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Tapestry Commissions and Choices for the Home

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September 23, 2013
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Downtown by Ulrika Leander of Contemporary Tapestry Weaving

“Downtown” by Ulrika Leander of Contemporary Tapestry Weaving

Ulrika Leander shares her latest project, a commission celebrating 30 years of marriage.

Learn more about Ulrika on TAFA.

Living with a tapestry doesn’t require a castle. The interiors of many modern houses and apartments are truly amenable to them and a custom-designed, site-specific tapestry never fails to enrich the beauty of the home.

About ten months ago a man called me up and told me that he wanted to commission a tapestry for his wife for their 30th wedding anniversary. I was rather amazed about the kind of gift he wanted for his wife; many men do not think further than jewelry for anniversary presents. However, this husband wanted something very special for their home, something that every day would remind them about thirty happy years together. He asked me if I thought he should discuss his idea with his wife and I immediately advised him to do so since a fairly large tapestry must be something both of them like and can imagine living with for the rest of their lives.

Our first meeting took place in my studio where I showed them images of previous commissions and also an ongoing tapestry on the loom so they could understand the process and the time and effort that goes into a hand-woven tapestry. Over the years I have kept all my designs which are very helpful in showing how I work and demonstrating the intensification of colors that occurs when the water-color design is magnified some 8-10 times in the final woven tapestry.

It was very good that the husband decided not to make this a surprise and involved his wife from the outset. In the early discussion he was convinced that she wanted a tapestry with flowers but what she really wanted was a tapestry with geese flying off from their water front property. It turns out that she has a love-hate relationship with the hundreds of geese that land and make a lot of noise and mess up their lawn. She is amazed by their beauty and power but also quite often runs out and chases them away.

The second meeting took place in their home and most of the time was spent discussing which wall would best lend itself for a tapestry. A few rules apply for siting a tapestry. Firstly, keep the tapestry out of direct sunlight; the sun is a killer. Secondly, keep the tapestry as free as possible from dirt, dust and sticky fingers and try to avoid large temperature changes; hanging a tapestry close to an active fireplace is not a good idea.

I must admit that this was the first ever commission during more than thirty-five years in this field that I have been asked to design and weave Canada geese. A new challenge and I was very eager to start working on a meaningful design for this couple.

I often try to make two or three designs to give the client choices. I never charge any design fee because I strongly believe that if the artist can’t come up with a design that pleases the client, it is the artist’s problem and the client shouldn’t have to pay for that. Below on the easel to the right is the design this couple picked. To personalize this design, I included thirty geese to mark the thirty years they have been married. The tapestry, which I named “Migration”, is slowly growing on the loom.

Geese flying

Migration Tapestry by Ulrika Leander

6ft x 4ft
Warp: 100% cotton
Weft: 100% wool (moth proofed)


I've been working with the arts and craft world in many capacities since 1988. Handmade textiles have been my core focus since launching TAFA in 2010.

My hope is to contribute to the economic development potential the arts bring to the world, along with the intrinsic beauty shown in the work. May the world become a friendlier place for artists and nature!

Arrived in Kentucky after a childhood in Brazil, college in Minnesota and 20 years in Chicago. It's been a ride!

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