Traditional and Contemporary Textile Art in Northern Iceland

by Heidi Bergstrom
Some people are fortunate enough to make it to Reykjavik, but not the environs further away when they go to Iceland.  I had the opportunity to experience an immense and diverse range of culture here. Icelanders are impressive in their knowledge of their own history and I in turn learned a lot about my own Icelandic ancestry.

I count myself privileged to be on this road trip through Iceland with Michele Hayeur Smith who as an archaeologist, educator, and visual artist, is both knowledgeable and passionate about the history, landscape and people of this island nation – above and below ground. On this part of our journey, I listen to her energetic talk to seven eager international artists in residence at Heimilisiðnaðarsafnið / Textile Museum in Blönduós.   The artists are chatty, ask lots of good questions and are curious about the perspective of the archaeologist about the origins of traditional weaving techniques going back some 800 years that set the foundation for many designs and methods practiced today.

We are given a personal tour by Elin Sigurdardottir, the manager of this fascinating and comprehensive small museum, and are treated to a demonstration of traditional spinning techniques.

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To top it all off  (unbelieving it can get better), we finish with a serious dose of contemporary art by Anna Þóra Karlsdóttir whose approach to wool convince me this is the stuff of Iceland’s soul itself. I think I must invite Anna to Canada for an artist-in-residence experience at my studio in Metchosin. You can visit Anna’s Facebook page here:

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This museum must not be missed if you are going to Iceland and if you don’t get there, check out the website.  The residency program offers an incredibly unique experience for anyone interested in this subject and is a definite growth opportunity for anyone who is experienced.  These people are so knowledgeable and generous with their time you will learn and grow if you visit and stay for the residency.  I am putting it on my bucket list.

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The limitation of blog posts is obvious to me now. There is so much more I can and should say about this. I will. Unpacking Blönduós is not a one-blog-post thing!

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