Artists’ Diaries | Felixe Laing

Thursday November 16th, 2017

I’m currently halfway through a month long textile artist residency at Textílsetur Íslands in Blönduós, Iceland.

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The Textile Centre

7:45     The late sunrise makes for slow mornings. I shower and then it’s breakfast time which consists of porridge and coffee with the other early rising residents. In the kitchen we discuss our tips on how to ‘spice up’ our daily porridge and last night’s sighting of the northern lights from the studio balcony.

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8:30    Feeling sleepy and stiff, myself and another resident Jackie decide to head to the basement and do yoga in the conference room. Everyone’s suffering from sore necks and backs from knitting or weaving.

9:15    Put on a load of laundry and head to the dye studio across the road. You have to rug up for the 30-second journey to then throw everything off once in the well heated the dye studio- perfect for drying. I’m hanging up some wet fabric I batiked earlier this week and dyed yesterday. I’m using natural dye, which I made from the plant Lupin. Recently we visited the well-known natural dyer Gudrun Bjarnadottir who informed us that the plant was introduced to spread across Iceland to help re-fertilise the soil by depositing nitrogen. Lupin, like most plants (they have less than 500 species!) here in Iceland makes a yellow dye. The pieces I have dyed will be a dress and sister top I have designed.

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Dyed silk in the dye studio

10:30 I’m back in the main studio to continue working on my knitting projects and the sun is up now and the views are beautiful as always on either side of the room. Depending on the visibility, the mountain ranges emerge in the distance over the sea, and the river is in ever changing state, continually freezing and melting. Blönduós is named after the landscape, where the river meets the sea and the textile centre is at the pinnacle of this point of the town. The sunrise is my favourite time of day and is becoming later and later, when I first arrived it would rise around 8am. The pinks and the icy blues are stunning and vary every day.

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1:30    Pause for lunch of leftovers- food is very expensive in Iceland so every meal is home cooked.

2:00    This afternoon all the residents are invited to hear the director of the textile centre, Jóhanna Pálmadóttir talk about her work Vatnsdæla On A Tapestry. The work is based on the Bayereux-tapestry in france- Jóhanna’s tapestry tells the Icelandic Vatnsdæla saga. It is an incredible collaborate effort of Icelandic design students and various interns from over the years, currently two Danish textile students are working on it 3 hours a day. Jóhanna estimates the 46 meter tapestry will be finished in 2026. (for more information on the tapestry: http://textilsetur.com/about/vatndaela-tapestry/)

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Joanna with her tapestry

3:15    As a part of their internship the Danish students are encouraged to teach other residents any skills they wish to learn to improve their teaching in English. Today Julie is running an informal workshop on how to use the knitting machine for several residents. I’m very excited by the knitting machine, with the possibility of making a top that took me a week to hand knit in several hours. It can be fiddly and confusing but when it’s not being temperamental the knitting machine can be incredibly quick and open up possibilities. I have a look on trademe and get a couple of the knitting machine experienced residents to have a look at one I’ve found. They say it’s a great find, the same model as the one here, which is easy to find parts for and in great condition.

4:00    The sun is setting and I spend the rest of the afternoon in the studio and play around with the knitting machine and listen to music or audio books.

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The workroom

5:30    There are currently nine residents at Textílsetur Íslands from Denmark, America, Ireland, Australia and Finland. We all often try to cook dinner at the same time, always resulting in chaos and interesting cultural exchange over food.

7:00    Julie is also teaching a few of us how to knit socks using five pointed needles. The evenings are often very social, we cram into the lounge and watch a movie. It’s usually a rom-com as they’re easy to follow while knitting. Everyone is excited to be going on a field trip tomorrow to the tannery in the next town, Sauðárkrókur apparently there is a full size supermarket with a bigger range of products including a better wool selection. This is big news as Blönduós’ biggest attractions are the swimming pool and the grocery store, a town of 800 people doesn’t need much more.

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Wool stocked in Blonduos supermarket

12:30 I’m staying up late watching the knitting machine auction, I head to the ‘internet bench’ located in the hall to make sure trademe is refreshed at this crucial moment.

12:35  I have won the auction! While elated, I’m also very tired and head to bed.

 

For more information about the residency, http://textilsetur.com/residency/

For product enquiries please contact Felixe: felixelaing@gmail.com

And to follow her on Instagram @felixelaing

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Felixe’s finished design, Snjókápa (snow cover in Icelandic), a sister dress and top naturally dyed, pattern batiked. Photo credit: Mira Skyttala www.miramoi.ne

 

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Photo credit: Mira Skyttala www.miramoi.ne

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Cotton and linen machine and hand knit singlet tops worn with the Draw-two in silk and linen. Photo credit: Mira Skyttala www.miramoi.ne

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Draw-two worn as dress in silk and linen. Photo credit: Mira Skyttala www.miramoi.ne