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Danish Textile Artist Karin Carlander Finds Artistic Expression in Linen

Karin Carlander. Photo by Jeff Hargrove

Karin Carlander is an award-winning Danish textile artist whose artistic approach sees her produce textiles that exemplify the deep artisanal knowledge of a professional craftsperson and the aesthetic opportunities in everyday objects.

Danish textile artist Karin Carlander has been weaving since she was a little girl. Growing up on the Danish island of Funen, Carlander made gifts for her family on her own small loom. Her journey further into textiles took a distinctly artistic route when, at the age of 19, Carlander moved to Provence in France to train under Jacqueline de la Baume Dürrbach. Dürrbach and her husband René Dürrbach worked with modern artists including Robert Delaunay and Fernand Leger to translate their artworks into tapestries and were commissioned to create a tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica to hang in the UN building in New York. It was a memorable time and as Carlander recalls, ‘From her, I not only learned weaving; I also learned about life as an artist.’

Weave experiments by Karin Carlander. Photo Jeff Hargrove

Weave experiments by Karin Carlander. Photo Jeff Hargrove.

After her apprenticeship with Dürrbach, Carlander returned to Denmark to attend the Danish Design School in Copenhagen, graduating with an MA in textile design in 1987. Part of her studies included a three-month period of study in Japan, which proved highly formative. Spending time both learning and travelling, it was on this trip that Carlander cemented her interest in and deep respect for Japanese design and craftsmanship, both of which remain an influence on her work to this day. The following year she set up her own studio and began to experiment with weaving as an outlet for artisanal expertise and artistic expression, exhibiting one-off pieces while concurrently designing textiles for well-established design companies.

For her most recent project, which goes by the brand name Textile No. (in reference to the code numbers given to yarns to indicate their thickness), Carlander has drawn on her Nordic heritage for inspiration to create a range of everyday linen textiles for the contemporary home. In Nordic countries it is traditional for textile designs to take inspiration directly from nature and daily life; patterns and motifs were traditionally developed within regions and handed down from generation to generation, certain colour combinations and techniques becoming associated with particular regional groups. Carlander’s Textile No. linen textiles are designed in an experimental process that involves drawing and weaving by hand directly onto the loom and are woven in a limited number of colours that, in their combinations express Carlander’s experiences of nature in her native Denmark, such as the sight of wheat-coloured reeds against blue water on a winter day.

Loom with linen threads in Karin Carlander's studio. Photo Jeff Hargrove

Loom with linen threads in Karin Carlander’s studio. Photo Jeff Hargrove

Carlander’s Textile No. textiles are, in this sense, both artistic – piquing the senses and the imagination – and imminently practical. Every Textile No. tea towel, napkin, blanket, towel and table cloth is finished correctly, that is, with a selvedge, in reference to the artistic and artisanal process by which they have been developed, and are woven exclusively in linen. Carlander’s choice of linen in part stems from how expressive it is: “[Linen] gives my work a certain personality, reflecting the light when I try to capture the immaterial moment in yarn and colour”. It is also an ecological choice: linen is spun from the flax plant, which is native to Europe, grows naturally under sustainable conditions, and is 100% recyclable and biodegradable. Linen’s qualities as a fabric that is strong, durable, fast-drying and naturally antiseptic, makes it ideal for Carlander’s range of functional textiles.

From the complexity of each of her weaves to the tactile quality of the finished product, every one of Carlander’s Textile No. linen products accentuates the artistic opportunities in everyday objects, and it is exactly this commitment to craftsmanship that saw Carlander win Denmark’s long established arts and crafts award the Hetsch Medal in 1999. “Anyone who masters a craft holds tacit knowledge that is conveyed through one’s hands … Craft-based objects are created at a pace that leaves room for reflection, and that gives us a deeper understanding of and respect for how the objects we live with are made.”

Products by Karin Carlander

  • Textile No. Linen Large Napkin: White and Black

    Textile No. 7 Large Linen Napkins, by Karin Carlander

    £12.00
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  • Textile No. Linen Placemat by Karin Carlander: Indigo

    Textile No. 7 Linen Placemats, by Karin Carlander

    £12.00
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  • Textile No. Linen Napkin: Blue and White

    Textile No. 9 Linen Napkins, by Karin Carlander

    £9.00
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  • Textile No. 6 Table Cloth, by Karin Carlander: White

    Textile No. 6 Linen Towel or Blanket, by Karin Carlander

    £55.00
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  • Textile No. 6 Table Cloth, by Karin Carlander: White

    Textile No. 6 Linen Tablecloth, by Karin Carlander

    £55.00
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  • Textile No. Linen Tea Towel: Red and White

    Textile No. 4 Linen Tea Towel, by Karin Carlander

    £12.00
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