EIVOR & THE BATIK by Michelle Urvall Nyren

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When I started drawing clothing designs and prints in my early teens, my maternal family smiled and said I had taken something from my grandmother Eivor, who had been a textile designer in the 1960’s. I would roll my eyes, asserting my designs had nothing to do with hers, and go back to copying Dries Van Noten florals. When I started my textile degree at university, I begun painting stripes. Painting on silk requires preparation, outlining the edges with a glue like “non-bleed”, making even the stripes and squares, which I made with a ruler, quite a geometric task.

I did not realise the similarities that this had with the way my grandmother had prepared her wax batik.

Only when I started Ever Rêve did I look at the fabrics my grandmother had made, taking direct inspiration from them. I am too pragmatic to agree when I’m told that her skills runs in my blood, but I am starting to realise that I have made conscious and unconscious decisions to resemble her and find a route to her life. I never met her, as she passed away when giving birth to my mom and her twin brother.

SILK PAINTING I by Michelle Urvall Nyren

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II discovered silk painting when I started university, making fine lines, stripes and squares on shirts and trousers for my collections. Ironically not seeing the traces of my Swedish grandmother’s batik textiles, I instead took inspiration from the long history of silk painting in Vietnam, where my paternal grandfather was from.

I have always taken an extreme pride in my Vietnamese origins, adoring my grandfather and everything he did. I was proud to research the Vietnamese artisanry Tranh lụa, and the artist Nguyễn Phan Chánh who painted what was said to be expressions of Vietnamese identity.

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.