How to care for your tapestry

Wall tapestries should be handled with great care. They are a beautiful addition to home décor that require meticulous care so that they can beautify the home for years to come. For the most part, tapestries can be well cared for at home. When they become stained or dingy, however, a textile conservator can help to restore a tapestry to pristine condition. Some modern tapestries can even be cleaned at home, but for an antique piece, deeper cleaning is best left up to professionals with experience in textile cleaning.Tapestries can either be finished or unfinished. Most tapestries today are finished, which means that they come with a rod pocket or loops, and they basically hang like a curtain would; they require a rod and hooks. When hanging a tapestry onto a wall, the weight of the tapestry must distribute evenly to prevent the rod from bowing.

Some tapestries come unfinished, meaning that they don’t come with the rod pocket necessary to hang them. A tapestry company can custom-fit a wall hanging with trim, backing, and rod pockets to make a tapestry suitable for wall hanging. If an unfinished tapestry’s appearance might be compromised by altering it, a textile conservator can help determine the best way to mount an unfinished tapestry to the wall.

Cleaning    One way of cleaning is using a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment to rid the tapestry of dust. Dust should not accumulate so much that it starts to show; if it does, then it has gone for too long without dusting. The dustier the tapestry is, the more susceptible it is to other particles adhering to it. The more that accumulates, the more difficult it will be to clean. Vacuuming the tapestry twice a year should suffice except in homes with a lot of dust or a home with pets. In this case, a tapestry may need to be vacuumed as often as once every two weeks.

If the tapestry ever gets a stain on it, however, it must be dry cleaned. Even water can damage the tapestry. If water does get on the tapestry, it can be blotted with a plain white cloth, but if the stain is still present, it should be brought to a textile conservator for proper cleaning.

Newer tapestries might be more flexible regarding care. Some manufacturers might deem it appropriate to wash a tapestry in mild soap and water, but for antique pieces, it’s best not to take chances; instead, these are the tapestries that should always be handled by a textile conservator.

Over time, the fabric on a tapestry can fade – with antique pieces, this is part of the appeal. It can provide an aged look, and some people even prefer it so much that they’ll pay to have their newer tapestries washed to hasten the fading process. When faded fabric is not desired, though, it is best not to hang the tapestry in direct sunlight. On a similar note, they should not be hung near windows in humid climates because of the risk of mold. Moisture can also cause colors to fade and the fibers to weaken. Fortunately, wall tapestries are very versatile when it comes to decorating possibilities. They can fit in many places in a home, even after a room has been redecorated or the tapestry is moved to a new place. This reduces the risk of the tapestry being damaged by the elements.

Storage    Proper storage is necessary to preserve valuable tapestries. They should be dry cleaned and stored in a container that provides ventilation but prevents dust and dirt from getting in. A wicker basket with a cover or an acid-free cardboard box with small air holes should suffice for tapestry storage. The tapestry should be folded with a piece of white tissue paper to prevent the threads from rubbing against one another. Lastly, the tapestry should never be stored in a place with sharp or jagged edges, as this can irreparably damage the threads.

Exercising appropriate care for tapestries will allow them to beautify a home for many years. Because they are timeless works of art, it is essential to care for them properly so that they can be appreciated for generations to come.

Tapestry: A Neglected Art Form


Tapestries were once one of the most highly prized mediums, with Raphael being paid five times more for the tapestries he designed to adorn the walls of the Sistine Chapel than Michelangelo received for his contribution to the ceiling. Masterful artists wove silk, wool, gold, and silver threads glorifying military triumphs, tales, and worldly domains. They decorated the walls of castles and palaces, symbols of wealth and prestige, and reminded travelers of their past, present, and future. With the passage of time however, the admiration and fascination with tapestries have faltered. Today though, thanks to the help of technology in the form of a jacquard loom and the accessibility of traditional weavers, artists are once again embracing the medium and exploring the intricate balance between art and cloth.

Weaving utensils

Not since the early 20thCentury has the medium of tapestries been so embraced by artists. In the early 1930’s French weaving workshops, or ateliers, produced thousands of modern art images. Many of the century’s greatest artists—Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Victor Vasarely and Marc Chagall—allowed French weavers to translate existing works of theirs or create cartoons that are highly valued in the art market today for the sheer intricate skill with which the tapestry was created. Collectors such as Marie Cuttoli influenced the medium as well by commissioning those similar artists to produce original designs conceived specifically for conversion into cloth by Aubusson weavers, and then having them sign the backs of the works, adding to their value.

“Jaune II” by Fernand Leger, Wool Tapestry

Often thought of as too costly and time consuming to embark on today, artists such as Chuck Close, Craigie Horsfield, Kiki Smith, William Kentridge, and Grayson Perry are experimenting with the medium and realizing the accessibility and affordability of the weavers and material. With the jacquard loom, a computerized weaving machine, the artist is able to churn out a tapestry in just days after experimenting with their design, color palette, and desired weave tightness. Meanwhile other artists are seeking out skilled weavers in foreign countries such as India, Afghanistan, and South Africa to create their masterpieces in a collaborative effort allowing for the process to be an artistic journey and art form all its own.

The circus comes to town: Craigie Horsfield’s colossal tapestries at M HKA (Antwerp)

Craigie Horsfield says, “The tapestry allows scale. It allows physicality. It’s not just to create a spectacular effect…It allows the sense of things being woven and how we imagine the world through the stories we tell each other…I like the idea that the tapestry takes on a meaning by the juxtaposition of individual threads, individual colors, which when read together become whole, rather in the same way that in our society we are individuals, but when we work together we take on new meaning.”  In understanding the motivations and history behind such an art form, tapestries deserve more than the fleeting, offhand mentions that they have received to date. From Raphael to Picasso to Close tapestries have captured the world’s attention as artist and weaver effortlessly come together in an organic display not available in any painting.

Information obtained from ArtNews article “Looms with a View” by Hilarie M. Sheets in the September 2012 edition.

The Public art Agency in Sweden

Public Art Agency Sweden (former The National Public Art Council Sweden) was founded in 1937 and is responsible to the Ministry of Culture.

The general assignment of Public Art Agency Sweden is to make art a natural and prominent feature in the community. The Council strives to create opportunities for contemporary art to impact on the public environment through projects for artistic embellishment and art collections produced for government authorities.

Since 1937, Public Art Agency Sweden, a government organisatin, has enriched the public domain with art and is Sweden’s largest commissioner of artistic embellishment. The Council commissions some 40 professional artists every year to present drafts and implement art projects. Most of these artists live and work in Sweden, but artists in other countries are also employed, thereby enhancing international contacts in the field.

Public Art Agency Sweden also puts together some 100 art collections annually, for various government organisations in Sweden and abroad. These collections reflect artistic production over the past decades and consist of both newly purchased and older works. In many cases, the artistic diversity of these collections makes them both unique and interesting in an art historical perspective.

In addition, as from 2010, Public Art Agency Sweden has been assigned by the government to collaborate with the Swedish National Heritage Board, Arkitekturmuseet and the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, along with relevant local municipalities and property owners, to distribute funding and implement projects for the artistic embellishment of public spaces not owned by the government. The purpose is to improve the quality of buildings and facilities, taking into consideration various perspectives and needs. Public Art Agency Sweden thereby earmarks funds that were previously reserved for art in non-government environments to enhance the overall design of public spaces, such as infrastructure, schools and housing areas. Special consideration will be given to the perspective of children and teenagers.

Information, education and development in the field of public artistic design and embellishment are used by Public Art Agency Sweden to raise awareness of how art contributes to a good social environment. Public Art Agency Sweden supervises the government organisations’ handling of government-owned art that is not maintained by other government organisations. This supervision activity instructs government organisations on procedures regarding the recording, annual inventory and day-to-day care of public art collections. It also advises property owners and other parties on the care and management of building-related art commissioned by Public Art Agency Sweden.

Art Lounge

At Public Art Agency Sweden’s Art Lounge visitors can access material by artists applying to the Council for commissions, and also read the Council’s annual catalogues and other publications. This material is intended primarily for Public Art Agency Sweden’s project managers in their search for artists for public commissions, but other parties looking for artists to execute public art assignments, and the general public, are welcome to study the work submitted by the artists. The Art Lounge also has a programme of activities, including seminars and discussions about art in the public sphere.

Art education

In 2010, our educational activities around art have included guided tours of public art, workshops at schools, lectures and artist talks. Seminars focusing on art and the public and art in the public sphere have been co-organised with regional and municipal organisations and other government organisations. Other commissioners of public art have also requested information about the working process at Public Art Agency Sweden, including discussions on art styles and the role of art in public spaces. Art education activities are primarily aimed at young people, but also, for instance, at interested staff in workplaces where a new permanent work of art or an art collection has been installed.

In 2010, workshops were held at Ekeskolan in Örebro for three groups of young adults with impaired vision, and for all pupils at Sameskolan in Karesuando (Year F-5). Guided tours and talks about art collections in workplaces have doubled since 2009 and numbered 35 in 2010.

For the third consecutive year, the KOP (Art and Public) network held an international conference, The Art of Having an Audience, at Moderna Museet in Stockholm on 19 – 21 May.

Public Art Agency’s art online

In 2010, Public Art Agency Sweden published an unprecedented amount of text and images relating to art and art projects on the internet, thanks to the integration of the Council’s internal system and a digitalised image archive. Web services such as Google Translate and Google Maps have continued to be useful in providing cost-effective and efficient web solutions. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are changing but are still relevant channels for the Council in our public outreach.

Images, image archives and copyright

Over the last few years, Public Art Agency Sweden’s visual documentation has developed more towards showing the works of art in their setting, together with the people who frequent it. Our analogue image archive was already digitalised, and in 2010 we made it accessible for internal use. In 2011, parts of the archive will be made available online.

Portfolio Project

Our portfolio presentations started during the Year of Multiculturalism in 2006, and made it possible for professional artists around Sweden to present their work to the Council’s project managers. The purpose of the Portfolio Project is to broaden the recruitment of artists for commissions from the Council. The purpose is also to achieve greater transparency in the Council’s operations by bringing more artists in contact with the Council. In April 2010, a portfolio presentation for artists was organised jointly with Kalmar Konstmuseum. 205 artists applied, and 95 artists from four counties presented their work. The portfolio presentations have led to a more open contact with artists throughout Sweden. 16 artists received new commissions from the Council thanks to the portfolio presentations, and some 30 works were purchased.

Finding more time for my tapestries – the closing of The Gallery By The River September 29.


Studio viewv5


The Gallery By The River opened in 2002 with the theme of presenting art by European and American artists. The current exhibition “Made In Sweden” is the seventh exhibition featuring artists living and working in Sweden and during this time more than forty Swedish artists have spent at least one year in working and preparing for this invitational event. The current exhibition “Made In Sweden” will be the last in this series and will also mark the closing of The Gallery By The River.

What is not generally known is that The Gallery By The River has established a reputation in Sweden as a welcoming and exciting place for artists to visit and to exhibit their work and each year brings more requests from artists who wish to showcase their work in the US. For many of our visiting artists, the publicity surrounding their exhibition here in Bellevue has resulted in a significant surge of interest in their work.

To all of our visitors I want to say thank you for your great interest and support. To our neighbors who have hosted and entertained the artists who have travelled from Sweden to be here at the opening reception, I wish to say a special word of thanks; without your help and support few of the artists could afford to stay here and enjoy that special day.

To my dear husband a special thanks. I can’t remember how many times he has painted the walls in the gallery so that they are fresh for the new exhibition, hung the artwork under the leadership of his wife, and been up on high ladders to adjust the lighting or changing bulbs; thank you Arthur.

For me, it has been an amazing and inspiring journey with the gallery. The contacts with the new artists must be made at least one year ahead of the opening of the exhibition and the preparations and logistics get underway in January to be ready for the June opening. When all the artwork is finally in place and we are ready to open the doors to our visitors, it is a privilege and great pleasure to be able to sit back and enjoy the beautiful art produced by the men and women of my home country.

The decision to close the gallery has not been easy, but I need more time to pursue my other vocation of designing and weaving large scale tapestries. As to the future I am hoping to always have new and exciting tapestries on the studio walls and something interesting in progress on the large loom with which to welcome visitors year-around by appointment.

Ulrika Leander

The Traditions of Swedish Hand-Woven Tapestry

Sweden has one of the longest unbroken and richly indigenous tapestry weave traditions in Europe. Hand weaving in Sweden, although having to struggle along with much of the rest of Europe, against competition from industrial looms, was always seen as part of the rich rural heritage of Sweden. It was particularly favoured for domestic use and young girls were taught from an early age to be proficient in the craft.

With the founding of the Handarbetets Vanner, or Friends of Handicraft in 1874 by Sophie Adlersparre, Molly Rohtlieb, and Hanna Mathilda Winge, three Swedish women who did much to integrate the old traditions of Swedish hand weaving and tapestry into the burgeoning interest shown largely by urban dwellers in fast disappearing rural crafts, through the Arts and Crafts movement.

It was seen by many that if a number of the traditional crafts were not encouraged, they would be lost forever. This was often problematic as many rural workers were drifting towards urban centres across Europe, as cities became a magnet for the ambitions of rural populations who were often disinclined to take up the labour intensive and badly paid traditional craft skills. Sweden, in the respect of rural crafts, was luckier than some of the more populous and intensely industrial countries in Western Europe. By the end of the nineteenth century, Sweden still had a relatively large rural community with few big industrial towns. However, it was still seen that the rural traditions that the Arts and Crafts movement supported and felt were vital to the integrity and future of the various different indigenous cultures of Europe, needed particular support and encouragement.

It is the interest in both the traditions of Sweden and its rural culture, but also that of the weaving tradition itself, which has kept hand weaving alive within Sweden. This has allowed a whole raft of individuals from professionals who used both hand and industrial weaving techniques, to the strictly hand weaving of the amateur. All have helped to produce and inspire work that has continued that tradition across the twentieth and into the twenty first century.