Weaving ancient arts with modern technology

Floating: woven cotton, linen and copper wire.| Photo courtesy of Kaija Rautiainen.

Floating: woven cotton, linen and copper wire.| Photo courtesy of Kaija Rautiainen.

Kaija Rautiainen, a long-time weaver and native of Finland, is one of the artists who will be returning to the Eastside Culture Crawl to showcase her work. She will also be taking part in this year’s juried exhibition Hanging by a Thread, at The Cultch theatre, which explores the infinite possibilities of thread as a metaphor, object or action.

Rautiainen studied fibre arts in Helsinki, Finland and painting in Sao Paulo, Brazil before moving to Canada in 1985.

Moment in TSQ.| Photo courtesy of Kaija Rautiainen.

Moment in TSQ.| Photo courtesy of Kaija Rautiainen.

“Women, including my mother, were weaving in every house in the[Finnish] countryside, so I grew up knitting and sewing,” says Rautiainen. “I studied textile crafts in the seventies when they were popular, and my first job was [teaching] at a weaving centre in Finland.”

A marriage of different mediums

Rautiainen explains how tapestry serves as an expressive medium that allows her to explore her encounters with the natural world. A natural world she can relate back to her youth.

“I have Finnish genes and [in Finland] there are a lot of forests and nature is very important to people,” she says. “[Here in Vancouver], I do a lot of hiking, skiing and sailing with my husband, and this influences my art.”

Through her art Rautiainen explores the relationships between different mediums: how fibre art and painting could be combined and how incorporating a computerized element could aid her creative process in this technical age.

“[Textiles] is a fairly old-fashioned industry, so it’s a huge leap,” says Rautiainen. “[But] what I’m doing is using my background knowledge [of textiles] to [meld] together an old technique with a more contemporary and modern tool- the computer.”

The intricacies of weaving

Taking inspiration from natural and urban environments and the passage of time and history, Rautiainen typically begins her creative process by capturing black and white photographs of the world around her.

She then imports the photographs onto her computer and uses Photoshop to edit and enhance the images. Once she is satisfied with the design, she uses a Jacquard loom connected to her computer to weave together the digitally manipulated photographs. When the woven image is complete, Rautiainen adds a little colour to the piece.

E_p10_kaijart_2“First [I design] on Photoshop, technical and challenging, and then weaving on Jacquard loom, challenging but familiar, and then freedom of brush, communicating with my work one stroke at a time,” she explains.

“I use colours in my work but they are toned down and subtle. My imagery is nature and I want to portray it with [its] soft colours,” she says.

Her latest works are woven in black and white, adding colour to the finished weaving, first using either fabric dye or acrylic paint very thinly in order “not to kill” the texture of the weave. The final colour is applied with soft pastels and chalk pastels to which an adhesive is added.

“When you look at [the] finished [art] piece, you see a textile work that has colour,” Rautiainen says. “It’s hard to know if the colours were woven in or applied. And that is what I want –
to give a viewer a silent, harmonious image [that] only after enjoying it do they begin to ask the question ‘how’.”

Rautiainen says that while the methods she uses can be very technical and challenging, she loves it.

“It’s [really] cool [being able] to combine different techniques, and it’s really satisfying for me as a designer and an artist,” Rautiainen says. “It feeds all the creative, emotional and technical sides of me!”


For more information, visit www.kaijart.com

With files from Monique Kroeger