Scandinavian Fibre Art

Scandinavian Fibre Art
September 13, 2022 Rachel Biel

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Contact Gerry Davison
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I am a 71 year old english man, with many years of international experience in many countries across the world, including U.S.A., where I was married in Seattle, and have a son who lives there with his wife and children. He is currently 41 years old and Dean Of Students at Bear Creek School close to Seattle. I moved to Denmark in the spring of 1979.

It is not relevant for the purpose of this document to provide details of my professional engineering life, other than to name that from 1998 until 2009 I was an independent ship designer and consultant, with my own company located in Denmark. In 2009 I had an accident which sent me into intensive care for 3 months, and almost cost me my life. After this, I was unable to continue in my profession as moving around in a shipyard and in a ship became almost impossible. I closed my company.
Because work as a ship designer includes a tremendous amount of artistic ability (who will pay $50M for an ugly ship ?), and because my wife practised patchwork, I became interested in creating textile art.

In the beginning I decided that before making a work, I would have to have something to say, and then find the graphic language needed to say it. This is still evident in many of my works. The title is always the only point at which a viewer should enter the work to understand the graphics involved. Later I began to delve into Viking and Saxon art forms, developing for example, my own version of the 6 viking art styles, which is a fusion of all 6, coupled with a more geometric approach compatible with the software I use to design my works. That software is the same as I used to design ships. The geometric approach means that even very complex curves, which in the viking era could only be made by a steady hand wielding a hammer, can be broken down into partial arcs in a complex pattern. In those works, there are absolutely NO straight lines.

When making a work I split the job into 2 parts, which are very different, though have some commonality. The first is the graphics. The second is the craftsmanship. If the craftsmanship is unable to honour the demands of the graphics, then the craftsmanship must be expanded. This is sometimes a challenge, but one which I am happy to undertake.

In the beginning I glued my works together with textile glue. This was fine for works upto about 1m x 1m. When I wanted to go beyond this limit, I asked my wife to give me a course in using a sewing machine. As an engineer I am experienced in learning machines very quickly indeed so this course lasted 1½ hours. That same afternoon I started to sew my first sewn work, ”Rose Of Anjou”. I used 1½Km thread to finish it. My next work, ”Queens Dragon”, in honour of probably the most famous viking queen that ever lived, Åse Haraldsdottir (d. about 845 A.D.) used 3½Km thread. Since 2012 I have only sewn my work, both large and small.

I cut all of the textile I use on a laser cutter. To operate and maintain this requires an engineering background, which of course I have. I use only single colour, 100% cotton textiles, although occasionally when I need to use a metallic colour like gold, I use polyester textiles as metallic colours cannot be created with natural fibers. To cut textiles on a laser demands a great deal of material knowledge, which I gained in the very early stages of my artistic career by careful study of the materials with which I intended to work. My laser cutter has a work surface of only 60cm x 40cm. So making a work larger than this, and in more than 1 colour, is a very complex affair involving many parts which have to be sewn together is a specific order for the result to be acceptable.

And here we come to the subject of acceptability and quality. Recently I made a very large work to cover my wifes’ coffin at her funeral. I had previously made one for myself and she asked me to make one for her. This required a very large piece to be printed, which it was, in Ireland. The next stage required cutting and sewing of a very precise pattern onto this background. This pattern consisted on 24 parts which had to be cut and sewn with a precision which is almost impossible to achieve with textiles, which are of course very ”lively”. Cutting with 0.1mm precision is very easy with the laser when one knows how, but immediately the piece is lifted from the work table it moves in totally unpredictable ways. Only very careful design of the pattern and extreme care in handling can limit this movement. When I reached segment 16, I decided that the neccessary quality boundary had been overstepped. I scrapped the entire work. At this point I had used 2 months on it. But the project itself was not scrapped. Instead I redrew the pattern for printing on the background, and sent it once again to the printer. This time the project was finished to the quality I wanted, after 3 months. This work is ”Stairway To Heaven”. It will never see an exhibition. It was intended for one purpose only and when that purpose had been fulfilled it was destroyed, never to be seen again in other than photographs, just like my wife. A bonfire was held with it in the back garden on her birthday, with a few friends, mead and beer in true viking tradition.

In the years since the beginning, there was a long period where I worked methodically to achieve the level needed to compete with other textile artists. I have held several one-man exhibitions at galleries, and have participated in international exhibitions. In 2020 I was invited by the Pashmin Art Consortium in Hamburg to have works included in a large exhibition in China featuring Scandinavian artists. Unfortunately corona got in the way and so I dropped the project. The exhibition was moved to autumn 2021 and was a success, although I was not present. I have been informed that I can expect to be invited to other such exhibitions in the future. I guess that this is because my purpose on this front is to only create works which have the graphic and craftsmanship quality necessary to be exhibited on the international scene. As far as I am aware, I am the only textile artist in Denmark who does work of this kind. My work is easily recognisable irrespective of the subject. I have been approached by several at exhibitions who stated that they knew I was there when they saw the exhibits.

Summer 2021 I made a sewing chest for my late wife, in Meranti. It was decorated with engraved frogs. It was inherited by my wifes’ sisters’ grand daughter who of course also sews. I became interested in working with wood, and have since made 3 more smaller chests with different engraved designs. as well as a small triangular work involving the Norns of norse mythology.

I share my process on my Facebook group and invite you to join me there: Scandinavian Textile Art

Gerry Davison

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