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1  Ulrikka Mokdad

The Glasshouse, 2 x 62 cms w X 125 cms H, wool on flax,
woven tapestry.
  Flying without Wings, 86 cms w. X 84 cms h, wool on flax,
woven tapestry.




Artist: Ulrikka Mokdad, Copenhagen Denmark

Interviews 1: Ulrikka Mokdad was the winner of "Best in Show 2009" for her piece "Honour's Victim" showed in the 2009 World of Threads Festival exhibition Common Thread International Juried  Exhibition Part 1.

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Ulrikka Mokdad is a 39-year-old Copenhagen-based tapestry weaver whose artworks have been exhibited in Denmark and abroad since 1997. Her works can be found in private collections. She was invited by the Royal Embassy of Denmark to represent her country at the great festival of EU-countries' culture and art which was held in Algiers, Algeria in 2007. Her tapestries were exhibited in Palais des Raïs, Baston 23 in Algiers, during May 2007. Her two tapestries shown at the Common Thread Exhibition in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, have recently been shown in Galerie Art' et Miss, Paris, France in April 2009.



Honour's Victim, Size is 84 cms X 125 cms, wool on flax, woven tapestry, Winner of Best in Show 2009.


Ulrikka Mokdad, Copenhagen Denmark


Tell us about your work?

My works of art consist of finely woven tapestries in wool on flax. I use five warps per centimeter and the weft is made of Norwegian spellsau wool. The technique is classical French "gobelin". My tapestries are usually based on drawn sketches but sometimes they are based on collages which are a mixture of drawings and photographs. I never weave a tapestry based on another artist's maquette.

Being an artist is not the same as being a craftsman. There is nothing wrong with being a craftsman but I want to express my own message in tapestry not another person's message. My works normally express political opinions and I try to tell stories in tapestry. I work figuratively with bright colours. Like the tapestry art of the Middle Ages and modern posters, I like to have only a very few different colours in a tapestry.


From where do you get your inspiration?

Well mostly from television, newspaper articles, from walks in the streets of Copenhagen, and from people I come across. Sometimes I see or read something that really makes me upset. My tapestry Honour's Victim is based on the story of Ghazala Khan, a young woman of Pakistani descent, who was killed by her elder brother in order to protect the family honour. She had run away from her family to marry a man that she had chosen herself. After she was shot down outside a Danish railway station there was a lot of writing about the murder in the newspapers. Weaving a tapestry will not do anything to help Ghazala, but at least she will not be completely forgotten as long as the tapestry exists.

My tapestry Sans-papiers was inspired by a television program that showed the exploitation and abuse of illegal immigrants in Europe. The black anonymous man without a face on a chaotic background of grey forms is meant to show the hopeless situation these people are in.

Sometimes I need a break from weaving political tapestries.

At the moment I'm working on a large project of my sons' drawings. When they were little they made very curious drawings that I got for birthday presents and Christmas. I have made a collage of some of these drawings and woven it as a tapestry in many bold colours. We can hardly wait to see it finished. It is a beautiful way of conserving a bit of their childhood. My tapestries are very much about remembering and honouring people that are not highly regarded. You can see my tapestries as a way of keeping the memory of anonymous people alive.



Sans-papiers, 84 cms w X 140 cms h, wool on flax, woven tapestry.


In My Maybe Your Neighbourhood
Common Thread International Juried
Exhibition Part 2


Why did you choose to go into weaving?

Actually it was my mother's idea. She thought I should learn weaving. When I was a little girl, almost nine years of age, she took me to an old very fat lady's house. The lady was an artist named Mrs. Heyman. She wore a tent-like dress and always had a cigar end in the corner of the mouth.

My mother had read an article about her in the local newspaper. Mrs. Heyman taught children tapestry weaving in her own house. The children were provided with small wooden frames and rags. With these rags they learned simple tapestry techniques. I went to see Mrs. Heyman every Tuesday after school for five years and I simply loved her and I loved the weaving. It was a sort of magical world that could be found in her little house. Many of the children she taught weaving have chosen to go into art as grown-ups. They have become painters, weavers, textile printers etc.

It is thirty years ago that my mother first took me to see Mrs. Heyman and the love of tapestry weaving has stayed in my heart ever since.


Do you work in any other mediums, and how does this inform your fibre work?

No I do not. Tapestry weaving has everything I need to express myself as an artist. I have never stopped discovering this wonderful art form and there is still so much left to learn and to discover.


What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

Unfortunately I cannot tell you the names of either the artists or the weavers. Most of the tapestries from the Middle Ages and the Baroque have been woven by weavers who have left no other trace of who they were. Not even their names can be found on the surviving tapestries. I really love the Flemish verdures, the millefleurs, and the table carpets from the Netherlands. The famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestry cycle in the National Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris is my absolute favourite when it comes to historic artworks. Nobody knows where it was woven, by whom and who the artist of the maquettes was.


Ulrikka Mokdad at her loom.


What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work? 

Mrs. Heyman, my first tapestry teacher, has surely influenced my work. She was quite a personality who used to weave her tapestries in rags. When she was inspired by something, she always told about her inspiration to her students (the children who came to learn weaving in her house).

I remember once Mrs. Heyman had dreamt at night about her own funeral. Afterwards she wove a large tapestry of her funeral with lots of flowers, people singing in the church, the clergyman with his mouth wide open, and in the middle of it all a coffin with her head sticking out trying to smell the flowers.

Another one of her tapestries depicts a fat lady on a bicycle. Mrs. Heyman wanted to ride a bicycle like everyone else so one fine day she went out and bought herself a brand new bicycle. But she had forgotten that she had not been on a bicycle for 25 years and she didn't dare ride it. So she walked home with her new bicycle and then she placed it in front of her house. Mrs. Heyman soon wove a wonderful tapestry depicting her riding the bike though actually the bicycle never left its place in front of her house.

I believe this was a really artistic solution to her problem.

There is also another tapestry weaver that I want to mention: Hannah Ryggen from Norway. She was a courageous weaver who wove tapestries against Nazism during the German occupation. I'm fascinated by her unique works and especially by the poetic way she expressed her opinions.


What other fibre artists are you interested in?

My friend Henryka Zaremba from Poland makes some extremely beautiful tapestries. She works in pure sisal that she dyes but which is not spun before using it as weft. Originally a painter, she weaves vast landscapes that look like the savanna or the prairie, before the humans started to destroy the earth. I like Henryka's tapestries so much because they remind me of the poetry and beauty of Nature which is sometimes hard to find when you live in the middle of the capital.

Another artist whose work I find fascinating is the Peruvian weaver Maximo Laura. He works in very bold colours and his tapestries depict myths from ancient Peru. His artworks are enlivened with strange creatures, dancing trees with eyes, masks, and wormlike roots. His artworks are so full of life, that one feels completely overwhelmed when seeing one of his tapestries in a picture or in reality. I like Mr. Laura's unique art because of its abundance of bright colours and life.


Tapestry in process.


What role do you think fibre art plays in contemporary art?

Textile art is almost being neglected in contemporary art. At least that is the fact where I come from. Fashion design and industrial design are seen as important matters because they can be exported and earn a lot of money for the country. Unfortunately there is not a lot of export potential in textile art. Obviously tapestries are not regarded as useful.


Where do you imagine your work in 5 years? 

That's not an easy question. So many dreams and plans are on my mind but as you probably know, tapestry is an extremely time consuming art form. That means that only very few of my tapestry projects are actually woven. In five years I hope to be able to weave a millefleurs tapestry.

Besides being a weaver I study art history at the University of Copenhagen. Especially the art of the Late Middle Ages and the millefleurs tapestries in particular have caught my attention.

Perhaps you can imagine a poetic and yet political contemporary millefleurs tapestry?


Which World of Threads Festival have you exhibited in?

Last year in 2009 I had the great pleasure to exhibit two of my artworks at the World of Threads Festival. It was a wonderful surprise when one of my tapestries Honour's Victim was awarded the prize Best of Show. That made me really happy. The money was not the point, but the appreciation of my work. When you get a pat on your shoulder now and then, you are encouraged to continue working.

Unfortunately I was not able to go to Canada myself, but the Danish Embassy in Ottawa sent Miss Helle Andersen, one of their employees of cultural affairs, who received the prize on my behalf.


What was your motivation for submitting your work to the World of Threads Festival?

Well I felt curious about the event and wanted to find out if my artworks would be accepted for Common Thread International Juried Exhibition Part 1 and Part 2. I felt so happy and proud that two of my tapestries were exhibited so far away in Oakville in the other end of the world.


Is there something else you would like us to know about you or your work?

In USA, Canada and even in China textile art is seen as ART and there are a number of large international juried exhibitions that textile artists can participate in. Tapestry is not very much in fashion in Denmark and it is usually regarded as a kind of female occupation, which is hardly recognized as art. Perhaps tapestry would be regarded differently and be more appreciated if there were more male weavers. But as it is, tapestry artists have to send their artworks abroad if they want them to be exhibited and viewed by a large number of spectators.


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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Honour's Victim: Displayed at Joshua Creek Heritage Art Centre in
Oakville, Ontario, Canada for the 2009 Common Thread International
Juried Exhibition