Last week, I was fortunate to travel with my husband on his business trip to Copenhagen. While he worked, I was able to connect with several Danish tapestry weavers whom I have admired for decades. My initial contact was with Anet Brusgaard, whom I met in San Jose, California, at the opening for the American Tapestry Biennial 11. Lucky for me, Anet was open to hosting a studio visit with me. In my experience, tapestry weavers all over the world are usually happy to meet other tapestry weavers from far away places.
I ended up meeting five textile artists in Denmark and was able to visit the studios of four of them. Anet was instrumental in helping me put together my rather packed itinerary. Anet’s studio was my first stop.
There are many world-class tapestry weavers in Denmark, but Anet Brusgaard is one of most internationally recognized. For many years she has been the driving force behind the European Tapestry Forum and its prestigious ArtTapestry biennial exhibitions. Even though Anet is now in her 80s, she exudes a youthful energy. She is currently hard at work on ArtTapestry7.
When I entered her studio, I felt immediately teleported to Aubusson, France. Two huge wooden looms with beams like tree trunks dominated the space. One, a low warp Aubusson loom (her preference because of the pedals) and the other a high warp Gobelin-style model. Her tools of the trade, her flutes and grattoirs, sat on a tray perched on the low warp loom. She also had several frame looms for students, including copper pipe looms.
Anet weaves in the French style, from the back. She studied tapestry weaving at L’Ecole Nationale d’Art Décoratif d’Aubusson from 1989-90. She proudly lays claim to being “the only one” amongst the Danish weavers to have trained in France. Her well-worn copy of Roland Galice’s book, La Technique de A á… X.. de la Tapisserie de haute et basse lice ed du tapis de Savonnerie sits on a desk near the low warp loom. That I also weave in the French style was a point of connection between us.
If you know Anet’s work, you know that she uses a limited palette and focuses on abstract patterns, be they textile patterns or runic language, floating in fields of black. There were no floor to ceiling shelves filled with colorful yarn as is commonly found in tapestry studios. Instead there were bins of undyed white wool, skeins of black and white, and a spool rack with many types of gold and metal thread.
She weaves at 4 warps per centimeter (Approximately 10 epi) using cotton seine twine she imports from France. Her wool bundles are comprised of 4 threads. Her preferred weft is wool imported from the UK, but the exact product is no longer available to buy. She was not worried about running out though because she has stockpiled many kilos.
Her backgrounds are always pure black. She does not mix her blacks with other colors. To this she adds the fine gold in various concentrations. Many threads of the gold are required to equal the gauge of a single wool thread – something like 8 to 10 gold threads. It is real gold, not imitation.
The gold areas literally dance in the light. You can see her advanced use of hachures where she blends mixed concentrations of black and gold in bobbins that gradate into each other. The blending causes the patterns to advance and recede into and out of the blackness in the most magical way. Her work literally twinkles as if lit from within. Even under less than ideal fluorescent lights, it is a rich visual experience to examine her work.
Anet was kind enough to unpackage a big tapestry for me to see up close. It was Rococo, a tapestry I’d seen in print and always really liked. I was excited to see it in real life. The reds and gold are so intense. I especially love the fringe around the seat. She said she added that detail after the weaving was complete because “it needed something.” It perfectly suits the concept.
Anet’s interest in renaissance textiles, the decorative arts, and the viking runes shows her fascination with past histories. In one of her artist’s statements she mentions the “old historic tapestries (that) are overwhelming in their beauty and patina” as her inspiration. Patina is the perfect word to describe what she captures in her shimmering golden tapestries.
I feel very fortunate to have met Anet. She is an icon in our field.