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I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that I am really missing trips out to see art. The constraints of this Pandemic have truly served to reveal what’s important to me in my everyday existence and also what I would consider to be a treat – there’s nothing like having something made inaccessible to make you value it.

I found myself buying some art books over Christmas to address this yearning. I found some artists who I’d never heard of before and liked the look of and Hannah Ryggen was one of those. I read that she had lived in Norway making political tapestries while running a farm and I wanted to know more.

She was born in Sweden in 1894 but lived mostly in Norway. She began her artistic career as a painter but firmly felt that her work should only be accessible in public places and so she stopped painting and selling to private buyers and concentrated instead on large public works of art made through weaving.

She ploughed headlong through criticism of her media not being Art and didn’t accept it’s second class merit as Arts and Crafts or Applied Art. People were really rude (in print) about her – her looks, way of life and artistic expression. It didn’t seem to phase her.

She hand dyed all the wools for her weaving and some of her letters describe her methods which I found really interesting and relatable.

In Scandinavia she is a big cheese with work in many public spaces and galleries. She continued a style of weaving composition that has a Scandinavian cultural thread (literally)

I love that she used her art for political and social comment (it’s made me question my own practice) using humour and ridicule to underscore her message alongside recording moments of everyday life and family lore.

I would have loved to walk around a show and seen the scale of her work in real life, the texture of her handiwork and had that irreplaceable real-life experience of art-in-the-flesh but for now this book has brought some fresh thinking and discovery.

This is also a good article if you’d like to read more about her.

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