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Turned threads and thoughts: Heritage skills and modern art
The story of my path as a tablet weaver, teacher, and textile artist, in which the technique is a tool, a way forward, and not the destination. The materials, tools, and meeting with people, visions, and functions. The pedagogy of manual skills, literature, and philosophy as a basis for artistic creation. The rest is life.
The Faroe Islands are situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, between Norway and Iceland, and north of Scotland. The population is about 50.000 people. The climate is windy, wet, cloudy, and cool. Nothing much grows on the rugged terrain except grass, which feeds the many sheep that have provided wool, which was for many years the foundation of the Faroese economy, as well as material for clothing. These days the economy is mostly founded on fishing and fish farming.
Out of necessity, the Faroe Islands have a long tradition of making their own textiles, many of which are still practiced today. Especially knitting is important, and the Faroese knitting patterns, though many of them are similar to patterns in other Nordic countries, are distinctive, being mostly quite small and intricate. Wool was used for most items of clothing, either knitted or woven, and often felted as well.
Several bands and braids have been used for both decoration and practical purposes on clothing, but also for ropes and strings. Many of them are also used in other countries, as they are mostly very simple. However, most of the Faroese bands and braids are manufactured using no other implement than one’s own hands and body. Some of them require two people working together.
The national costume of the Faroe Islands is very popular, it is worn for graduations, weddings and at Ólavsøka, which is a national holiday on the 29th of October. People of all ages, children, young people and older alike enjoy wearing their national costumes. They are highly valued, as well as being expensive, with all the silver ornaments and the specialized items of clothing.
Braids and bands were part of costume and household use from the recorded time of human life in Denmark. Bog burials and other archaeological finds show an extremely high technical level of weaving, sprang, tablet- and rigid heddle bands.
Passementerie became a recognized guild in the 1500s, after which the most decorative bands and lace were more often bought from workshops or merchants selling goods from Germany and France than were made at home. Peasants bought imported silk ribbons for their costume but continued to weave and make the simple bands they used as garters, apron and cap strings until around 1880.
The last handmade braids and bands disappeared when regional dress was largely abandoned in the early 1900s. Then it became popularto revive these textile skills through ladies’ magazines and weaving schools, but today they are goneagain except for the occasional committed scholar, weaver and dedicated hobbyist. Can heritage skills be resuscitated?
A wealth of prehistoric cords and bands made of various fibres and animal skins has been recovered in Denmark. They range from simple plied cords to more complicated woven or braided bands. Because Denmark is rich in organic finds from archaeological contexts these objects reveal a variety in the material culture that in many other areas are lost to us. The presentation will have a sweeping chronological focus from the Stone Age to the Viking Age.