AIR Interview: Emelie Röndahl

Emelie Röndahl is with us from Sweden to be in our AIR Cycle 6 program! She earned an MFA in Textile Art from the University of Craft and Design at the University of Gothenburg, and today we’re learning about her design process, her relationship with memory, and her new textile ventures.


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In your artist bio on your website, you refer to thinking of “textiles in the context of survival.” Could you elaborate on this?

I often think, “weaving in solidarity with others,” and by “others” I mean girls and boys in sweatshops who are risking their lives every day for us to consume cheap textiles. If I weave my own textiles, I don’t kill anyone. But I also keep in mind, and give others a reminder, that without the invention of weaving we would probably have frozen to death by now. Weaving is the most important thing in the world!


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You often mention memory in your work. What is it that fascinates you about the concept of memory and how do you translate that into your work with textiles?

Memory. I am not sure. There is something overwhelmingly complex about the relationship between memory and textile. I associate it with body, skin and touch. Sometimes it consists of evidence – a stain. Sometimes it is wordless – as in the first seconds of falling into nostalgia. It could haunt you, a remnant of something you would rather forget. I could think of several textile-related memories: the fabric of a certain sofa from my childhood, a bathroom mat to put my feet on while sitting on the toilet, socks that my aunt isolated her roof with…

I use the concept of memory in my work as a fire-starter for myself. I often think of myself as a “thinking” artist, using brain and intellect, but the truth is that I am the opposite! I make art by making art, if I work with my hands I know I will reach my goals. Reading and writing, visiting museums, archives and libraries. Walking and talking. Those are things for the beginning. And for summing up in the end. And that is how I use “memory.” While working there is no “memory,” only the present.


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You seem to have an extensive relationship with and a focus on Swedish weaving. How have you added to this, or what new techniques have you learned during the residency thus far to further your knowledge of textiles?

I have slowly started to zoom out of weaving a bit…I have a feeling that spinning will be a big deal for me in the future! And I took a felting class, which was amazing. I realize that what I hate about weaving (the discipline and strictness, I guess) I can totally avoid with felting, where you just interlace fibers in a crazy and uncontrolled way, but there is still that ancient and traditional aura around it that I love. I’m not sure how I will apply this yet. I just started, so time will tell. But it will be objects…felted things…I am excited!


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Which modes of making are you focusing on right now in the studio and what excites you about them?

I just finished my pile-weaving project that I have been working on since December. It turned out as I wanted and I was especially pleased with my decision to naturally dye all the yarn, I think the color palette corresponds with my intentions. My pile-weaving project was kind of a safe project for me; I wove with this technique last year as well in something different and I sold that piece to the National Collection in Sweden, so it is associated with pleasure for me. And I love doing those knots in the loom! My biggest challenges here were more of the logistics, my loom was for example too small for handling the longest piles…I had to invent a complicated working position to get it right. Now I am moving on to some more felting and making samples of natural dyes on wood! I am looking forward to entering new terrains.


You can view more of Emelie’s work on her website:

Photo credits: Jia Yee Ni, 2015.

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