in a graphic and contemporary interpretation with narrow interlocking stripes.  The shades of turquoise and green almost glow.

 

Beyond Midnight #2 for American Reboot

 

A Virgin and Violence: Lila Nelson’s Weaving at the American Reboot Exhibit

IMG_1904Lila Nelson, who died in 2015 at age 93, was the Registrar and Curator of Textiles at the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum for 27 years, and a mentor to many of the weavers whose works are in the “Traditional Norwegian Textiles: American Reboot” show. No retrospective of American weaving in the Norwegian tradition would be complete without her work.

Two of Lila’s tapestries, both owned by the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, are included in the American Reboot exhibit.  One is a “virgin” with a puffy skirt.  Many people who are fans of Norwegian tapestry, or billedvev (literally, picture-weaving), weave one of the virgins from the most popular medieval weaving motif, the Wise and Foolish Virgins. Lila wove one with attitude, and with a distinctive skirt.  She wove the tapestry on a floor loom and used a clever combination of loom-controlled weave structure along with billedvev technique. When she wove the image of the woman, the threads in the “H” technique of the background floated behind, and she wove the figure in tapestry (billedvev). Perhaps it was unintentional, but that technique made the skirt pouf out.

virgin-foolishMost of the virgins in the old tapestries held stylized small squares to their faces.  (See the detail here, from a Wise and Foolish Virgins tapestry owned by MIA, the Minneapolis Institute of Art.) On Lila’s virgin, there is no doubt that the foolish virgin is crying into a substantial and functional handkerchief. This piece shows Lila’s lifetime love of experimentation in her weaving. It was also chosen because the exhibit will include many other virgin interpretations, showing the influence of that design in traditional Norwegian weaving.

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Lila’s other tapestry in the show illustrates another characteristic of Lila’s work–her frequent commentary on politics and world events.

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Tree of Death. Lila Nelson, 2004

 

It was inspired by the photo, “Torture at Abu Ghraib,” by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker on May 10, 2004.  Here are Lila’s comments, as related in an interview with Sam Iverson.

“I saw an image of how they were treating some of the prisoners to get them to talk at Abu Ghraib and I thought this was quite horrifying. I think you can see that I turned this [image] into a cross-like thing and the AG stands for Abu Ghraib. At the bottom are impersonal guards or soldiers. The characters at the top are “vultures” that are in charge of all this. The designs on the garment are being ironic. They are from one of the Finnish runic alphabets and they are sort of the letters for love.”

Only two pieces from Lila’s loom are in the American Reboot exhibit, but her influence, whether through acquiring textiles for Vesterheim, or mentoring aspiring weavers, can be directly tied to many other weavings on view.

Explore more about Lila’s work in these online articles.

The Tapestries of Lila Nelson: Poetry, Myth, and Protest. This article was published at the time of an exhibit of her work at the Textile Center of Minnesota, November 2 – December 16, 2015. Also, this document includes images and commentary from the show. (Warning: it is a large file and will load very slowly.)

From Tradition to Protest: Lila Nelson’s Weaving Life.  An overview of a retrospective of Lila Nelson’s work at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, December 5, 2015 – November 16, 2016.

At a celebration of her life held on June 25, 2015, several friends spoke about Lila: Robbie LaFleur, Laurann Gilbertson, Carol Colburn, Lisa Torvik, Claire Selkurt, Wendy Stevens, and Mary Skoy.

The May 2012 issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter was devoted to Lila and her work.

Watch a video interview by Sam Iverson about Lila’s political weavings, here.

A Two-sided Textile: Pick Your favorite Side

Iowa artist Laura Demuth sets up amazing weaving challenges for herself.  Often, not content with just buying and weaving with beautiful wool, she spins and dyes yarn from her own sheep.  In a number of weavings she has gone beyond weaving for beauty on one side, and combined techniques to make unique two-sided textiles.  One of those will be included in the upcoming “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot” exhibit at Norway House from July 20-September 10, 2017.

On one side of the hanging, Laura wove an intricate pattern in a complex doubleweave technique.  She hid the knots of the rya pile between the two layers of the doubleweave. Because the doubleweave pick-up surface needs to be the upper side during weaving, she tied the knots upside-down on the lower surface. (Rya weavers would understand: this is tricky.)

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On the other side, colorful stripes of beautifully-blended yarns are dense and enticing. This piece perfectly fulfills its purpose as a warm throw.

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Biography:

Laura Demuth has been weaving for over 30 years and enjoys all aspects of textile production, from raising the sheep to taking a finished piece off the loom. Living on a small acreage just  seven miles northeast of Decorah, Iowa, Laura has a small flock of registered Blue Faced Leicester sheep that keep her hands busy spinning wool all winter. She often dyes the handspun yarn with natural dyes from the garden before putting it to use in a woven or knitted textile.

Because Laura lives so close to Decorah, Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum has been a continual source of education and inspiration throughout her weaving career. Laura has  focused on traditional weaving structures and techniques, especially bound weave and doubleweave.

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Don’t miss this piece and so many more in “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot.” The opening night at Norway House, July 20, 5-8, would be a smashing time for a first peek.

A Tapestry with Soul

The “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot” exhibit this summer at Norway House includes a beautiful, large (59.5″ H x 47″W) tapestry by Susan Gangsei.

Seal Skin Soul Skin

“Seal Skin, Soul Skin” by Susan Gangsei

 

Susan recounts the story: “Seal Skin, Soul Skin tells the story of a Selkie, a sea creature that can come up on land, take off her skin and dance in the moon light. One night a Selkie comes up on land and is dancing. A fisherman sees the Selkie and steals her skin so she cannot not go back home. He forces her to marry him and have his children in return for the promise to return her skin in 7 years. After 7 years the fisherman reneges on his promise to return her skin, so she begins to dry out. One of her children finds her skin, gives it back to her and she returns to her home the sea. Today she comes back to land to visit her children. This is a story of the renewal that come from returning home, returning to one’s whole and true self.”

More about Susan:

After weaving on a floor loom for many years, I was given an tapestry weaving class for a gift for my 50th birthday. Tapestry weaving become my passion and refuge.

My tapestries tell stories. They start out telling a story about my life and end up telling a story about human kind. As life has presented me with challenges, my weaving has told my story through universal and biblical stories. My husband had Parkinson’s Disease and I was given the role of caregiver. The Burning Bush tapestry tells of my conversation with God, telling him I did not want that role, just like Moses did not want to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The tapestry Jacob and the Angel tells the story of both the blessings and the wounds of being a caregiver, just like Jacob was wounded in his hip, yet blessed by God making him the father of Israel. The Seal Skin, Soul Skin tapestry talks about the need to renew oneself.

The current style of my designs come from my Nordic background. Nordic tapestry has a folk art tradition that is more representational and “flat.” Colors are limited and used carefully. The fabric is structurally sound with use of multiple kinds of joins versus slits. The weaving is complex with use of outlining and patterns.

Is Susan’s selkie tapestry a “reboot” of a traditional Norwegian style?  A tapestry owned by the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum shows medieval similarities to the format of Susan’s tapestry.  The Adoration of the Magi is divided in a similar four-frame style.

You can see the tapestries that Susan references, along with other work, at her website: susangangsei.com

 

“Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot:” Take Classes Right in the Gallery

The Norway House/Weavers Guild of Minnesota exhibit this summer, Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot, includes special events and programming.  (Full list here.) Three classes by Weavers Guild instructors will be offered, all on Mondays, and will be held right in the Norway House Galleri.  This is a great opportunity to learn a new skill while surrounded by the color and texture of the textiles in the show.  Sign up soon!

Viking Metal Bracelet: July 24, 2017, 10 am – 2 pm. Instructor: Melba Granlund

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Learn an ancient wire looping technique called Viking knit.  Dating back to the Viking era, it was used in jewelry making and as ornamentation on garments.  In this class, students will learn how to use various nickel-free wires (stainless steel, copper, brass, or gold plated copper) or colored artistic wire to create a one-of-a-kind bracelet.   Materials fee of $12 payable to the instructor.  Maximum number of students: 8. Sign up

 

Cardboard Loom Weaving for Kids: August 7, 2017, 10 am to 12 noon.  Instructor: Melba Granlund

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Easy to learn weaving for kids (age 9 and older).  In this class, kids will learn basic weaving skills to make a bookmark using a needle, yarn or embroidery floss, and a cardboard loom.   All materials are provided.  A great project to keep little fingers and minds occupied on a long road trip or as an alternative to an electronic device. Choice of yarns and threads in bright, vivid colors make weaving fun.  If project does not get finished during the class, child may take their work home to complete on their own.  Materials fee of $5 payable to the instructor. Maximum number of students:  8. Sign up

 

Sami-Style Band Weaving: Mondays, August 14 and 21, 12-4 pm.  Instructor: Keith Pierce

 

keith-band-classLearn to weave intricately patterned and colorful bands found throughout Scandinavia and the Baltic regions, and used by the Sami people as embellishments on their folk costumes. Students will weave using methods and tools traditionally used for centuries in northern Europe. In the first session students will start weaving immediately with a pre-warped heddle and will learn to read a pick-up pattern to create short bands for bookmarks or key fobs. In the second session students will learn to warp a heddle for weaving a pattern of their choice. Maximum number of students: 8. Sign up

A $20 materials fee is payable to the instructor and includes a variety of yarns and a heddle and shuttle that you can take home to create additional bands on your own.

 

 

Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot


Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot

An Exhibit at Norway House: July 20-September 10, 2017
Sponsored by Norway House and the Weavers Guild of Minnesota

 

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A traditional krokbragd coverlet from the collection of the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum

Make Minneapolis your destination thus summer for an exhibit joining Norwegian weaving past and present. Inspired by historical textiles, American weavers have used Norwegian weaving techniques to create a new body of work, contemporary in design or materials. Enjoy traditional pieces from the collection of the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum and outstanding weavings from recent decades that honor the past and break through with modern expression.  

The exhibit of invited pieces (40 in all) is based around several techniques, including rya; tapestry; krokbragd and other boundweave variants; band weaving; and overshot weaves such as monks belt and skilbragd.  Other pieces are chosen to illustrate where American weavers learned their skills in Norwegian techniques, and where weaving in the Norwegian tradition has been exhibited over the years.

Related events include lectures and classes and weaving demonstrations.  A loom will be set up in the gallery where members of the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group will weave a rutevev (square weave) runner.

  • Opening celebration: Thursday, July 20, 2017, 5-8 pm.
  • Gallery talks: Sundays, July 23 and August 13, 2 pm.
  • Weaving demonstrations: Wednesdays and Sundays from July 23-September 10, 12 pm-3 pm
  • Afternoon with an Expert, featuring Laurann Gilbertson, Curator, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum: Saturday, September 9, 1-3:30 pm.  Following the lecture, “Warmth and Color: Traditional Norwegian Coverlets,” Gilbertson will conduct an Antique ID clinic.  Members of the public are encouraged to bring Nordic textiles to learn more about their age, origin, and function (but no appraisals).   
  • Classes: Sami-style Band Weaving, Mondays, August 14 and 21, 12-4 pm; Make a Viking Knit Bracelet, Monday, July 24, 10 am-2 pm; Cardboard Loom Weaving for Kids, Monday, August 7, 10 am – noon.

IMG_5189Information on the exhibit is also found on the Norway House website. Be sure to sign up for Sami-style Band Weaving with Keith Pierce, or Make a Viking Knit Bracelet with Melba Granlund. Maybe you know a kid to sign up for the fun introduction to weaving. This is a special opportunity to see the weaving exhibit in depth, as these Weavers Guild classes will be held at Norway House, right in the main gallery.

Also, follow the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group blog in the coming weeks to read about many of the individual pieces.

This 19th century “boat rya,” a treasure of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, will hang next to several contemporary rya weavings.