Copenhagen tapestry artist, Ulrikka Mokdad, may be familiar to many weavers who are active on Facebook. She has also exhibited in several American Tapestry Biennials, including the most recent ATB14. She kindly agreed to meet me during my stay in Copenhagen.
Ulrikka wears many hats, you might say. In addition to being an amazing tapestry weaver who has won several international prizes for her work, she is also an art historian and on the faculty of the Center for Textile Research (CTR) at Copenhagen University. I gladly accepted Ulrikka’s invitation to visit the CTR.
I must admit the Center for Textile Research was not exactly what I expected, but it was fascinating. The CTR specializes in the study of archaeological and historical textiles, including Iron Age and Bronze Age textiles from sealed oak coffin graves and bog bodies. A recreation of an Iron Age (Viking) loom made based on archeological evidence took center stage in what was otherwise an office and library.
On the walls there were framed enlargements of weave structures diagramed by Margrethe Hald (1897-1982), a pioneer in textile archeology and the first to study ancient garments from the Iron Age in the collection of the National Museum of Denmark. Part of Ulrikka’s job has been researching Hald and her work through the journals and papers in her archive.
The most beautiful recreation at the Center was made by Ulrikka. It is a sample she worked out based on images of ancient clothing of Nubian origin. Nubian culture is found in southern Egypt and northern Sudan.
After our visit at the University, I went with Ulrikka on an errand to pick up a couple of miniature tapestries she had showing at a local textile art gallery. Unfortunately, the show has already been broken down and was in boxes on the floor, but of course I got to see Ulrikka’s work. She had two miniatures in the show, Far Away II and Swifts.
I had seen Ulrikka’s large work in real life before, but I had never seen her miniature work up close. I was truly astonished to find out that her miniatures are woven at 22-25 epi – as fine as anybody’s work that I have encountered (Kathe Todd-Hooker and Joyce Hayes come to mind). It’s quite incredible in its detail. Ulrikka studied ancient Egyptian Coptic textiles for her thesis, so in that context her preference for very, very small format weaving makes sense. Her primary studio is in Nakskov, 175 km south of Copenhagen, but she works on miniatures in her apartment when she is in the city for work.
What all Ulrikka Mokdad’s tapestries have in common is a sophisticated use of hatching as a technique for blending color and delineating shapes. Her control of these fine lines over areas both large and small is her super power, and I love the way she composes some shapes with lines alone. Ulrikka has been weaving for a very long time even though she is still quite young. She is one of the few people I know of who learned to weave tapestry as a child from a master weaver. She has a decade or two head start on most of us! (Three decades head start on me.)
It was such a pleasure to meet Ulrikka and get a brief glimpse of her practice and her research. Here’s an interview with Ulrikka from 2009 that sheds more light on her creative journey:
You can find Ulrikka on Facebook and on Instagram @ulrikka.mokdad.