Iceland Field School Day 5 | June 5, 2018

At the Kvennaskóllin, Jóhanna (far right) teaches us how to spin, as we learn how to handle fleece and the wheel and ‘sit like a queen.’ Photo: Kathleen Vaughan

Two years ago I was enraptured by my first visit to Blönduós, here for a residency at the Icelandic Textile Centre. On this anniversary I’m back for a second trip — with 13 ConU students as part of the Iceland Field School. Today as the sun burns off the morning fog, we are working with  Jóhanna Erla Pálmadóttir at the Kvennaskolinn, where she is patiently teaching us how to spin Icelandic wool! Horrible/fabulous to be an incompetent beginner at something again!

First Impressions

Before arriving at the Icelandic Textile Center (Textílsetur Íslands) in Blönduós, I did some research and was elated at what I read and the images that I saw; not only was the location ideal for working with textiles and learning new skills but also for getting inspiration. My expectations were as high as my excitement. The image of Iceland as a country

“where the past meets the future in an elemental symphony of wind, stone, fire, and ice” (Parnell, Presser, & Bain, 2013, p.3)

lingered in my mind. Luckily, upon arriving to Reykjavík, I was greeted by a kaleidoscope of colors in both the sky and land. This was only the beginning of a journey of discovery and awakening. These initial images that I took as my journey from Reykjavík to Blönduós began were only the tip of the iceberg; what was yet to come was beyond my imagination.

Reykjavik. Photo: Maisa Mreiwed, 2018

While my first impression was a great one; the rest of the scenery that I began to see as my trip was unfolding was breathtaking. My view was not blocked by big buildings and polluted air. I was able to see mountains and blue skies with land that stretched beyond my immediate vision. As I took a breath, I felt the air fill my lungs and my eyes began to see more beautiful details at every turn. As an artist and researcher, this was the perfect location for inspiration.

Reykjavík. Photo: Maisa Mreiwed, 2018

As I began to get ideas from the different shapes and colors as well as the amazing natural vista, I took out my sketchbook and began to draw. The more I looked around, the more I wanted to meet people and learn about them, their culture and connection to the land. Our connection as human beings to the land and how we treat it has always been important to me and is a consistent theme in my artwork, and I felt that this connection is also present in Iceland as nature is clearly protected and preserved. I am looking forward to the rest of my experiences in this breathtaking country.

borgarbyggð. Photo: Maisa Mreiwed, 2018
Maisa Mreiwed. Untitled, 2018. Ink on paper.


Parnell, F., Presser, B., & Bain, C. (2013). Lonely Planet Iceland(8th Ed.). Lonely Planet Publications.


Yarn bombing to get us started: #icelandfieldschool

One of dozens of yarn bombed lamp posts that mark the route to Knitting Festival sites such as the Textile Centre and the Blönduós Hotel (to the right, out of frame). Knit by locals, these dressings were stitched into place by an enthusiastic cohort of Concordia students. Photo: Kathleen Vaughan, 2018.

On Sunday, June 3, the Concordia contingent in Blönduós had our first opportunity to work together in response to a local knitting group’s request: come and help us decorate the town’s lamp posts for the Knitting Festival (June 8-10, 2018)! Each summer since 2015, dozens of lamp posts are dressed up in local knitting, a version of yarn bombing that has become the town’s international signature.

Local yarn bomber Berglind Björnsdóttir shows off the knitted lengths that have been created by locals over the past three years, which this year the students helped whip stitch to lamp posts in local decoration. Photo: Kathleen Vaughan, 2018.

Students worked singly and in pairs, making an afternoon’s work of an installation project that normally would take the core group of yarn bombers a week or so to put in place. The Blönduósi were grateful for our help and we had so much fun! Even the weather cooperated, being reportedly the warmest, driest installation date in memory. (Local trick: if it’s really cold, use a plastic rather than a metal yarn needle, since the plastic won’t freeze your fingers!)

Installations in progress and achieved! Photos: Kathleen Vaughan, 2018.

Iceland Field School, Day 1 | June 1, 2018

View from the edge of the Icelandic Textile Centre’s property, looking towards the mouth of the Blanda River, its sandbar and the sea of the Húnaflói beyond. Photo: Kathleen Vaughan

Day one of the month-long Iceland Field School here in Blönduós. 13 Concordia university students, BFA to PhD, are here with me, developing their own research and creation projects in conversation with this very special context: the people, creatures and places. The long light-filled days are particularly conducive to exploration, reflection and transformation! (The photo above was shot at midnight yesterday, when I finally turned on indoor light to help my hand stitching.)

Thank you to Textilsetur Islands/the Icelandic Textile Centre (especially Jóhanna Erla Palmadóttir) and Concordia University for believing in this project and helping me bring it into being.

Day/night 1: #icelandfieldschool

The view across the Blanda river, almost midnight, June 1, 2018. Photo: Kathleen Vaughan.

And so the Iceland Field School begins, in long, long days full of reflection, research, creation and transformation. Coming from Montreal, 45.5017° N, where the sun sets by 9 p.m., it’s astonishing to experience the luminous and lengthening spring/summer days here at 65.6601° N in Blönduós. The place surges with the energies of new life and boosts our own delight, as well.