Kaija Rautiainen’s “Natural Images (Bear Encounters) by Anthea Mallinson PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Kaija Rautiainen: “Natural Images (Bear Encounters)”

May 3 - June 4, 2008

Circle Craft Shop & Gallery
1 - 1666 Johnston St.
Net Loft  Granville Island
Vancouver, BC V6H 3S2 




Long time textile artist Kaija Rautiainen provides us, in this exhibition, with an interesting variety, a selection of her work with the Jacquard loom. The imposing bear faces are the first to catch our attention; her feeling of personal connection with these creatures (she was with photographer Albert Karvonen on a remote B.C. coast when the photos upon which these pieces are based were taken) comes through in her attention to details. Her careful selection of different yarns and skillful use of textures available to her through the Jacquard process, her use and understanding of linen, metal, paper, and her skilled use of the intricate 3-dimensionality of this fabric structure  give her pieces strength.

The smaller abstracts included in the show utilize the textural quality of her approach to the Jacquard process which she enhances with subtle details of surface embellishment. Her embellishment with thread adds another layer of texture; her use of paint adds a subtle layer of unexpected colour change that serves but doesn’t dominate the texture of her work.

The graphic antler pieces with the strong red and silver symbols have a shamanistic presence.  What you only learn from speaking with Kaija is that these pieces have a history and multicultural significance for her as well. The white bleached-like antlers are woven with contemporary Japanese paper fibre while the strip of red symbols on their dark ground are made of mid century Finnish paper yarn taken from old mattress covers that were woven during war time shortages. There is something unusual in the colour contrast of these materials which adds to their presence even before we know the history.

 kj weaving

One aspect of this exhibition that is a quiet challenge to the viewer and a conscious exploration on Kaija’s part is her choice to frame all the pieces but one and to put most of them under glass. Kaija has purposefully chosen this presentation format to state that this textile work can belong on a gallery wall.  Certainly, in this guise, their identity as ‘textile’ or ‘fabric’ has very little presence. Some of the textural surface, especially in the antler pieces, is lost.  However her use of weave structure and yarn characteristics shines through the glass especially in the imposing bear pieces, and this format seems likely to attract a broader, perhaps more conventional audience. 

Happily, Kaija has also included in the show one of the Rope series, imagery she has worked with for some time.  A large unframed diptych on its own wall, this polished piece has a strong presence. Made of thread, imaging thread, signifying passages of one kind and another – it is perhaps this intense realism in imagery – layered, coloured and abstracted through magnification and interpretation- that best reveals Kaija’s developed artistry.


The Jacquard loom – the short version.

Fabric is made of warp and weft.  The warp threads stretch parallel to one another, strung on the loom before weaving begins.  Any piece of fabric has many –hundreds or even thousands – of warp threads, which usually form part of the visible fabric. These threads are raised and lowered in groups so that a visible as well as a structural pattern is formed as the cloth is woven.  The Jacquard loom, invented in 1801, used hole-punched cards to raise and lower one thread at a time, allowing for the creation of complex woven imagery.  The Jacquard loom is seen as an important step in the development of the computer. (look up Wikipedia “Joseph Marie Jacquard”, “Charles Babbage” and the “Analytical Engine”) Today’s Jacquard looms are controlled by computers, and it is only in recent years that they have become accessible to individual textile artists for use in work such as this work of Kaija’s. The Jacquard loom allows for the mechanical weaving of fabric one pixel at a time. The pixels are formed by both the warp and the weft. The process has to be carefully planned by the textile artist; any texture structure must not only create the image desired, but must also create a stable fabric. The experienced Jacquard artist can play with the structure to create compelling imagery and interesting textures, to make threads sink below the surface but still have a presence in the shadows.


This review was posted on Circle Crafts website and is reprinted here with permission of the author

Anthea Mallinson: is a graduate of the Tapestry Department of West Dean College in Sussex, England, and an expert in tapestry, weaving and dyeing. She has exhibited her tapestries in England Canada, the U.S. and Japan, and her commissions include an altarpiece for a Calgary convent. Her extensive experience in dyeing has led working as a Key Dyer for many feature films. She also teaches in the Costuming for Stage and Screen program and the Arts Department of Capilano College. Somehow she makes time to work for large and small community projects – and commenting on Kaija Rautiainen.  

Circle Craft Shop and Gallery  http://www.circlecraft.net/sites/circlecraft2/files/homepage.htm

Circle Craft is a unique organization, dedicated to the promotion of fine quality craft, following a heritage of guilds and associations hundreds of years old. Circle Craft is dedicated to progressive marketing of craft, active promotion of craft, and education of members and public. Circle Craft is a co-operative made up of BC craftspeople. Our members' work covers the spectrum from cottage industry to one-of-a-kind artist/craftspeople. The work displayed in our Granville Island shop encompasses traditional and contemporary design. Formed in 1972 by a small group in Victoria, Circle Craft has grown to a major force in the marketing and promotion of quality BC craft. 

Circle Craft carries the work of 39 textile and fibre artist from around British Columbia  


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