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Stories, symbols and the longing for beauty:
what is paradisaea about?

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My desire is to weave stories; visual tales that each carry a meaning.
I’m intrigued by the concept of beauty; why do we long for it, and why is beauty vitally important to us?
My wish is that each Paradisaea wrap is a profoundly unique art piece;
a tangible symbol of a story with a beauty that has the power to restore and heal us.

But what does all this mean, practically?
In this text I wish to share a bit about my way of working,
and why stories and the longing for beauty are so central to it.

 Skeins from the Facing The Sun colourway; the theme for the collection was dreaming boldly and sticking to your dreams even if life seems sometimes hopeless. These skeins are Suvin cotton.

Skeins from the Facing The Sun colourway; the theme for the collection was dreaming boldly and sticking to your dreams even if life seems sometimes hopeless. These skeins are Suvin cotton.

The Paradisaea Stories
 

I work with symbols. Each Paradisaea warp has a symbolic theme, and each piece woven from a warp carries it’s own detailed story, linked to the overall theme. A “story” in this sense can be anything that has a significance, either to us as human beings in general, or for a specific person for whom I’m weaving. 

The reason to this is that I’m helplessly in love with the concept of translating spoken stories into colour. By creating a colourway that carries a story I wish to create something that I call a “tangible symbol”; a concrete object that serves as a reminder of something that is meaningful to the wearer. I believe in the power of symbols - I believe that when I wrap myself and my child into an art piece that carries a significance, I simultaneously let that significance surround me, carry not only my child but me. I let it into my life, I let it affect my existence. A tangible symbol reminds me of things that truly matter, it keeps me anchored to things that are true. The human mind is a fickle thing, it seems to be hard to stay rooted to truth just by sheer willpower. A tangible symbol, fabric that has colours specifically chosen to tell a certain story, has the potential to be a vessel of change; there’s a special kind of power and potential in it. Beauty that can be deeply healing and restoring.

I’m especially intrigued by the idea of translating the stories of our lived experiences into these symbols. What happens when you have your story woven into fabric, and you get to carry your child in your story? What happens when even the possibly hurtful or painful experiences of our lives are re-claimed and transformed into something beautiful that we can wrap ourselves in? Behind this approach is the idea of “empowerment"; how re-claiming our life stories helps us to reassess what has happened to us, and how trough the process we can “own” our stories, experiencing restoration and healing.

This approach of mine is partly rooted to my experiences and my training as a theologian, a pastor and a councellor. Mostly, however, it simply stems from my ardent love of stories, and the awed respect I have towards the real stories of our lives. 

I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has been willing to let their own lived stories to be woven in to wraps; getting to witness glimpses to these stories has been greatly meaningful for me - something bot uplifting and humbling. 

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 Two pieces from the Altogether Lovely collection. The theme of this mulberry silk warp was daughters and mothers, princesses and queens, and the adventure of mothering a girl child. 

Two pieces from the Altogether Lovely collection. The theme of this mulberry silk warp was daughters and mothers, princesses and queens, and the adventure of mothering a girl child. 

The Paradisaea Colourways

I’ve found that the best way for me to translate stories into colour has been to hand dye my warps myself. My projects start either with a specific theme, asking what colours would express it best, or with a set of colours that speak to me, looking for a theme that fits the colours. 

I dye my warp yarn in skeins; I feel that measuring the warps yarn by yarn with dyed material allows me to build the story slowly, creating an arch of meaning from the beginning to end - from rail to rail. A story with tension, drama, contrast, and harmony, all together. It’s almost like writing, except I’m just using yarn instead of words.

What is characteristic to Paradisaea’s colourways is something that I like to call “harmony with accents”; I usually aim to create harmonious gradations inside a set of colours. However, I’ve come to love contrasts, feeling that the tension between colours often expresses certain emotions well. To achieve this, I usually use accent colours inside the gradations to bring visual interest. Something else that Paradisaea’s colourways usually have is a certain element of colour value, using different intensities of specific colours to create the illusion of light playing on the fabric.

A typical Paradisaea colourway contains anything between 10-30 colours that move simultaneously trough out the warp, their placement and intensity a result of meticulous sampling and planning. I enjoy the process of looking for just the right kind of colour; it’s like hunting for treasures, or like trying to find just the right kind of sound or chord for a song.

I design my colourways specifically for wearing purposes, trying place the colours so that the effect would be as pleasing as possible when wrapped.

The Paradisaea materials and weave structures

 A piece from the Refined In Fire collection. The picture shows and 8-shaft faux crackle type of a fancy twill; a weave structure designed by Paradisaea. The warp is mercericed cotton.

A piece from the Refined In Fire collection. The picture shows and 8-shaft faux crackle type of a fancy twill; a weave structure designed by Paradisaea. The warp is mercericed cotton.

After testing many different materials, I’ve landed on some that I especially enjoy working with. Most of Paradisaea’s warps (after September 2017) will be either Suvin cotton, mulberry silk or rose viscose. Sometimes, when the colourway calls for a bright white easycare fibre, I will use bleached merc Egyptian cotton. All these materials have characteristics that I love, both in working with the yarn and as wearing qualities. 

I design most of my weave structures myself. Most of them fall under the “fancy twill” category, which means that they are complex twills woven with 6-8 shafts. Many of them feature crackle weave elements. These weaves allow me to pursue a wide variety of visual outcomes, and they have wearing qualities I appreciate; thin to medium thick (dependent on the material), rather flat in hand but still very cushy with the right material combo, featuring a good grip.

Paradisaea wraps tend to be woven rather densely due to my technique. This gives them as a general rule a pleasingly supportive structure, even with lighter or thinner materials.