A Work Life at the Junction between Textile Art and Design Research

My professional interests have been broad and diverse ever since I graduated from Kolding School of Arts and Crafts in 1994 as a textile designer specialising in weaving. My career has been a journey with twists and turns, with lots of loops between several interesting touch points such as art, design, research and teaching. The common denominator for all the pathways has always been materials, texture and tangible aspects in combination with aesthetics, curiosity, context and a good portion of (sometimes naïve) persistence.

But why designer? When I was young I wanted to save the world, and I saw Kolding School of Arts and Crafts as a pathway to reaching that goal. Now that I am mid-way through my career I still hope to be able to contribute a few more ‘grains of sand’ to that project, standing on the shoulders of the accumulated knowledge of other designers and design researchers.

After graduation I worked in different settings as an artist, designer and teacher for about 12 years. In 2007 I entered academia with an Industrial PhD Scholarship. Having become a member of the faculty of Design School Kolding I was asked by the school to initiate a research project together with a company and apply for an Industrial PhD scholarship. The short version is that I succeeded in being the first graduate from Design School Kolding to conduct an Industrial PhD together with the Danish textile manufacturer Gabriel A/S. I earned my PhD degree in 2011 with the thesis “Emotional Value of Applied Textiles – Dialogue-oriented and participatory approaches to textile design.” My PhD research was focused on tools suited for dialogue between diverse groups of people around sensuous and experiential aspects of textiles and materials. Subsequently, this work has continued in several research projects at Design School Kolding.

Today, in 2017, I am an Associate Professor with expertise in participatory design and applied textiles taking a deep interest in sustainability and research through design. In that respect my personal story is equivalent to the story of the Design School, namely the journey from arts and crafts to design and research.

All along the way I have pursued an artistic career, sometimes full time, but in recent years on a very limited basis due to my academic work. Even though I have an extensive personal CV covering juried, solo and group exhibitions, as well as commissions and large grants, my most significant contribution as a textile artist is the work I have done since 2003 as a member of the group Textile Illusions, where we use digital means to explore the potential of weaving. This effort has led to numerous exhibitions in prominent settings, and in 2012 and 2015 we took up commissions for the New Carlsberg Foundation: A stage curtain for Europahallen in Aalborg Congress and Culture Centre and a carpet for Accadamia Di Danimarca in Rome.

In my teaching I am interested in ways in which practice and theory can feed into each other. Here the use of ‘designerly’ skills such as drawing and design experiments play a major role. I teach weaving, design methodology, design methods and basics in design research on the undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level. I am also an supervisor for design projects and PhD theses.

For me as an academic rooted in practice it is crucial to combine doing with theorising. I am honoured to have been given the chance, as a member of the Design School faculty, to contribute to substantiating the profession with research. And even though much of my work is now about words and writing it is still material, structure and tangible aspects that serve as the driving engine of my efforts.