Vesterheim Tour 2015: Doris Wiklund’s Studio

IMG_2699Doris Wiklund and her work contrast greatly with the landscape surrounding her. Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost city, is a major mining center, so much so that the city itself is being moved so iron can be extracted from under its present location. It is a harsh, bleak place with flat, black stretches of rock everywhere.

Neighbors were a bit alarmed when Vesterheim’s bus pulled up and two dozen people filed out and into Doris Wiklund’s home. The diminutive woman, dressed in an exquisitely embroidered white linen shirt and brown linen skirt, welcomed all of us. I felt a little embarrassed, as if part of a swarm of invading bees, but Doris didn’t seem to mind in the least. Her husband Jean wisely retreated to the kitchen.

IMG_2634 2Each wall of the home was covered with a row of Doris’ weavings alternating with a row of Jean’s photographs….as if throwing alternate shuttles.  I found the small transparent weaving of wild flowers, almost hidden in the far corner near Doris’ Glimakra loom, to be a true gem. Her bildevev (tapestries) are captivating; her rugs are paintings for the floor and her linens are the definition of exquisite.

A rug on the loom and a tapestry

A rug on the loom and a tapestry

Tapestries by Doris Wicklund

Tapestries by Doris Wicklund

IMG_2696Doris has written four books. She is best known for her 1996 book, Gamla Svenska Vävnader från Norr till Söder Omkring 1850-1950. Old Swedish Weavings from North to South: A Collection of Everyday Swedish Weavings from 1850 to 1950, was translated in 2010 by Becky Ashenden of Vävstuga Weaving School (Shelburne Falls, Massachussetts.) She told us she was delighted as weavers got word of what she was doing and would show up at her door with their treasured patterns. Her other books are: Gamla Vavnader from Norbotten, En Annorlunda Vavbok (1993); Annan Bild av Lappland : en Bok om Konstvävnader: Skildringar av Lappländs (1999); and Det Gamla Linneskåpet: Från Tuskaft till Damast (2004).

Doris showed us some of her books of drafts, which filled a wall of cabinets. She showed us yard after yard of her linens, all her own designs. One of the linens will be going to a granddaughter for her upcoming wedding. Her colorful storeroom was also a delight.

linenDoris has been weaving since she was five. Eighty years later she is still weaving. She did mention that she is very worried about what will happen to her work after she is gone. This is certainly a topic needing more discussion in art communities. How can we get Doris’ lifetime of amazing pieces to the preserving hands of a caring museum?

A big thank you to Doris for her generosity.

Elizabeth Hunter is a former reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, Washingon Bureau; a paralegal and current production weaver: www.chameleonfiberworks.com.

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