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.

Relate North’s Iceland chapter now published


Opening two-page spread from my chapter, “The Lure of Iceland.”

I’m delighted to announce my chapter in the new, fourth edition of Relate North, the remarkable series of publications about Nordic art and design edited by Timo Jokela and Glen Coutts. My chapter describes my own experience at the artist’s residency in Blönduós, and begins to consider some of the preoccupations of the Iceland Field School: the positionality, pleasures and obligations of the stranger/artist in residence, the ethics of engagement across difference, the possibilities and limitations of place-based work in a new place. This chapter is on the Iceland Field School’s reading list!

The full edition of Relate North is available for free download here.

Vaughan, K. (2017). The lure of Iceland: Wool and wildness at the Arctic Circle. In T. Jokela & G. Coutts (Eds.), Relate North: Practicing place, heritage, art and design for creative communities (pp. 106-131). Rovaniemi, FI: Lapland University Press.

Imagining Iceland: It all started in 2016…. Kathleen Vaughan

Jón Gunnar Árnason’s “Sun Voyager” along the Reykjavik waterfront, the view an abundance of Iceland’s silvery greys. Photo: Kathleen Vaughan, June 2016

The Concordia University Iceland Field School was sparked by my own exceptional experience in Iceland — responding to the remarkable landforms, people, and the delight of the freedom and focus of my artist’s residency at the Icelandic Textile Centre | Textílsetur Íslands in Blonduos. Even while still in residence, I began to imagine developing stronger ties and contemplate the possibilities of working in collaboration with the university and Textile Centre to bring my students to work and learn in this powerfully meaningful and transformative context. I am so grateful that both institutions were open to imagining the future along with me.

As part of the mobilization towards the Iceland Field School, and with the financial support of the Concordia Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture (CISSC), in September 2017 I organized Imagining Iceland: From Concordia to the North. This happening featured four Concordia-associated artists and scholars, exploring their significance of Iceland to their own research and creation.


Video of the session can be seen here:

Imagining Iceland: From Concordia to the North from Kathleen Vaughan on Vimeo. Thanks to Margot and Valerie for production and editing.

Additional Iceland-focussed activities will be organized for the Concordia community in 2019, lead-up to what I hope will be the second iteration of the Concordia Field School in 2020 or 2021.