Line Nilsen is our first interview for our new series, The Artists’ Journal. Line is a designer, textile artist and hand weaver. She lives in Nottingham and works from her studio at Primary, a former school that’s been transformed into an arts community. Line was born in the small town of Kirkenes in far northeastern Norway, and the landscape of her birth has been a key inspiration in her work. I asked Line how she became interested in weaving, the act of making, what her home looks like and what advice she has for new designers starting out.
How did you get into weaving?
I discovered weaving at university. I knew quite a bit about fabrics from having trained to be a tailor, but when I started learning how to make fabric from nothing, I was hooked. That said, my mum told me that I used to play around her loom as a toddler before she sold it. I cannot remember any of this, but maybe that’s when I actually got into weaving.
The landscape of your birth inspires your work. Can you tell us more about this?
My hometown in Norway, Kirkenes, is quite special. It’s tiny with only a few thousand inhabitants. It is also quite remote and the distances are vast. The climate is what some might call extreme, with really cold, dark winters and warm, sunny summers. I have lived away from my birthplace for more than half of my life now, and as a kind of love letter to my past, I have been finding inspiration from the Nordic way of life, beautiful nature and those incredible seasons. I think people feel a connection to land and place, whether conscious or unconscious, and it is those deep-rooted memories that most inspire me right now.
How important is it to you to be using your hands and a loom, rather than a mechanical process?
Making by hand is very important, mostly because I enjoy it, but also because I am free to control the materials in a way that is only possible on hand looms. I can make adjustments as I go along and manipulate the yarns to do what I want. Handwoven cloth has a unique look to it – there is subtle character and movement in the weave. Having worked in the textile industry for a while, I know that power looms are really amazing, too. I cannot compete with the speed and consistency of a power loom. I guess it is important to know that most methods of production present their own challenges, restrictions and benefits.
What do you most enjoy about the process of making?
Making by hand is almost like meditation: I let my mind and body focus on the work – the repetition in craft is very therapeutic. I also love seeing the result, watching the pieces take shape in front of me, creating something from nothing.
Can you describe a day in the life of Line Nilsen for us?
I am not a morning person. I normally start work around 10am. My days vary a lot depending on what project I am working on, but on a typical studio day, I start with tasks that are urgent – admin, emails etc. Once I have taken care of all pressing tasks, I am ready to get creative or start making. I love working in my studio. Here I can stay focused and work productively, as long as it is tidy; mess distracts me and I hate looking for things. I rarely leave work before 6pm, sometimes nearer 7-8pm; I find it hard to stop once I get into something.
You collaborate with quite a few people – whether it be through consultancy work or working with other designers on interiors. How do you find the process of collaboration?
I love consulting and collaborating! Working on my own is great, but sometimes a bit isolating. The interaction with other designers and companies can be really valuable. It normally means working on a project that is different and offers a challenge in my practice. You get out of your bubble and think about your work from a different perspective.
What object or piece of work holds most significance to you?
Because of the nature of my practice, there are so many products that I have loved working on. My latest series of handwoven art feels extra special because it reminds me of home, so there is more emotional connection with this work. But then I also love interior design, and I get excited when I collaborate with a furniture maker or I design fabric for furniture.
Can you paint us a picture of what your home is like?
We live in Nottingham in a Victorian terrace/townhouse, north of the city centre. I would say the Haggerston of Nottingham. Our style is kind of eclectic but not too cluttered, a good mix of new and old. The house is full of colour (although never bright pink), art, plants and I am obsessed with mood lighting in every room.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a new series of woven art which will be around 30cm square. I’m enjoying making smaller pieces at the moment.
Best advice you would give to a young designer starting out on their career?
Learn as much as possible from as many as possible. The best thing I ever did was work for people who knew more than I did and not rush to set up my own practice. Thanks to those who took me in and showed me the ropes – you know who you are!
Photos by Reece Straw and Veerle Evens.