Design process – from sketch to textile
Nature and the world around us have always served as sources of inspiration for textile design. Motives for embroideries and rya rugs have varied, from flowers and forest views to market sellers and power lines. And already existing textiles and other creations may evoke a new vision, which turns into a new textile pattern. Image processing has introduced the world of pixels into design, posing its own challenges.
After the first ideas on paper, sketching continues in dialogue with developing composition and coloring, and the original pattern can change along the way in order to achieve the desired result in textile material. All artists have their own way of designing textiles. If the artist has experience of textiles, technical considerations will intuitively enter the design process. For instance, density, pile types and yarn materials and colors are elements of the technical process of a rya rug. If watercolor or pastel crayon are used, there will be a variety of colored surfaces and shades of hue to translate into textile. There are several yarns in one pile allowing a great possibility to color combinations. The more hues there are in the sketch, the more demanding it is to find the right yarn blends and combinations of yarn in pile. In embroidery the material and the stitch are essential part of the final impression.
Tens of sketches can be made before the right composition begins to emerge. The more complicated pattern and composition, the more work there is at the next stage, when making technical drawings. Very often the original sketch needs pruning and focusing during the technical design phase. A rya rug is a multifaceted textile, with visual, mathematical and technical components. Therefore, it often needs more planning beforehand than for instance painting a canvas. In a rya rug, aesthetic and technical elements are impossible to separate, since technical choices will influence on the surface of the textile, what it looks like. The same design can produce many different outcomes, depending on technical choices.
In order to make a technical drawing for a rya rug, you need to know the size of the rug and information about the pile type and density. Normally it is made on squared paper, marking the borders of figures and color areas. The original sketch is transferred in scale to the technical drawing by counting and adjusting knots in the pattern. Finally, the technical drawing on squared paper is the exact guide to the colors in the rya rug.
Once the squared technical drawing has been made, any number of rya rugs can be crafted using it, either exactly the same or using different colors. The same type of technical drawings onn squared paper are used for cross stitch embroidery, whereas graphical drawings are used for other types of embroidery, marking the colors and types of stitches.
The visual elements of a rya rug
In embroidery work the material and thickness of yarn, the colors and the stitches determine the final outcome. The use of these elements has varied during the history and this applies also to the rya rug. What a rya rug looks like is greatly affected by the type of pile used. In old vernacular rya rugs the rows of knotted piles are clearly visible in overlapping layers. The pile falls downwards in straight lines and you can see the individual yarns. In 20th century modern rya rugs the pile is erect and the cross section of the yarn is visible, so that the colors are blended optically. The surface is formed by small splashes of color – like pixels or like a pointillist painting – the sizes of which are determined by the thickness of yarn and the density of pile. The visual impression of a rya rug like this is fluffy and rich, as the piles are upwards. In modern rya rugs a lot of yarn is used and they are heavy. The materials, length and density of piles can be varied. Very short and dense piles form a velvety surface. On the other hand, long pile easily ”falls”, even if it is dense.
Rya rugs are haptic art works, they invite to touch, and the final product, the rya rug textile, provides a totally different experience compared to the design on paper. The meandering design process leads from a two-dimensional design – the sketch – through a technical drawing to the final three dimensional textile. The organic impression that the first sketch and design idea gives changes into a very exact technical drawing, and then again returns to the natural living texture, so typical for a soft material.
Ulla Karsikas 2016. Ryijyn taikaa. Opas ryijyn suunnitteluun ja valmistukseen. Helsinki: Minerva Kustannus Oy.