Grandma Eivor by Michelle Urvall Nyren

My grandmother Eivor moved from Stockholm to Gothenburg to join the textile arts and crafts circle in the 1960’s. She worked with batik patterns and created incredible textiles of which she made clothes for herself and for the twins she was expecting.

My sister and I have kept many of her designs and sometimes wear the dresses and tops that are no too fragile. The baby clothes were all made in two sets for the twin boy and girl. Tragically Eivor passed away during child birth and never met my mom and her twin brother.

SILK PAINTING I by Michelle Urvall Nyren

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II discovered silk painting in my last year of university, making fine lines and stripes on shirts and trousers for my end-of year project. I was told shortly after that in fact, silk painting had a long history in Vietnam, where my grandfather was from, developed at the Hanoi University of Fine Art, or as it was called during the French colonial times, École Supérieure des Beaux Arts de l’Indochine.

I researched the Vietnamese artisanry called Tranh lụa, interested in the technique more so than the style, but enthralled by the effect the colours had on the silk material. In terms of style, I was later to find inspiration in my Swedish grandmother’s textile designs, but the first encounter with the technique was in the silk paintings of Nguyễn Phan Chánh. 

EVER RÊVE I DRAWINGS by Michelle Urvall Nyren

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As a part of my Textile design undergrad, were study blocks called Visual Communication and Impersonation, or gestalt making, which I dreaded. For weeks straight, we had to leave the textile studios, and instead do sculpture, real-life painting and drawing, and spatial, dance-like performances.

 

The kind of drawings that I had made since I was a child, figurative and illustrative, had granted me a spot in the school, but they were not the kind that the Visual Communication teacher wanted. She insisted on big brushstrokes, letting go of control and references, which did not fit my perfectionism. Thus, I was convinced that there, in those classes, I would somehow get busted and it would be clear that I possessed no real or pure artistic talent. Hence, around the same time, I started stating clearly and loudly, that I had no intention or wish to be an artist. I said I had no desire for the limitless, free, visual expressions that the artists supposedly sought for and that instead, I preferred the mathematical thread count of textiles. Today, it makes me smile as thankfully, the world appears less black and white.

 

I still happily maintain that I am not an artist. I think the order I seek to things sit in stark contrast with the place where thought-provoking and interesting art can be created. I draw with picture references, I make patterns and prints with rulers and tape measures, but let the watercolour spill out where it wants to.