April 14, 2011

about a year and a half ago, i posted some of hans krondahl’s work after seeing an image of one of his textiles in a magazine i had picked up in copenhagen. a few months ago, i was surprised to see that he had read and commented on the post! it was mutually exciting for us- for me, to have been contacted by such a talented artist, and for him to see a renewed interest in his work from the next generation. over the past few weeks we have been e-mailing and he cheerfully agreed to answer a few questions for BIG THINGS AHEAD.

hans’ work caught my eye with its dynamic use of color and lively, animated shapes. both in technique and motif, there is obvious influence from the batik traditions of indonesia and textiles of japan, two cultures he was able to visit and work in throughout his extensive career. as a young artist, his bold patterns were quickly noticed by the famous textile designer, astrid sampe of the NK department store. they worked together for many years on textiles for interiors, as he did with katja geiger’s influential fashion line, katja of sweden, and swedish textile company, borås cotton.

he has been considered one of sweden’s leading textile artists since the 1960s and his work has earned him several awards, including the prestigious lunning prize in 1965 and the prins eugen medal for artistic achievement in 2002. in the 80s, he became sweden’s first professor of textile art at gothenburg university’s school of design and crafts and his teaching career has brought him all over the world. although hans is no longer working, he has such an incredible portfolio of work that was influential in defining scandinavian style and has proven quite inspirational to later generations of textile artists.

a big tack så mycket! is due to hans, for taking the time to answer my questions and providing all kinds of images and insight to his life’s work.

Name: Hans Krondahl
Age: 82 years
Hometown: Malmö, Sweden

How did you begin working in textiles? Did you/do you work in any other media? Textiles were not a first choice, I set out for painting to begin with. My reason was a desire to understand how all the wonderful mural paintings I saw in the churches from 12th and 13th centuries, in the area of Sweden where I grew up, had been made. So I went to painting classes and art schools at first. Later I attended a People’s High School, where I found weaving classes highly interesting. I attended these classes for two years. After that, I went to Stockholm and studied Textile Art and Design for five years at Konstfack State School of Art and Design. After that I lost the desire to paint frescoes on walls… Tapestries are somewhat more “moveable.”

Do you feel like the field has changed since you started? The field of textiles has changed during my professional years, and is changing constantly. I find interest in seeing new trends come and go. It is also fascinating to watch how old techniques are taken up again and used in new manners, with contemporary materials.

How do you feel about big companies like IKEA that have popularized contemporary Scandinavian style? Do you think it’s cheapened the design or simply brought it to a wider audience? The ” Scandinavian Style” was recognized long before IKEA, but the big companies have been influential in the promotion of the movement, for sure! IKEA and other big companies have been influential in exposing what could be called a “mainstream Scandinavian Look”, also when it comes to fabrics. For commercial reasons they hardly ever dare to be on “the fore-front”, which maybe is understandable! Another lamentable attitude is their refusal to give credits to fabric designers. Payment is quite low, too!

You’ve worked all over the world- in the states, in Sweden, Indonesia- what was one of the most memorable projects you worked on? I have been involved in several projects in various countries. Looking back all the way, I would say that my two years in Indonesia, working with UNIDO, is one of the most memorable in my career. I was engaged as an Expert on Fabric Designing. But I learned a lot from my Indonesian counterparts, myself! Indonesian textile art is a real treasure-chest. Indonesian fabrics are outstanding, a bottomless well of inspiration!

I also have to mention something about my ties to USA. In the mid-seventies and on, I was teaching summer-classes in Nantucket, Massachusetts for some years. I was tied to Nantucket School of Needlery and to the Nantucket Weaving School. The classes were in design, mainly– say for instance embroidery design, tapestry design and similar themes. I really enjoyed it, I always liked teaching and I had a very good response from the students. I also taught textile design for about a year in North Adams, Massachusetts. Later I went on to Indonesia, as I have mentioned, and after that returned to Sweden and to teaching positions at University of Gothenburg.

How does your family react to your past as an artist and the work you have done? I grew up in the southernmost part of Sweden. My parents owned a small farm, and I was working there, from a very young age. Of course my breaking away to another career created conflicts and questions, but I felt an attraction to something different. I went away and built my new career from scratch. Slowly, my family understood and accepted the situation. After some time, my parents were proud of my achievements, and today the younger generations of my family are admirers, actually!

Are you still designing? Do you still have studio space? I am no longer working on designing and have no studio space any more. What I am doing is sorting out archives and destroying plenty of unnecessary trash!

Do you have any advice or wisdom you’d like to share with the next generation of artists? Do you have any special methods or tricks for staying focused, inspired, and productive? I am really not a person who should give advice, and wisdom is not my field! It is fine to listen to the advice of other people, but in most cases it is better to listen to your own instinctive opinions and inspirations. I am only a link between the past and the future. I may have had some influence but the future will tell. But I will not be here to watch!

Finally, let me add this: Some of my printed fabrics are in the collections of Cooper – Hewitt Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum and Philadelphia Museum of Art, not on display, however, and not on show in digital catalogues. The Art Institute in Chicago is fantastic, when it comes to textiles! I am looking forward to some research activities by American authors, and hopefully, in due time, a book on Swedish fabrics of twentieth century. We have a lot to offer here, but so little is known outside Sweden!!

images via design arkivet, svenska kostnärer, and hans.


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  1. Tiarma on April 17, 2011 at 6:17 am

    I am very proud of your statement, a good comment on Indonesian textiles from my former lecturer in Sweden. Congratulation for your achievement and Happy Easter! Tiarma Sirait

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