Prototyping jacquard residencies in Norway 2021

Prototyping jacquard residencies in Norway 2021

In September 2021, Renata Brink, artist and Professor of Textiles in the Design Department at HAW Hamburg (Germany), was with us at Digital Weaving Norway as a part of the two Prototyping Jacquard residencies in Norway. Renata shares her learning, impressions and experiences… 

Zeros and Ones 

Art-based practices of making and researching and making by means of different work series…

Coming from the art-based shaft weaving with its thinking and noting in groups of threads, I followed two residencies in Norway focusing on digitally-supported jacquard prototyping. The jacquard loom technology with its individual thread control is the predecessor of computer technology – 150 years prior to the computers of the 20th century. A pixel is a thread! So far, my interest and insight into jacquard weaving had been rather conceptual, based on critical theory. In 2016, I instigated a successful application for acquiring a TC2 loom for the design department of HAW Hamburg, where I hold the professorship for textiles.  But my involvement with the TC2 was then more on an administrational level.

In the mid-1990s, I was studying and teaching at Goldsmiths College / University of London, and became aware of American textile art, such as Lia Cook’s image based woven pieces: She made them on a digitally supported jacquard loom – the Thread Controller Loom TC-1. And I was aware of the visionary Vibeke Vestby, who had started as a shaft weaver herself – and had teamed up with Tronrud Engineering to develop a hand-controlled, digital jacquard loom for prototyping. This was long before the founding of Fab Labs, with their general and open source access to new machine technologies for makers!

My approach for the art residencies was to work within the setup and materials offered at the respective studios. So, I traveled with two quite open ideas about what could be the basis of my research and sampling: I had scanned some of my very recent pencil, ink and watercolour drawings. And I had a notion of exploring the possibility of floats , which – not only in shaft weaving – is something to be mostly avoided in weaving!

The first residency was in a small group in the studio of artist Kristina D. Aas in Bergen: She had prepared the TC2 loom with her assistant Mariell with alternating B/W warp threads in wool, on one warp beam. For the weft, there was a great variety of colours and weights, mainly in wool. Through Kristina’s profound competence and technical support, we all learned so much! Kristina D. Aas had graduated from the Art, Design and Music Faculty of Bergen University in 2011,  with a focus on digitally supported Jacquard weaving.

Apart from her work in the design team at Kvadrat Innvik weaving company, she also began developing a masterly woven body of mostly multi-coloured, individual, photorealistic artworks with surreal connotations, as well as graphic interpretations of nature and 3-D hangings. In 2019 Kristina D. Aas invested in her own TC2 loom to expand both prototyping and realizing of artworks independently. For very large bodies of work there are still the possibilities offered by the Textile Lab at the Tilburg Textiel Museum in the Netherlands, or industrial mills which collaborate with external artists and designers.

Parallel to the studio, Kristina D. Aas now acts as multiplier and generator, as a hub, for making this woven prototyping technology more available to other interested artists. From my German perspective it would be a dream to be able to book time for TC2 weaving within reach of a train journey! Since the TC2 loom was developed in Norway, it is very noticeable how present the technology is here – with the TC-1 coming out in 1995 and the TC2 being launched in 2012. The Norwegian art and design colleges as well as  individual artists and designers in Norway have had working experience with the TC-1 and TC-2 for more than 25 years now! So has the weaving lab of Central St. Martin’s College in London:  It takes time to get beyond the first obvious results – for example of no weave structures,  weaving photographic images as they are. This approach can however, depending on the context, be impressive, and show the possibilities of the prototyping very well.

For the second residency at the Digital Weaving Norway/ DWN Studio, which is linked to Tronrud Engineering, the warp on the loom was a white mercerized cotton on one warp beam. Here I experimented with floats using stiff materials such as linen, some with a percentage of stainless steel. Apart from great expertise and technical guidance, Vibeke Vestby shared many considerations and insights into developing and refining the TC2 loom. She also shared details about artworks made by many different users around the world:  The examples ranged from individual art pieces, via design projects, to education and the re-weaving of historical fabrics in order to preserve or visualize lost works, or to retain cultural memory. Working on a TC2 loom is always an art and design based research. Team members Helle Ekaas and Geetika Nautiyal dropped into the DWN studio to establish contact, and pointed out the growing community network of TC2 users.

Together with Vibeke Vestby and Geetika Nautiyal we had much exchange and a fabulous guided tour through Tronrud Engineering Technology Park at Eggemoen. “Putting Ideas into Practice”, Tronrud’s motto, is especially true for the TC2 loom communities! This was demonstrated at the Tronrud headquarters where they have 3 large, site-specific woven works by Danish artist Grethe Sørensen, featured on 3 floors in the spacious entrance hall. Another large woven and site-specific work in the lobby is by Lise Frølund from Denmark: It’s background theme has references to the typical pine forest landscape on the Eggemoen plateau. All works had been prototyped on TC1 looms, and Lise Frølunds’ piece was also woven on the TC-1.

Tronrud Engineering had upholstery fabrics developed by Grethe Sørensen, both in the lobby area and in the office spaces: The two-colored jacquard upholstery fabric is named Interference, and was awarded the Red Dot Design Award some years ago. Then it was distributed by Kvadrat. Another very colorful upholstery design is named Millions of Colors, and was distributed by Maharam in the USA. The whole complex of Tronrud headquarters and production buildings was designed in 2008 by the Norwegian Snøhetta Architects: They made very contemporary spaces with a mixture of open plan and secluded office spaces, with purist color schemes and a variety of glass, steel, stone and wood materials. The digitally woven textile works of 2011 extend the complex presence of the headquarter building.

Experiencing two different TC2 configurations in maximum weaving widths 1,09m (3 wide) and 0,36m (1 wide) at the Studio Kristina D. Aas in Bergen and at the DWN Studio offered many general insights. For the residencies – that is testing and trying out – both looms were threaded to 36 cm weaving width. The number of modules was limited to 4 in the depth, or 2 in the depth in the 1W loom.  A real discovery was the 1 wide TC2 loom:  With its compact measurements and fewer maximum modules, it was set up with a smaller, more quiet vacuum pump! Depending on intentions and aims of the research and prototyping, there is possibly not always a need for large widths, high warp densities or complex weave bindings.

The TC2 1 wide offers art and design-based prototyping as well as production of small, individual pieces, and may be a great counterpart to a wider TC2 loom:  For example in Art & Design Colleges,  work may happen in parallel on two looms or in groups: the small loom offers fast insights into art and design research. The TC2 loom concept does not necessarily require a weaving background: With the high affinities to digital surfaces and pixel-based structures, the loom may be compared with a printer: This is again interesting for maker spaces, fab labs or art and design colleges, with their range of different study areas.

Working on woven drawings and experimenting with increased length weft floats based on drawings: thinking is making is prototyping. FUTURE CRAFTS and FUTURE TEXTILES based on the concept of zeros and ones – digitally crafted and hand-made – interwoven concepts are linked by the TC2 loom. The TC2 jacquard prototyping technology offers multidimensional, extended as well as immediate working and thinking modes shifting freely between digital and haptic possibilities and spaces.