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Mouths IV, 120 x 122 cm. woven tapestry.


Høfn view from my tent, 125 x 125 cm, woven tapestry, wool, cotton, flax silk

Artist: Birgitta Hallberg, Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Interview 22: Birgitta Hallberg exhibited in the Common Thread International Juried Exhibition Part 2 in 2009. For the 2012 Festival she exhibited in De rerum natura (On The Nature of Things) at the Joshua Creek Heritage Art Centre in Oakville.

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Birgitta Hallberg is a textile artist who lives in Denmark. She was born in Sweden. Since her début in 1974 at the Artists' Autumn Exhibition in Copenhagen, she has shown her tapestries at many art galleries, museums, art societies and institutions in Denmark and abroad.

Birgitta participated in the International Fibre Art Biennial, "From Lausanne to Beijing" in Shanghai, China. At the same exhibition held three years later in Suzhou, she won a special award. In 2008 in Beijing, she won an Outstanding Honourable Mention. In the United States, Birgitta has exhibited in the American Tapestry Biennial Five and Seven in Denver, Colorado, in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Florida and Kentucky and internationally in Romania, Lithuania, Poland and Canada. Website


Artist Birgitta Hallberg

Artist Birgitta Hallberg in her studio in Copenhagen, Denmark


Tell us about your work?

My working process is very intuitive, as I sketch the sketches without contemplating the motif. I refrain from thinking, letting my hand find its way. Only when the sketch is finished, do I see the motif. From these sketches, I weave my tapestries and stories on a black chain. The interpretation is up to the viewer. I make use of many different colours in different materials such as wool, flax, silk, and cotton among others. I always combine wool, linen and cotton together because the use of different materials gives a lot of dynamic and dimension to the tapestry. This dynamic and dimension supports the way I work with forms, because the forms come more to life.

Technically I combine the Gobelin technique with a free application of the traditional "Rosengang technique", thus creating textural effect and perspective in my tapestries. When using the Gobelin technique the weft covers the warp, for example if I weave a face with the Gobelin technique, the warp is not to be seen as a part of the face. When I use the Rosengang technique the warp and weft form the pattern. If I weave a face with the this technique, patterns in the warp are seen as a part of the face.


Gletcher 1, 65 x 45 cm, woven tapestry.


Why did you choose to go into  weaving?

The ability to combine different techniques of weaving, bright colours and different qualities of yarn, maintained through free and traditional weaving methods. In my teens I had a friend whose grandmother often would sit and weave. We would go to see her granny who lived in the forest of Skåne. Granny offered to teach me how to weave and encouraged me to go for a walk in the woods and let myself become full and inspired by the colours of nature. When I returned from my walk in the woods, Granny asked me to weave a tapestry of the colours that had made the greatest impression upon me. Since it was autumn, and the trees in the forest were full of a great many beautiful colours of fall, I wove a material of brown, green, red and orange stripes. This experience of mine, weaving the colours of nature, gave me the desire to learn more about the art of weaving – and it has given me inspiration to continue weaving. Yes, in fact, I have been weaving ever since that day.


Summer's Night, 35 x 35 cm. woven tapestry.



From where do you get your inspiration?

My art is, in particular, inspired and motivated by my childhood in Skåne, where stories and fairy tales of supernatural beings and mythical creatures of the woods, were often told. As a child I was spellbound, enthralled with and fascinated by, these narratives. And as an adult, I have made them live. They have come to life as a recurrent theme in my universe of motif. For me, my tapestries are a journey into the mythical and supernatural world, where anything can happen. The interpretation of the tapestries, I leave in full to the beholder.

I love visiting art exhibitions and museums, both in Denmark and during my travels. It is very inspiring and rewarding to see how other artists work with form and colours. In addition, I listen to a lot of music as a part of my creative process. In this way, I listen to music to connect to "my creative self" from where I find inspiration to create my tapestries.  


Gletcher II, 65 x 45, woven tapestry.



At one point, I made a decision to travel and exhibit my tapestries, which took me around the world to the United States, China, Rumania, Ukraine, to name a few of the countries I have been to. It has been very exciting to have this opportunity to travel and present my tapestries in exhibitions around the world. Furthermore, I experienced the gift of meeting with and being inspired by, all the gifted and exciting textile artists I have met on my travels.  

Hans Andersen says: "To travel is to live". During my travels, I have my sketchbook with me and I use the sketches for inspiration for my weaving. For example, I traveled for several weeks in the northern part of Norway in the summer of 1996. I was very fascinated by the rough cliffs, the wild sea, the ever changing weather and the birds living in the area. In my tapestry "Bird Cliff" (20x20 cm) I have captured the atmosphere and sense of life from the birds chirping and singing on the cliffs.


Mouths IV, 120 x 122 cm, woven tapestry.


What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

Exploring the imagery of Hieronymus Bosch (1453-1516) for me has always been a delight. He was a unique surrealistic, visual storyteller, and his distinctive pictures are moral, satirical visionary images. His paintings contain a richness of infinite details that inspired me to appreciate and to work comprehensively with details in my own work. His surrealistic style inspired me to express the themes of my art - my memories, feelings and stories from my childhood - in surrealistic ways. I just love to explore the visual world of Hieronymus Bosch.


Sleeping Beauty, 119 x 92 cm, woven tapestry



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

I work with lace, mostly with traditional lace. I spend a lot of time developing ideas how to use classical lace techniques in a modern design such as paper cones, handkerchiefs etc. I teach pupils how to use the techniques and how to develop designs. Sometimes I use lace as a part of my art in combination with paintings or collages - but not in combination with my weaving. 


My country of childhood,116 x 118 cm, woven tapestry


What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work?

Coming to Stockholm as a very young student of art, I visited the newly opened Moderna Museet, which was introducing an exhibition of Emil Nolde (1867-1956). He was a German-Danish artist and an expressionist. Nolde told his stories with strong shapes and colours. By using colours and shapes (and not motives) he could express a feeling and an atmosphere. This I found very interesting. The Nolde Exhibition made a great impression on me. Especially his use of strong colours stayed with me. His characteristic use of strong colours – for example in his flower paintings – fascinated me, as did the black wooden frames he more often than not would put around these paintings, thus enhancing the clear colours of the picture. Even today I have a preference for many strong colours in my tapestries, and I always put my small tapestries in black wooden frames. My big tapestries will not fit into frames. Instead, I weave them upon a black chain, as the black chain – like black frames – enhances the clarity of the colours.


Studio of Birgitta Hallberg in Copenhagen Denmark.

Studio of Birgitta Hallberg in Copenhagen Denmark.

Studio of Birgitta Hallberg in Copenhagen Denmark.


Tell us about your studio and how you work: 

My studio is in my house in a north facing room. In my studio I have a large ten-shafted Glimåkra loom, on which I weave my big tapestries. I also have a smaller table loom on which I weave my small tapestries. My studio is very cozy and I love to work there.  

Currently I am working on a large tapestry (ca.120x110 cm) on the ten-shafted Glimåkra loom. The big tapestries are woven on a black cotton chain, and I would typically use the "Rosengang technique". Under the black chain is a black and white sketch, which helps me to maintain the motif I want for the tapestry. The colours for the motif I will choose as I weave.

I am also working on a small tapestry (ca. 20x20 cm) on the table loom. On this loom I have a flax chain. Behind the loom are sketches taken directly from my sketch book. There are often colours already on these sketches, and I often stay true to the colours on the sketch. Now and again I find it interesting to work with the same sketch over and over again, to see what happens with the motif, when I apply new colours on the same sketch.


Group with man, 75 x 100 cm

Birgitta Hallberg with Group with man, 75 x 100 cm



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

In my opinion, textile and fibre art should be given a more prominent place in exhibitions, given the many possibilities in textile art. You are able to work with depth and texture in a quite different way from painting. Textile art can furthermore increase our awareness of the use of textiles. This is important, as we use textiles everyday – in our homes, in our clothes etc. Exhibitions like the Common Thread International Juried Exhibition, is thus important, presenting and communicating, promoting and propagating textile fibre art.


House in the wood V, 20 x 20 cm.


What other fibre artists are you interested in?

I have great interest in the Swedish Norwegian textile artist Hannah Ryggen (1894 -1970). She was born in Skåne, which is the same part of Sweden where I was born. Later she moved to Norway. She translated her philosophy of life and daily thoughts to her tapestry. Hannah wove tales from the past. She said that she weaves like she feels and that you have to express what you feel in your heart. The tapestry loom is the heart, the eyes and the hands. These are the three important ingredients. Hannah used Gobelin. I combine the Gobelin technique with the free use of "Rosengang technique" (rose pat). I weave with the heart, the eyes and the hands and completely as I want myself. She translated her philosophy of life and daily thoughts to her tapestry. She once said, that: "The inspiration to my art comes from a wordless place deep within". I can very easily connect (myself) to this statement.  

Besides I'm very interested in fibre art in general. Most textile artists are very inspiring. I was born in a country with a strong textile tradition – a tradition that includes the many traditional weaving techniques and beautiful patterns. I want to transform these traditions into my tapestries with my own style and philosophy. 



Mundtøj, V, 120 x 122 cm, woven tapestry


Shadows, 75 x 67 cm. woven tapestry


Where do you imagine your work in five years? 

I hope to be weaving my tapestries and sketches from those in my sketch book.


House in the wood III, 20 x 20 cm.


House in the wood II, 20 x 20 cm.


House in the vood I, 20 x 20 cm.



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

I was born in Sweden, but have lived in Denmark since 1969. Since my first exhibition at Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling (The Artists Autumn Exhibition) in Copenhagen in 1974, I have exhibited in many art galleries, museums and art associations, on my own and as a member of groups. I have exhibited both in Denmark and in international censured exhibitions.



Minds, 120 x 110 cm. woven tapestry exhibited at Oakville's Towne Square Gallery in Common Thread Internataionl Juried Exhibition Part 2 in the 2009 World of Threads Festival.




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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.


Studio of Birgitta Hallberg in Copenhagen Denmark.