External PhD Examiner - "Crying Rya: a practitioner’s narrative through hand weaving"

Activity: Examination typesPhD Examination


PhD Abstract by Emelie Röndahl: I hand weave figurative rya, a traditional Scandinavian weaving technique which has a built-in two-sidedness, where the material is pushing out of a textile base giving my figurative woven images the impression that they are crying or falling out. When I weave, I have my fingers in a tangled underground without knowing what is hiding down there. Research through my own studio practice has led me to question a public image of weaving as a time-consuming or slow practice and why temporality is attributed to the finished object, while I claim that it is only experienced in the making process.

My research investigations have their origin in the recurring question I am asked of how long it takes for me to weave a rya. This question has functioned as a fuel in my search for the audience questions that clarify the underlying thoughts about crafts and time. I have chosen to address the issue based on the practicing body, the body that weaves, my own.

The aim here is to investigate and explore experiences of time within a hand-weaving practice in order to explain how the idea of weaving as time-demanding or slow is both a product of a romantic view of handmaking when compared to mine, as well as a practical reality of lived experience in the studio.

The study has been characterized by what the Swedish philosopher Jonna Hjertström Lappalainen describes as the formulation work: to face something we have not yet named before, but for that matter do not want to capture in language . With the guidance of her discussions, the practice has aimed at being formulated without reducing it. The project and my artistic practice are placed in a contemporary craft context; a context within weaving with predecessors such as Anni Albers (1899 – 1994) Hannah Ryggen (1894 - 1970) and Maria Adlercreutz (1936 – 2014) female artists no longer alive but vivid and relevant in contemporary textile discourse. These artists also faced questions about time, Albers and Ryggen did not focus on their work as time consuming but rather spoke of content and material, whilst Adlercreutz left behind more romantic statements on weaving.

Several contemporary artists who weave figuratively, among them American Erin Riley and Swedish Annika Ekdahl, are also used as steppingstones to my own understanding, both artists often associated with concepts of slow, intimacy and repetition when their practices are discussed. Professor of Sociology Nick Crossley's explorations on reflexive embodiment, has served as framing and has provided an understanding of how I, as an embodied being, reflect on my own embodiment, and provided insights into how difficult it can be to change the body in relation to external statements.

The weaving body possesses knowledge that is tacit. Ironically, the bodily knowledge of a handmade practice can be hidden from one's own practice. In my case, a shift and new insights began to become visible only when I began to understand that I myself repeated a language about my practice that did not agree with what my body experienced. Instead, my hidden knowledge become visible when I began to draw by hand, which in turn generated a method to write out my knowledge.

The investigation has led me to the realization that the claim of weaving as slow does not consider the body that weaves. The claim excludes the weaving body. Slowness linked to handmade practices contributes to a romantic view of contemporary crafts. I take with me my experience of the different stories outside my practice and my knowledge and experience from within it and weave the two into one story. This helps to highlight hidden knowledge in practice and provides new perspectives and insights on hand weaving.
In my research I have combined my writing with several rya projects made in recent years (2016–2022) structured from a personal perspective around my interest in reflection on artistic practices, my body in making and the figurative rya weaves I create. These insights, and this story, make knowledge of my own hand-weaving practice when verbalized no longer only personal, but accessible to and shared with others.
Period28 Sep 2022
ExamineeEmelie Röndahl & Emelie Röndahl
Examination held at
  • University of Gothenburg
Degree of RecognitionInternational