fabric and felt VII

art, recent work, teaching

iron construction with dyed silk sample

Gathering in the morning in the Blue atelier; now we are beginning to close up. Since each one of this small group has been working independently during the last weeks, we now share experiences and show pieces of work. When our friends and colleagues return to school next Tuesday, we will welcome them by displaying what has been achieved – in the two chosen sites as well as in the greenhouse situated between them.

Before leaving for the weekend, we recreate the Symposion: each student has in advance read one of the speeches which constitute Plato’s story; no one, though, has read the whole text. We take turns in referring the different views on Love: the young man’s and the more experienced, the physician’s, the comedian’s and the orator’s tales; they are all retold and, through the referrer, become altogether contemporary. I improvise Diotima, the old woman, speaking through Socrates – before the symposium breaks up… in the text by the arrival of Alkibiades, in our group just by quiet dissolving into private life… but we are not all finished yet, we’ll meet on Tuesday. So, until then: thank you all, so far!

fabric and felt V

art, recent work, teaching

iron and silk; construction work for the hilltop site

Our colleagues and friends in Greece send us greetings: in Athens, Delphi and Epidauros they experience the remnants, the reminiscences perhaps, of antiquity – while we in Järna enjoy the sweetness of a new spring. Sap is rising and trees are coming into leaf in the garden. The beekeeper is busy working by the hives, and so are the bees – golden dots whizzing back and forth in the sunshine. The return of Persephone and presence of Apollo is easily imagined here. And wasn’t Apollo’s priestess once known as the Delphic bee? Didn’t Apollo learn from the Thriai to become a seer?

Thriai or bee-goddesses; golden placques from Rhodes, 7th century BCE; photo Jastrow/British Museum (Wikipedia)

Apollo speaks to his brother: “There are certain holy ones, sisters born… three virgins, gifted with wings: their heads are besprinkled with white /barley/ meal, and they dwell under a ridge of Parnassus. These are teachers of divination apart from me, the art which I practised while yet a boy… From their home they fly now here, now there, feeding on honey-comb and bringing all things to pass… ” (Homeric hymn IV; to Hermes, 4th century BCE?)

And, even before the times of Apollo, there was Gaia; “For they say that in the earliest times the oracular seat belonged to Earth, who appointed as prophetess at it Daphnis, one of the nymphs of the mountain… The Delphians say that the second temple was made by bees from beeswax and feathers, and that it was sent to the Hyperboreans by Apollo.” (Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2nd century CE; Daphnis was one of the ‘virgins, gifted with wings’ or Thriai)

At this hyperborean shore, today we bow to Gaia and to Apollo.

beehives under the hilltop

fabric and felt III

art, recent work, teaching

in a low place/from a high place

One hidden, nameless space sheltered by rocks and trees, with graceful patterns of shades and light flickering over the ground all covered with spring flowers; a sweet secret.

And the other site much like its contrary – the very highest spot on this ground, and the oldest too: the first to rise out of the sea thousands of years ago. Climbing up there, one is exposed to winds and sun, and the landscape below in its turn exposed to one’s view. A place of clarity.

Now, from sounds to things: the qualities to be sensed in these two different places are what we have to work with. Each student has set up her/his own task and chosen the materials to be used – techniques ranging from watercolour and acrylic painting to felting. Some of the pieces are to be installed in situ, others are studio work.

fabric and felt II

art, recent work, teaching

The journey has begun. Our fellow friends, students and teachers from the seminar, have reached Athens, Greece, by now. Those of us remaining behind gather in the Blue atelier in the morning. Our journey will be of another kind, roaming not so much over miles, but through our minds. We go out to meet Mats, the gardener, in the rose garden. He provides us with pruning shears and tells us about the place; how this once was grazing land around a rock where sloanbushes, rowan trees and wild roses still grow. We listen while cutting dead twigs from one of their cultivated kindred, a Rosa alba Minette…

Now, in the wide grounds of the Steiner seminar there is much more than the rose garden. Mats takes us for a walk to some of the places and we experience the characteristics of each one through to the knowledge he shares with us.

In southern countries, the garden is often shaped within protecting walls; a place of shelter and shade with life-giving water where water is scarce and rare. Here, in the North, with an abundance of lakes and watercourses and vast dark forests, one would rather seek the open and place the garden by a forest fringe where the sun gives sweet warmth. We look upon the rocks and hedges, pathways and plants; the manifold situations and meetings created here by artists and craftsmen – beginning with Bruno Liljefors a century ago, then continued by Arne Klingborg, Erik Asmussen and others, up till today; we look at our surroundings through this understanding.

In Hellas, gods were close to human beings; everyday life interweaved with divine presence. In nature, this could be sensed as tangible qualities at certain sites; temples and sanctuaries were designed to frame them. We, the barbarians, will now make our attempt to grasp Hellene spirit by rendering it into our own means of expression. For this sake, we decide to work with two of the places we have found appealing; when we meet tomorrow, we will see how each of us sets out for the task.

fabric and felt I

art, recent work, teaching

piece of cloth

During the last three weeks, the students at the Steiner-seminar have been working with art history – more exactly, Hellene antiquity. Now the greater part of the group are leaving for a two weeks’ journey to Greece: to visit some of the places and to sense there what remains from the period… However, one third of the group will stay home, and so we will try to explore what immaterial traces of ancient Greece could be found, here-and-now, in our own minds.

A beginning might be to consider not only the greatness of Hellas, but also what was on the move beyond its borders… an attempt to define by the negative. Remember that one thing the Greek brought us is the concept of the ‘barbarian’.

The art of weaving is said to be under the patronage of Zeus; warp and weft – the vertical and horizontal complementarities – visualizing the universal harmony of male and female (and therefore, a piece of cloth should never be cut).

The barbarian East, on the other hand, not only constituted the back countries of early Greek colonies – the mythic home of amazons, among others. It was also where the art of felting was developed.

Fabric and felt, civilization and barbarism; let’s see where this could take us.

piece of felt