Makers Space Profile #3: Icelandic Textile Center
TEXTILES are everywhere: you can see, touch and feel them, you can also make them do things. But there’s a lot that goes into these textiles coming to life: from visualizing to materializing, thinking to rethinking, discovery to rediscovery, each step is crucial and ongoing until the result is achieved. And what’s also crucial is for the textile artist or the researcher to have access to a setting that’s conducive to innovation, where ideas can flow.
Through our “Makers Space Profile” series, we focus on such settings where artists, technologists, designers, and researchers are creating textiles. This time we are featuring the the Icelandic Textile Centre. Here’s what we found out after interacting with the Centre’s project and communications manager Katharina A. Schneider…
The Icelandic Textile Center is situated in the scenic seaside town of Blönduós, northwest Iceland. Founded in 2005 and now merged with the Blönduós Academic Center (Þekkingarsetur), the Icelandic Textile Center aims to promote and develop Icelandic and international textiles. The Center is led by a governing board that comprises representatives from universities, regional municipalities, associations, and businesses, facilitates research projects and encourages collaboration, education, and innovation in the field of textiles, textile art and design.
The Textile Center Residency, called “Ós” (Icelandic for estuary) after its location in Kvennaskólinn on the banks of glacial river Blanda, provides visiting students, scholars, and artists with working spaces to conduct their artistic practice, research, and study-trips within textiles.
The Textile Center is located in heritage building Kvennaskólinn, a former Women’s College and boarding school on the banks of glacial river Blanda, overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean. Textile art and handicrafts were an important part of the curriculum, so one could say that having the Icelandic Textile Center and Ós Residency there today is in keeping with the tradition. The school was closed in 1978, but the house continued to be used for office space and community activities and has been renovated in recent years.
Ós Textile Residency
Ós seeks to promote an atmosphere of creativity, experimentation and reflection for artists and scholars working inside the textile field. We accept submissions from emerging, mid-career, and senior level artists and scholars all year round (open call) and welcome a variety of techniques and methods within textiles; including weaving, digital weaving, fashion design, surface design, embroidery, knitting and felting. Since it first opened in 2013, ÓS has hosted textile artists and scholars from all around the world. Since 2017, artists in residence are featured in our Art Residency Catalogue.
Below is a picture of the works by Hanna Norrna, a former artist in residence. More pictures here (All pics courtesy: Hedda Rabe).
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions on the textile residency.
In May 2021, the Textile Center opened the first Textile Lab in Iceland. The Lab features a variety of state-of-the art digital equipment – including digital looms, a laser cutter, felt loom, digital embroidery and digital knitting machine – and is located within walking distance from the Textile Center. A place for learning, inspiration and innovation, the Lab received a development grant from the Icelandic Infrastructure Fund and is part of the Textile Center’s ongoing European collaboration CENTRINNO, funded by the research and innovation program Horizon2020. The Textile Lab is open for students, scholars and makers, as well as the general public. Artists in residence also have access to the facilities and can book equipment like the digital loom during their stay at the residency, given that they are experienced digital loom weavers.
At this point in time, the Textile Center staff is a team of five: Elsa Arnardottir, director; Jóhanna Erla Palmadottir, expert knitter, sheep farmer and mastermind behind the embroidery project Vatnsdæla Tapestry; Katharina Schneider, project and communications manager; Ragnheiður Björk Þórsdottir, weaving expert, and Svanhildur Pálsdottir, event coordinator for the Iceland Knit Fest. In October 2021, a new staff member, the TextileLab manager, will join us.
The Icelandic Textile Center’s mission is based on cooperation with local municipalities, educational institutions, textile associations and businesses in Iceland. We initiate and facilitate a variety of projects, including community activities, exhibitions, and research. Since 2016, the focus has been on cultural heritage, textile innovation and digital textiles. We also participate in national and international programs and collaborations, such as CENTRINNO; a European project under the research and innovation programme Horizon 2020.
The pictures of woven coats (above) are a part of a digital textiles project, woven on the TC2 loom by Guðbjörg Þóra Stefánsdóttir, a BA student at Central Saint Martins (UK). Guðbjörg was a research assistant for the project.
Recent and ongoing projects include:
The Textile Center, in collaboration with the University of Iceland, is currently participating in the European project CENTRINNO (“New CENTRalities in INdustrial areas as engines for inNOvation and urban transformation”) under the research and innovation program Horizon 2020 (centrinno.eu). The 3 1/2-year project started in September 2020 and aims to revitalize once thriving industrial areas using cultural heritage as its inspiration. Partnering institutions and foundations in nine European cities, 26 in total, include WAAG and Metabolic Institute in Amsterdam, Volumes and Sony CLS in Paris, IAAC in Barcelona, the Danish Design Center in Copenhagen, FabLab Zagreb and Tallinn University of Technology. The project is led by Comune di Milano – the municipality of Milan.
For Iceland, one of the main aims is to strengthen and further develop the Textile Center in Blönduós into a dynamic textile hub, where designers, artists, makers and scholars have access to modern facilities and equipment suited to their needs (the TextileLab). Focus is placed on the use of natural and regional materials and resources, such as Icelandic wool. The University of Iceland will contribute to the theoretical foundation of the hub by conducting research on the current situation and historical heritage of domestic crafts and textile work in Iceland.
- Bridging Textiles to the Digital Future
In 2016, Ragnheiður Björk Þórsdóttir spent five months studying weaving patterns archived at the Textile Center. This initial research and preservation activity sparked “Bridging Textiles to the Digital Future”, a three-year project funded by the Icelandic Technology Development Fund and led by Ragnheiður, aiming to analyze, photograph, and digitize weaving patterns, and make them available online. By applying new research and developing a better understanding of how old patterns are woven, they can be made compatible with new technology, such as the Tc2 digital loom located at the Textile Center. During the project period, Ragnheiður and her research assistants analyzed, photographed, and digitized thousands of weaving patterns, experimented with various materials and colors and produced sample weavings on the digital loom. The project ended in September 2020 with the opening of the first online weaving database in Iceland: https://gagnagrunnur.textilmidstod.is/en/weaving
- Iceland Knit Fest
Prjónagleði – Icelandic Knit Fest is an annual event initiated by the Icelandic Textile Center, held during the second weekend in June each year. Festival activities included many different workshops on a wide range of knitting topics, sightseeing trips to local knitting and textile sites of interest, knitting competition, and marketplace.
HOW WE GOT INTO WEAVING
Kvennaskólinn came with a loom studio and old looms that used to belong to the Women’s College, so we could not help but put them to good use! Some of the looms have been here since 1924; others have been replaced with newer Glimåkra and tapestry looms. Most of the floor looms are countermarch, 4 – 10 harnesses. They are now taken care of by Ragnheiður and used by the artists and designers staying at Ós residency. There are only very few textile residencies in the world, so there has been a lot of interest in both the traditional looms and the digital loom now located in the new TextileLab.
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