Perspectives from the 2020 International Student Award

In 2020, ATA nominated two awardees for the International Student Award. They share their perspectives with us below. The first article is by Marge Allik and the second article is by Liisi Anderson.

Perspective from Marge Allik

Marge Allik
“Ice I”, 2020
40 cm x 40 cm wool, linen
Photo: Signe Milkov

The three pieces submitted for this award are my first tapestry artworks. I have always admired exquisitely woven tapestries in museums and exhibitions, but the process seemed to be too complex to try for myself. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to study at the Pallas University of Applied Sciences, where tapestry is included in textile studies curriculum.

Tapestry aroused interest and excitement in me, just as any new skill can do. Luckily, at school we managed to delve into basic tapestry weaving techniques and create samples before the pandemic began. The tapestry study program included getting acquainted with works of both Estonian and world tapestry artists. The experience was inspiring, stimulating the imagination and thus completion of my work.

We had to work mostly at home and independently, where choice of materials was limited and with only virtual instruction. My drafts were largely inspired by the current world situation; we’re inclined to spend more time in nature and enjoy its spectacle. Nature is a wonderful artist, painting beautiful patterns on land, water, and air with playful ease. One has to just notice. The recent forced withdrawal from the daily carousel brought simple, natural things and needs into focus. Nature teaches us again to enjoy and appreciate the creative process.

Marge Allik
“Ice II”, 2020
40 cm x 40 cm wool, linen
Photo: Signe Milkov

My works are inspired by the spring season, when the day sun pushes nature to move and the night cold forces it to congeal again. On such mornings, the most beautiful painted patterns can be seen on frozen water, offering perfect aesthetic pleasure. These works are wonderful and yet only temporary, limited to a few short hours before disappearing into eternity and then reappearing in their unique form. Each of my works interprets one such work of natural art in an attempt to capture the mood’s impression.

Tapestry is the technique that challenges me and lets me express my thoughts and feelings, painting with yarns instead of acrylics. Aside from the inconvenience, staying-home time was a magnificent opportunity to reflect upon my work and to focus upon details. The most enjoyable aspects included taking my time and concentrating upon rhythmic moves. It’s almost a meditative dance, and has a charm found within no other medium. I believe that tapestry has undeservedly been overshadowed by other art forms, such as classical painting. Tapestry can offer similar, maybe even fuller artistic experience. Tapestry has also become very modern; freedom of technique and materials allow creation of wonderful works that can decorate any room. In addition, textiles are essential in creating coziness, warmth, and comfort. That’s why I believe that study of tapestry should change from that of historical process to modern spatial design.

Marge Allik
“Ice 3”, 2020
40 cm x 40 cm wool, linen
Photo: Signe Milkov

Tapestry itself is first and foremost an opportunity to create art, whether it is applied art, fashion art, or fine art. I don’t feel that this process should have set boundaries, as it’s a way to express feelings and thoughts that don’t have limited physical forms, but rather are waves of energy and impulses. Art itself is usually creating something aesthetically pleasing with appropriate materials. Crafts, on the other hand, are handmade objects that do not have to be of original design. I consider myself to be an artist because I create designs that are personally meaningful, but also because I produce and finish my artworks independently. Just as with every other artist, I want to create something that invokes deeper meaning. I would love to create art to make the world a better place or that draws attention to societal issues, changing the broader thinking of mankind. Political and social debates have not yet been themes of my work, but I still kneel into problems and focus upon learning and thinking along with current important topics.

About the Author: Marge Allik has been interested in textiles and fashion design since childhood. In newly independent Estonia, Marge studied accounting and law at the University of Tartu. She worked as an entrepreneur for many years, but in 2017 entered the Pallas University of Applied Sciences textile department to learn traditional textile techniques. 2020 is her last academic year. Marge has articipated in Poland’s YTAT 3RD YOUNG TEXTILE ART TRIENNIAL 2019, the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair 2020, and at the 2020 Estonian Fashion Festival.

Marge Allik

Perspective from Liisi Anderson

Liisi Anderson
“Girl Pallas UAS”, 2020
17 cm x 28 cm linen, wool, and cotton.

My first experience with tapestry weaving was at Pallas University of Applied Sciences, where I began to study textiles in 2016. At school, I learned various processes such as textile printing, machine knitting, embroidery, weaving fabrics and carpets on different looms, and many others. When we started to learn tapestry weaving, I noticed many opportunities for self-expression, as it is a good storytelling tool.

I do not consider myself to be a real artist yet. I mostly see myself as a practical designer; therefore, I have considered creating tapestry consumables, such as coats or bags. However, I am also fascinated by large-format tapestries, and I have dreamed about weaving them when the time is right and the idea deserves it. The time-consuming nature of large-format tapestry does not frighten me; rather it gives depth to the work. There are times when weaving goes by quickly.

That tapestries are woven by hand means that they are unique and one of a kind. As an artist, you must take time to focus to achieve the planned result and fulfill your goals. In real life, these goals can be quite difficult. A specific fee for work cannot be expected if you do not have the ability to sell the work, especially for a new artist.

The work process is very important to me, as decisions must be made when matching details and materials, as well when testing color schemes. I consider natural materials to be more valuable and prefer to use wool and linen. This preference is also due to environmental considerations, as in valuing resources that completely degrade without polluting the land.

Design and composition are important as well, especially when weaving a large-scale tapestry. Personally, I prefer to use pastel watercolor drawings combined with finer lines if necessary, sometimes completed in Adobe Photoshop. At times I work with photos that I convert to an animation-like image. My first experiments in learning tapestry were improvisations without designs, in order to feel the materials and learn the techniques. I have been quite apprehensive, but weaving tapestries has made it easy to make solid decisions and bolder choices.

Liisi Anderson
“Girl”, “Landscape I” , “Landscape II” Linen, wool, and cotton.

I do not see my works as political or social, but rather based upon personal experiences or stories. I don’t believe that my work has been directly influenced by historical tapestries, but nevertheless admire old cartoons for their filigree and accuracy. Tapestry art is dignified and has a long history. Tapestry is also time-consuming due to its detail and thoroughness. I do not consider tapestry to be a kitschy art form at all. However, I know of modern artists who have found a way to weave and sell tapestries in large numbers, as their work is less detailed, generally very colorful, fringed, made of coarse yarn, and resembles macrame. When I observe it now, I notice that strangely, my work Girl is also a bit kitschy in its color schemes. I forgive myself for this little indiscretion and will pay more attention to such nuances in the future.

My competition work was completed during an emergency at home, with limited materials and resources as well as with active children present. Thanks to weaving, I found valuable time to be alone and be in better in touch with myself.

While studying textiles, we become acquainted with many different means of creating; focusing and deepening is very difficult but is extremely important. Our studies end with completion of a diploma thesis that requires in-depth study, advanced skills, and informed decisions. A tapestry is one of my choices when completing a diploma thesis.

At times when I have not yet made firm decisions, I consider other options. I own a Brother knitting machine that offers endless possibilities, as it is practical, useful, and creates great knits quite quickly. Inevitably, the question arises as to how many different processes I could incorporate simultaneously or in combination. Maybe I’m too practical and inclined towards useful design; I want my creation to be useful unless I can find a way to combine practicality with fine art. I also reflect upon ideas of tapestry and machine knitting coexistence and oneness: one is strong and time-consuming, the other is flexible, airy, and fast. Maybe these processes are too different; maybe it doesn’t make sense to combine them. A combination of tailoring and fabric to create outerwear such as jackets and coats or even bags by adding woven tapestry sections can provide practicality.

Maybe I’m too shy to be a real artist. I tend to think that things are too complicated. Why shouldn’t my creation reach gallery walls? This path seems to be so difficult…how to create a secure source of livelihood in small Estonia? Inevitably, a practical person with small children must be bolder and more confident in order to make better choices. Continuous operation and testing help here, as analysis and quality are important. Combining different media can provide many interesting results and discoveries to explore.

In order to develop tapestry art, more exhibitions of interesting archival works could be organized to increase interest in textile art. Auctions with young and contemporary artists could certainly be organized. Collaboration could also be achieved with interior designers to make tapestries more relevant for use within modern buildings. I am absolutely convinced that textile works should be exhibited more often. Many quality paintings are available, but as tapestries are much less common, more attention should be paid to them. It is possible that in cooperation with fashion houses and designers, tapestries could reach larger numbers of supporters. Perhaps fashion gourmets who pay large sums for designer clothes might also support textiles created via collaboration between tapestry artists and fashion designers. This process could be facilitated by a large joint web platform or global community of artists and designers.

About the Author: Liisi Anderson is a 29-year-old Estonian mother of two. Liisi is in her third year of textile art and design studies in Pallas University of Applied Sciences, Tartu, Estonia. Pallas University offers opportunities to learn many techniques and tools to create new and innovative works. These pieces are Liisi’s first attempts at weaving larger tapestries. Her competition work consists of three tapestries: a portrait of a girl, and two small landscapes.

Liisi Anderson