Kaboom 2 (2008)
110 cms x 140 cms
Kristin Saeterdal combines the immediacy of pop art style imagery with the discipline and patience of tapestry weaving. Exploring themes in the modern psyche such as computer games and science fiction she creates large vibrant woven canvases that comment on aspects of how we live today.
What are your first memories of textiles?
My Grandmother took me to the National Arts & Craft museum for a large retrospective exhibition of Tapestry artist Frida Hansen. This was when I was about ten, and I was totally fascinated by her work in the Art Nouveau style. The very romantic style with roses, medieval knights and princesses, went straight into the heart of a 10-year-old girl. My grandmother was otherwise also a great inspiration, she was an amateur painter not a very good one, but she could say things to me like: It is not only the colour in itself you know, it is also how much there is of it. I grew up in a family of Architects, with Scandinavian style furniture, Abstract American Artists and Marimekko clothes.
How did you learn about tapestry?
My first encounter with Tapestry was when I was 16, I went to a Waldorf school, where they focus on balancing the head, hand and the heart, so craft was perhaps more valued than in society in general. I was hooked from the first minute and I took the loom home with me to finish it for the next lesson the week after. But at that time I did not consider this to be a profession. When I was 18 I started Architecture school, and also worked as an architect for some years. After I had a break when my child was ill, I started a two-year tapestry course at Oslo University College. Unfortunately, that was the last year they ran this education course in Norway, now it is history.
What themes do you explore through your art?
Technology, and how it is changing the way we live interests me. I am interested in how the virtual and real life is connected. Also the making of images/pictures composition, perspective, light and colour interests me a lot.
How has your work evolved over time?
I started with more abstract and conceptual work; I was not in for the Narrative style that I saw was coming more and more. But that has changed. I am still interested in the border between figure and abstraction, and now when I make more architectural rooms in tapestry, I think about by background as Architect, and the wish to weave surroundings to be captured by.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in popular culture, science fiction films, and science news. But I look at these things from an artists view, not a scientist. I often look at the TV-screen when my kids are gaming, just looking at the images, not following the quest at all, just letting the visual images into my brain.
Where do you work?
I have a studio where I have my loom. It is in a studio-collective with many other artists, musicians filmmakers writers etc. I sometimes go to my summerhouse alone, off-season to do my designs and develop drawings for new tapestries. I also do my office work in my pyjamas in the mornings, enjoying the freelance kind of lifestyle.
How do you design a tapestry?
I take a long time to work on the idea or a design for a tapestry. Often the drawing is left to mature for a year or longer. It captures images that awaken my interest, often on screen, and I keep it them my inspiration folder. When I am ready to do new work, I choose an image to develop further. I use pencil, paper and software in a mix, and get it printed out in scale in a simple black and white line drawing. Although sometimes I use a hand drawn grid. I dye the yarn to match the design, but then the yarn I have also can change the design. I use yarn from old Norwegian sheep, it is hard spun and only the top-wool is used, to make the light-reflecting surface of the tapestry.
I read that Blue Control room took you 400 hours. Do you do other smaller projects at the same time or just focus on one?
I sometimes do small work in between, but usually I focus on the one a have in my big loom. I have a goal of a number of weaving-hours to do every week, because I often try to make the tapestry as big as possible in the time I have until the exhibition. The rest of the time work as an art consultant, organise my exhibitions, and other tasks connected to my artistic practise. So I often have to use the weekends to complete the required “cm2 of the week” according to schedule. I am my own slave driver. There are no short cuts in tapestry. When I have a month or two between the large tapestries, I enjoy a more relaxed schedule, but then I am eager and curious to start weaving again.
I notice you sew in your ends as you weave. Why do you do this?
Yes, that is right I do that as I weave along because then I have the tension on the warp so that makes it easier I think. I often exhibit my work hanging in the room so both sides of the tapestry are visible. When I do a commission or other work that I know only will be shown from one side I do not sew in the ends at all. The fabric should be dense enough so it is not a problem. I use the side of the tapestry that I see when I weave as the front. In the Gobelin factory they do the opposite: the side that they see are the back of the finished tapestry and they use a mirror to see the other side that will become the front as the work is finished.
Tapestry seems to be more popular in Norway than many other countries, is this true and why?
In Norway we are very proud of our long tradition of tapestry. We have a tradition where women made tapestries themselves on the richer farms, more naïve than in Europe. And we never had aristocracy in Norway that produced Gobelins with coats of arms etc. The tapestry tradition was a part of creating a national identity in Norway when we became a nation in 1905. (Then Norway had not been a nation since the Viking-age) Tapestries designed by Gerhard Munthe, for example with Vikings and Trolls and images from folk-tales etc. were part of it. Heroic tapestries from the workers movement later in the 20th century also continued the tradition. In the 70-ties women-artists were using tapestries and textiles to a great extent in Norway to express themselves strongly and freely, as part of the feminist movement. We have a good website with resources for this theme www.absolutetapestry.com
Do you have any advice for people who want to be textile artists?
Keep on doing what you love, and try to find nice and easy bread and butter jobs