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 friedel with the river
 Friedel standing with Ontanbe tapestry [image provieded by Dorothy Cox]

 Friedel traced with her foot the flowing Otonabee River, and said:

“The river can represent our whole life, sunrise, the dawn of childhood, the learning stages, involvement, maturity and finally the evening of our life, when we can still give love and wisdom.”

In 1974, Friedel marked a high point in her career. She became Trent University’s artist-in-residence and creatrix of the , the culmination of years of creative artistry.

Friedel was born in 1917 in Regensburg, Germany, the Roman fortress city where the Heigi family searched for coins which the children took to the convent school. Friedel spent a very happy childhood, living with her three brothers and one sister on a large estate which was a hive of activity. It had its own blacksmith, herds and agriculture, workers and a distillery. Friedel recalls her own mother being quite talented at needlework and for many hours in the evening, Friedel worked on fine table cloths for her hope chest. However, her mother said that Friedel was more trouble than six boys because she ripped her clothes. Friedel admits she was a “tomboy, so much in nature, I loved mountain climbing. So beautiful, I grew up in the country, loved it always.”

In school Friedel favoured Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the teacher said she had a fine imagination. At weaving school her instructor called her a rebel and as punishment she had to create her own design instead of the traditional one. This is what Friedel wanted ‘and it came out so good, that the government offered me free training.”

However, events were changing and Friedel was living in Berlin with her husband, a Professor with a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Here Friedel’s interest in philosophy grew as she listened to her husband’s young friends talk in the evenings. These were very happy years, and Friedel’s present interest in meditation and its practice in her life dates back to these early talks with her husband, who died before the war was over.

“Otonabee Tapestry”

 Ottabeen tapestry in its orginal location in the Otonabee College Senior Common Room at Trent University [image provided by Trent University Archives, Special Collections & Art Collection and used with permision]

Saddened, Friedel decided to embark on a world tour. Canada was the country that was being advertised in Germany as a land of “ice and snow, primitive and strange”. Friedel recalls how impressed and amazed she was, so much vaster! Finding it much less primitive than she had expected, she decided to settle in Toronto.

During the years in Toronto she worked in business translating. Here her experience at keeping books on her father’s estate proved useful. From time to time bouts 0 illness and depression forced her to stop. On her doctor’s suggestion she took up weaving again, “to do something with my hands as a form of therapy ‘This led to Friedel taking further training at Central Technical School and later with Robert Cawood, the Village Weaver.

In 1970 she studied with Martha Pfluegel in Munich for the examination in Textile Technology and in 1971 she completed a special course at the Weaving School Sindelfingen. After returning to Canada she took up modern creative weaving at the Haliburton School of Fine Arts.

Friedel has adapted to our country and culture her unique form of art. She has a feeling for the Kawarthas and our Canadian history that is reflected in her work. “Land of Shining Waters,” a beautiful royal blue and white acrylic tapestry was inspired by a picnic at Little Lake. It was featured on the cover of a German craft magazine.

The tapestries “Twilight of the gods” and “Man and Superman” were selected for the Entr’ acte Show at the O’Keefe Centre. These are now travelling through Canada’s Art Galleries. Friedel also represented Germany at the World’s Craft Conference last summer in Toronto. Last December she had a showing of her works at the Goethe Institute, Toronto and at the German Products Exhibition in Mississauga at Square One.

Friedel’s home in Peterborough is like a small art gallery with beautiful tapestries hung everywhere. Her favorite is “Man and Superman” because of the thought behind it, the aim for perfection in life and the gradual attainment of it.

Friedel’s love of nature and joy in creative work respond to the beautiful Kawarthas. Friedel would like to see a Craft Centre in Peterborough where anyone could come for instruction, a school of tapestry weavers to carry on her work producing original tapestries reflecting the Kawartha area.

Friedel’s “Otonabee Tapestry”, at Trent University is an outstanding piece of work reflective of one of Canada’s finest talents.

“Can there be an end for a river?” Friedel asks. “It will flow to the infinite, to the ocean, from which it came. Death is only the bend in a river’s course . .

And so Friedel the artist and her work, like the river, become immortal.


This article is reprinted from " Portraits: Peterborough Women Past and Present, edited by Gail Corbett and published by Portraits Group, Peterborough, Ontario, c1975 with permissionfrom the author

 one of the schools she studied at is still opperating

Textilfachschule mit Berufsfachschule Münchberg

 
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