Photo: slow creations

Photo: slow creations
Threads of life

onsdag 7 augusti 2013

Natural dyeing – a workshop with Jeanette Schäring and a glimpse of my personal journey

Jeanette Schäring´s works of art and materials at the workshop (May 2013). Photo: slow creations

Jeanette Schäring: shibori (resist-dyeing) at the workshop (May 2013). Photo: slow creations

Jeanette Schäring´s works of art and materials at the workshop (May 2013). Photo: slow creations

As many others, I first encountered plant dyeing in the 70s and, for me, 80s. I clearly remember going with my mum to courses and afterwards starting our own dyeing, boiling plants on the beach at the summerhouse on Gotland. I remember the plant collecting, the smell from the cooking, the feeling of community and of course the results (still have some yarns left…).

Since some years now, there is a growing awareness of the dangerous effects that conventional textile dyeing has on the environment and health of the textile workers as well as wearers. One response to these facts is to take up natural dyeing, an usually slow and transformative process. 

The methods of natural dyeing has been renewed since the 70s-80s. Many artists and independent fashion designers (as well as a few highly commercial labels such as Levi´s Made and Crafted (as far as I can see focusing on indigo) work with different processes of transforming this aspect of nature and its mysteries to textiles and clothes. 

Usually, rather mild mordants are being used (in comparison to the earlier often harsh methods of the 70s-80s) and some doesn´t use them at all, relying on the process itself and also maybe not in need of colour fastness (for example in some textile art works) – or striving for that (instead pursuing the process, patina and beauty of “aging” textiles). Sometimes artist and designers also work with additions as rust (as in rust water or rusty objects) and other matter such as bicarbonate and sour things such as lemon juice that change and add to the colour effects.

Rust as dyeing component. From a workshop by Jeanette Schäring. Photo: slow creations

My own old new interest and fascination of natural dyeing began with inspiration via fiber artist Abigail Doan, one of the now active most important, generous and inspiring artists for me, and her network, for example Sasha Duerr, founder of Permacouture Institute. I started experimenting after buying Duerrs´s book this winter. I also saw works by Swedish artist Jeanette Schäring at the exhibition The National Association of Swedish HandicraftSocieties 100 years (see for example my previous post and was astonished. I just could not forget her art works! They were truly mysterious, beautiful at the same time as they were a bit strange and with a very special feeling. I dreamed of one day to have some sort of contact with Jeanette... Little did I know what would happen as I this late spring (May 2013) had the wonderful opportunity to study for her at a workshop hosted by Etnografiska museet (Museum of Ethnography) in Stockholm. Arrangers were Anna Lauri and Eva Melldahl (from Nämnden för hemslöjdsfrågor) with the starting point in the rich collections of the museum (especially the exhibition"Magasinet") and evoking questions about collecting practices and modernity versus ”tradition”.

This post will tell and show a little from that workshop which was intended for students at several Swedish art and crafts institutions (as I´m not such a student I was very happy to be allowed to participate anyway). 

Jeanette Schäring´s works of art and pomegranate at the workshop (May 2013). Photo: slow creations

Jeanette Schäring´s materials at the workshop (May 2013). Photo: slow creations
In connection to her on-going exhibition Matter in Motion and the mysticism of Nature´s colour at Göteborgs botaniska trädgård (until 22 September), Jeanette has said: In my work I combine cultural heritage, millennium-old, dynamic dyeing techniques with digital media and high-tech analysis. By highlighting new opportunities and make way for the natural color as an environmentally friendly alternative to our often toxic and, out of the viewpoint of resources, impoverishing, synthetic pigments, we can take back a forgotten craft tradition in a new way. Herbal colours offer an environmentally-friendly alternative to synthetic dyes when it comes from plants, that are renewable, non-toxic and biodegradable. (Quote from Göteborgs botaniska trädgård´s Facebook page, translated by me).

Besides giving erudite, excellent, mind-blowing lectures on the more theoretical part of natural dyeing and the environment as well as opening up questions about both dyeing and cultural history and the future of human existence itself in this time of extreme consumption, fast fashion, and climate challenges, Jeanette Schäring first of all invited us to go out in the beautiful surroundings of the museum to collect material (parts of plants). 

One of the stages in my attemps of "plant bundles". Photo: slow creations
We all made bundles of cloth (mostly cotton) with plants tied up (shibori) and putting them in for example a tea solution. One of the principles of new natural dyeing is to besides boiling/simmering the dye stuff and textiles as in the older method, also pouring hot eater on the plants in a glass container. 

Glass container with onion skins to dye with. Photo: slow creations

Ideally this could ripen over days and weeks in the sun in a window (solar dye) or outside, adding some fresh air now and then to the infusion which will take on its own life, still unexplainable for the scientists how it evolves and what really happens in the chemistry. As far as I know this is especially suitable or effective for onion skins and red cabbage (something I´ve tried myself with good results), but also other plants. One of the challenges of natural dyeing (especially for me being a beginner) is the randomness nature and not having a guarantee which is most exciting and thrilling, I think. Of course there are some “recipes” (as in Duerr´s book and also others, such as pioneer India Flint) and rules but the individual processes and circumstances (which water, temperature, plant stuff, eventual mordants and colour modifiers, which material used, i.e. silk or cotton etc) are considered most important.

Work-in-progress at the workshop. Photo: slow creations

Like a birthday party, unpacking our bundles of plants and textiles... Photo: slow creations

Unpacking my bundle with among others Japanese maple leafs

In short, to be given the opportunity to attend this workshop with Jeanette was one of the landmarks in my life in connection to creativity. 
 My meeting with Jeanette evoked so much for me! Love and spirituality... inspiration and exchange of ideas on both a personal and professional level. 

My journey continues and some of the results of my work-in-progress and finished pieces can be seen on my Facebook page. Together with my artist and designer friend Agnes Nissen, we have since spring (2013) been evolving a collaboration process. On our journey together we did a small exhibition in June at Agnes´pop-up store SwapShop in Stockholm about natural dyeing in our project called “Kitchen Couture Collab”  (Facebook event), a glimpse of our process up until then, a process which hopefully will result in a blog and a bigger exhibition in the future.

Slow fashion (onion skins, Japanese maple leaf, red cabbage on second hand shirt). Dyeing and photo by slow creations

Kitchen Couture Collab small exhibition (Agnes Nissen and slow creations), June 2013 in Stockholm. Photo: slow creations

lördag 30 mars 2013

Cirkus Cirkör: Knitting Peace

Ilona Jäntti in Knitting Peace by Cirkus Cirkör. Photo: Mats Bäcker
Yesterday I saw the show or rather the performance Knitting Peace (originally premiering in Marseille this January) by widely famous Swedish based contemporary circus company Cirkus Cirkör. I went with my dad (82 years) and my son (soon 7). My expectations were really high! This was actually the first time I saw Cirkus Cirkör live. And after the performance we all celebrated by standing ovations! This post is my very small attempt at thanking Cirkus Cirkör for their endless work.

Aino Ihanainen in Knitting Peace by Cirkus Cirkör. Photo: Mats Bäcker 

This post will be very celebrating… because I am overwhelmed in a great way and also my dad and son also found it astonishing. Cirkör says it is “A performance that asks the question: is it possible to knit peace?” This starting point and their questions of “Can the desire for change create change? Can a worldwide knitting for peace movement make a difference? It is easy to give up when confronted with one´s own insignificance in comparison to the world´s greatness and complexity” makes this performance complex but not complicated. For me, the answer is yes and is given in the creative force that resulted in Knitting Peace. 

The director, also head of Cirkus Cirkör, Tilde Björfors, the performers and musicians (and composer Looptok) gives the audience a show that, in my opinion, is about life itself. It is, for me, about human life´s fragility, evanescence, tenderness, connection, power and strength, courage, frustration, fears, the thin line between sensitivity and brutality, love and playfulness. It is above all poetic and very, very beautiful. Although I could describe the knitted set design in words (white yarns in many forms, as skeins, threads and as knits), I cannot of course mediate the feeling and the ingenious usage of the set design, as an extremely essential part of the show that is in use all the time, as the performers are using it in many ways. As the five performers are well-educated circus artists, they excel in various circus arts (bicycle on a rope playing a white violin, aerial acrobatics etc.) although for the first hour I could not really applause this as I was so taken by the feelings the show evoked in me.

Alexander Weibel Weibel in Knitting Peace by Cirkus Cirkör. Photo: Mats Bäcker

Sometimes when I see something evocative and excellent like this, I wish every young person could see it, like it should be mandatory, and I think so this time, too, but also that Knitting peace should be mandatory for the leaders of the world. 

I can only recommend it and am happy for you who haven´t seen it yet (it is said to tour outside Sweden, but so far I can´t see any tour plan). I think if we all could keep in mind and be aware of the vulnerability of human life, it would be easier to make a change towards a more peaceful world. And for me, as well as for many others, when I knit or crochet, my pace is slowing down, making me more relaxed and hopefully in the end maybe a little more loving!

slow creations attempt at A call for knitting. Wool, linnen.

You can make your contribution to the call for knitting here and as far as I understood it, no deadline is set yet. Good for me who is a slow knitter….

Search for #knittingpeace at Instagram (image from Facebook page of Knitting Peace):

#knittingpeace on Instagram

Before and during the tour of the show, people are encouraged to send in their white knits (and crochets) and some of them were used in the show as well as exhibited in the foyer and auditorium of Dansens hus in Stockholm. Also, children were given the opportunity to try circus arts under good educators from Cirkör during the performance days, something my son enjoyed.

Photo: slow creations

måndag 21 januari 2013

Slow art exhibition in Stockholm

Mafune Gonjo (b 1984). Beauty has a thorn. 2008. Glass, metal, cotton
Shown at Slow Art, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Photo © slow creations

Things are maybe getting better! There is something going on… slowly and strongly... Concepts like slow art, slow fashion and so on are gaining more recognition, concepts and principles that is very far away from the consumption stress and hectic life-styles of many of us. Maybe somewhat provocative for some people, these concepts are about choosing to live with respect for our environment and our planet, choosing to use your hands, materials and time of your life, for maybe weeks, months or years to make one piece of art.

One of the most creative and important artists in this field is American-born Abigail Doan who at the beginning of this year wrote "Slowing down is ironically a better way for me to examine my ideas about what seems essential for making headway in the studio and beyond." in her always fascinating and beautiful blog

I would like to pay attention to an amazing, immensely well-curated exhibition at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden. It ends on Sunday February 3rd so you would better hurry (if you are in town). I saw information about it when it opened last autumn, but nevertheless, I ironically ended up hurrying to see Slow Art just the other day... Nationalmuseum is going to close for well-needed renovations (for some years) and the house is filled with eager visitors of all ages. The atmosphere when I was there was warm and nice.

Slow Art, Nationalmuseum. Light by Gert Ove Wågstam
Photo © slow creations

The exhibition Slow Art shows almost 30 pieces made of silver, textile, glass, paper and ceramics, most picked from the collections, and "celebrates a contemporary movement in fine craft where technique, materials and the work process are considered especially important". And it really lives up to that. Most of us cannot imagine how much time is needed to make these pieces. The immense skill, and patience, that was need in making them, is paired with exquisite eye for creation. That is, I mean, they are not only well done, so to speak. The works are poetic and evokes feelings like tenderness for life´s fragility and evanescent beauty but also of strength and often, even more astonishing, all of this at the same time.

The curator, Ph D Cilla Robach, has done the most when picking out and juxtaposing the objects, some of them shown without show-case. She also seem to have a deep understanding for the creative process judging from the labels and the catalogue that, besides being sold, is very generously free to down-load here (in Swedish). There is also an app in connection to the exhibition.

Eva Hild (b 1966). Ceramic shapes no 2. 2000 .
Helena Hörstedt (b 1977). Broken Shadow. 2008. Silk, leather.
Slow Art, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Photo © slow creations

Among the artists are Helena Hörstedt, Mafune Gonjo, Eva Hild, Helena Edman, Sebastian Schildt, Helena Sandström, Annika Ekdahl, Pasi Välimaa, Gunilla Lagerhem Ullberg and Karen Bit Vejle.  

Gunilla Lagerhem Ullberg (b 1955). Images. Herbarium, 2011. Petals, glue . Slow Art, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. 
Photo © slow creations

My "old" favourite, Finland-born Pasi Välimaa, is contributing with an embroidery that took him about a year to create, working on it now and then. I think Pasi Välimaa is a perfect example of slow art!

I really encourage everyone to visit Nationalmuseum and I am looking forward to more exhibitions in the future curated by Cilla Robach. 

In a later post I will try to explore my own relation to "slow" which is something I work with in my own way, to challenge my impatience and keep me grounded.

Pasi Välimaa (b 1968). Embroidery. 2001. Cotton, linen. Slow Art, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. 
Photo © slow creations