The Looms and the Art of Ulrika Leander

Mid-Shore Arts: The Looms and Art of Ulrika Leander

The art world has just a few very special heros who take it upon themselves to work in mediums requiring intense intricacy, precision, and endless patience to complete their work. And nowhere else can one find that special breed stand out more than those who chose the art of tapestry for their artistic expression.

And one can officially include the Mid-Shore’s Ulrika Leander in that select group.

Starting at the age of thirteen in her native Sweden, Ulrika has become one of the great masters of the loom with her intentionally beautiful and large tapestries created in her generous studio a short walk from the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry.

Like clockwork, Ulrika works every day in front of one of her three custom-built looms to produce art that is proudly hung in museums and private homes throughout the world. With a typical project taking well over six months to complete, Leander has found a particular zone to operate in as she plots along a single line of fiber during a day’s work.

In her Spy interview a few weeks ago, she talks about this unique, centuries-old practice, and how she enjoys the special challenges that come with the making one-of-a-kind tapestries.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information on Ulrika Leander work and studio, please go here.

Butterfly tapestry

In the middle of the winter it’s quite lovely to weave a tapestry reminding you about summertime. This tapestry is woven from the side using a very complex technique. The 4th image shows the design in the correct direction. Finished, the tapestry will measure about 48 ins high and 72 ins wide. I started the tapestry in November 2016 and I estimate that the weaving process will take me through late spring. The tapestry will be available for sale when completed.

Contemporary Tapestry Weaving – tapestry@goeaston.net

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Architecture and tapestry

Woven space: Architecture and tapestry

Click to enlarge

<i>Homage to CPE Bach</i>, 2003, designed by Jørn Utzon, woven by Cheryl Thornton, Pamela Joyce, Milena Paplinska, Chris Cochius, 2.67 x 14.02m, wool, cotton, Sydney Opera House

Homage to CPE Bach, 2003, designed by Jørn Utzon, woven by Cheryl Thornton, Pamela Joyce, Milena Paplinska, Chris Cochius, 2.67 x 14.02m, wool, cotton, Sydney Opera House Image: John Gollings

An upcoming design competition promises to reinvigorate the connection between architecture and textile art, and hence human experience and the built environment.

There is a long-standing historical connection between architectural space and textile art, and in particular, tapestry. Rare tapestry remnants have been found in Greece dating from the 3rd century BC and the tapestry-laden walls of European museums and palaces are very familiar to us. The longevity of this art form over the centuries makes my 15-year connection with it via the Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW) pale into insignificance. Time is not the relevant metric, however, when measuring the alchemy that occurs in the creation of tapestry—this is timeless.

Significant wall hangings have been created around the world and used in a myriad of configurations for functional, decorative, celebratory and didactic purposes, with a clear knowing of their ‘other’ underlying capacity to modify thermal and acoustic conditions within interior built space. Tapestries have ranged from monumental formats in great public and private buildings down to small-scale intimate works for personal enjoyment. Often underpinned by great wealth, they have been traded and presented as gifts to leaders for hundreds of years across countries and societies. They show enormous scope, having been used for traditional designs employing historical and mythical themes, to being utilised as a preferred medium by avant-garde architects and artists at the beginnings of the modern movement in Europe.

From their earliest history to the full integration of textiles into the comprehensive design program of the Bauhaus in Germany under Walter Gropius (1919-28) and later under Mies van der Rohe (1930-33), tapestries have been linked intimately with built space and its creation. One only has to think of the great architect Le Corbusier and his integration of textiles with architecture, including his own masterfully self-designed epic tapestries, to understand the significance of placement in architectural space.

William Morris in the 19th century and the contemporary French artist Jean Lurcat paved a way for others to follow, including internationally influential artists such as Picasso, Calder, Leger and Miro, who used the mediums of tapestry and textile as key platforms for their work.


Homage to CPE Bach, 2003, designed by Jørn Utzon, woven by Cheryl Thornton, Pamela Joyce, Milena Paplinska, Chris Cochius, 2.67 x 14.02m, wool, cotton, Sydney Opera House Image:  John Gollings

A point to note is that the realisation of the two great tapestries for new Parliament House and the Sydney Opera House came via collaboration with the ATW. In fact, most of the ATW tapestries are designed with a specific location in mind, and architectural considerations often have a great effect on the designing artists and the weavers when they create a commissioned work. In our Australian context, the architect and enthusiastic champion of integrated art, Aldo Giurgola of Mitchell Giurgola Thorpe, included the monumental Arthur Boyd tapestry Untitled (Shoalhaven Landscape) in the new Parliament House in Canberra. Harry Seidler, European émigré and pioneer Australian modernist architect, included great tapestry works in his local buildings. Jørn Utzon, responsible for the world-acclaimed Sydney Opera House, designed his tapestry Homage to CPE Bach for the Utzon Room in that same building.

Ainsley Murray in her marvelous review of an installation by Sandra Selig at the MCA in 2004 (Artlink magazine vol. 25, #1) wrote perceptively and provocatively about architecture and intervention:

“Architecture has long since surrendered the tactile in favour of grander visions. Processes of digitisation, prefabrication and mechanisation have lead to the widespread abandonment of the human hand in architectural practice, and private eccentricities are now buried, smoothed over with flatter, more uniform design solutions. Recalcitrant fingerprints and other imperfections have dissolved from all but the vernacular and indigenous architecture of Australasia. The question is, how might we reconsider our relationship with built matter to restore a direct connection with human experience? I suspect the clues lie not in architecture, but in contemporary installation.”

An upcoming design competition promoted by the ATW will reinvigorate this connection between architectural built-form and textile art. It will help to build an awareness of tapestry as a relevant medium that sits comfortably within the materiality of contemporary architectural thinking, providing another tool that architects can draw on in response to this increasingly complex and challenging world.

As Ainsley Murray concluded in her article: “Perhaps the handmade in architecture is nothing to do with the physical character of buildings, but entirely to do with how we engage with them in our enlivened and repetitious gestures. Not only is architecture rethought, but the relationship between being and building reconsidered.”

Hear, hear.

Wall tapestries

Wall tapestries: A popular choice for home décor

Home décor made beautiful!

For millennia people have used wall tapestries and textiles to decorate their homes, from castles to condos. Tapestry wall hangings are one of the most accomplished textile-based art forms and come from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds giving them a great diversity of styles.

Some wall tapestries originate from museums and others from artists are licensing their artwork to be made into tapestries. Any subject matter from nature and landscapes to impressionist and modern art can be used to create a tapestry. These add an entirely unique dimension to this traditional form of art.

Traditional materials with a modern twist

Traditional tapestries, particularly Medieval era tapestries, were made from wool. This provided a strong basis for adding dyes and pigments and had the added benefit of being hardwearing and easily available. Over time other yarns have been added to the mix, but the basic principle of natural materials has remained with tapestry weaving, using traditional materials and weaving techniques. Wool tapestries when mixed with synthetic polymers have the distinct advantage of preserving the traditional warmth of wool tapestries, but add a long-lasting robustness that would have made them the envy of medieval weavers.

The very best quality modern wall tapestries make the most of this blend of old and new, using new improved fibers to reproduce classical art and famous tapestry art from the past. With the improvements made to pigments and dyes in the last century we can now easily buy faithful reproductions of centuries-old tapestry designs; unseen in such vibrant colors since the time they were originally designed.

Solve decorating challenges

Like any form of high quality art tapestries can open a window to the past, expand living space both emotionally and visually, create the basis for a theme, add color and give your living space individuality, personality and charm. Decorating with tapestries adds beauty, warmth and character.

Choosing a horizontal tapestry will help add length to a room or try opening a space by choosing a tapestry with doorways and windows. These types of tapestries give an illusion of added space by leading the eye of the viewer outward. If your room is large and cold, scale it down by hanging a series of smaller tapestries together. This creates the illusion of a smaller space and can bring a large, blank wall down in size. Hanging small tapestries together will also add warmth to your room.

Wall tapestries – rich in history

Wall tapestries, often rich in history, can transport us to another time and place. They encourage reflective and tranquil moments, enlighten the human spirit and are great subjects of conversation. They also add charm and coziness to our homes and are balm for the soul. All of these qualities have made wall tapestries a popular choice amongst art lovers for centuries. Today with modern textiles and fabrics and centuries of tradition, art and design behind them many are finding wall tapestries as charming, versatile and beautiful as ever.

Swift Silvertails Passing

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