Jan Mostrom’s popular classes last summer continue to inspire rya weaving locally, and in the case of Anita Burbeck, in Horace, North Dakota. Anita is of Sami heritage, and when she heard about Jan’s class in rya weaving, she thought it would be a perfect technique to continue exploration of her ethnic heritage. When it didn’t fit into her busy summer schedule (which includes participating in Viking reenactments at the Hjemkomst Festival in Moorhead each year), she came up with a novel solution. She paid her weaving friend in Minneapolis, Wanda Truman, to take the class in her place. Wanda had a great time and a successful experience; her rya, based on a small floral motif from an old rya Wanda saw in a Swedish book, is now up in the exhibit of ryas currently up in the Weavers Guild. (See Wanda’s piece on the loom and read more about the class in an article from the Norwegian Textile Letter, “The Zen of Rya.“)
Over Labor Day weekend last summer, Wanda taught Anita the skills she learned in Jan’s class. Anita wasted no time and so far has woven two pieces. Her first rya includes an image of “Maderakka,” (Earth Mother), the tribal or ancestral mother. Her crown and the plants she holds represent the fertility of the earth, and the triangle shape of her body represents the fertility of women.
Her second piece included more experimentation with technique; it is a sampler of stitch variations that can be combined with rya. Knots are on both sides. On the back is a red and white checkerboard. If you look closely, you can see that the various stitches Anita used for the front side sometimes affect the density of the knots on the back side.
The front side features imaginative tests. Anita wove short rya pile in a star shape. The unspun wool was added with a special knot used in Viking times, when locks of wool from Shetland sheep were used to create the “fur” of cloaks. Anita feels the looped section needs further experimentation to find a better way to stabilize the loops. A fjord horse is depicted using soumache stitch.
The Weavers Guild exists to teach and inspire and “preserve the arts of weaving, spinning, and dyeing.” It is enormously heartening to see classes offered by the Guild result in new work. Jan Mostrom is teaching another rya class, “Rya Weaving with Hidden Knots,” starting on February 23rd. Who knows what fabulous pieces will result from that class?