Johanna Ulfsak is an artist and textile designer based in Tallinn, Estonia. Her work is presented as artworks in gallery exhibitions and as non - seasonal collections of design and fashion objects. Ulfsak combines and mixes traditional weaving techniques with contemporary art concepts to create unique items and installations that challenge the established boundaries between disciplines.

Johanna Ulfsak's work is sensitive and unique. She is interested in the fragility and toughness of textiles, and the contradictions between intimate craftsmanship and industrial production methods. Knowing how to appreciate slowness, the process of creating works on Johanna's looms is long and meditative. It involves the crossing of two threads, a warp and a weft, one running vertically and the other horizontally, one stretched and the other wavy and intertwined with the first. It is necessary to intertwine the two threads in order to create a textile; a fabric is created when the weft holds it together.

If in ancient Greek legend Theseus followed a thread to escape an impossible maze, then the gaps between the threads painted by Johanna give us an opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. A narrative approach to textile history, human spiders weaving a net, hands and fingers wrapped around a thread, act as a kind of memory trigger. It reminds us that textiles have become a really inherent self-evident part of human existence. By weaving functional everyday objects — nets, screens, scarves, carpets — the artist interprets the experience of human life as part of a larger social fabric that is intertwined and inseparably interlinked.

Textiles have long ceased to be a mere handicraft and women’s work, and using it as a medium, Ulfsak points out that the hierarchy of materials and techniques based on masculine values still requires refuting and that stereotypical gender distinctions do nothing to help social development. Tenderness and fragility are not feminine signs of weakness but a natural part of human nature. Categories like “high” and “low” appear equally obsolete to the artist. In her works naive patterns are mixed with quotations from textile history, petty bourgeois ornaments with high fashion, antique with post-internet, humour with seriousness. In Johanna's works, it is important to notice and appreciate the manual work and the opportunity to reach non-verbal knowledge through physical action. A modern compulsion to constantly formulate cuts into the space surrounding manual work, and into its silence. Communicated as a text thread, Johanna's work can easily become evasive; material-based art must be seen with the eye and experienced by the body.

For Japanese medieval hermits and traveling poets it was important to be in a place that supported poetry and music making, and in order to stay in that place, they had to constantly travel in search of it. Their creations were easy to carry, their dwellings were temporary, foldable, simple, based on the idea that “it does not make sense to erect permanent structures in an inconstant world, but the buildings themselves must flow with the flowing world. Only in this way can one truly remain still.” Equally, Johanna's wind-chime-like textile objects create an optical illusion of rotation, while actually being stationary. Weaving on looms, constantly moving to stay still, creates more space in this flowing world, and inspires us to do the same.

text by Margit Säde
translation by Alina Astrova
website design by Elisabeth Klement
website development by Eva Rank
typeface ANG by Gaile Pranckunaite

Johanna Ulfsak © All rights reserved 2022

2022 "Looking Through Objects", a group show curated by Triin Jerlei, Agnieszka Jacobson-Cielecka and Gian Luca Amadei, Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design, Tallinn, EST
2022 “Motion Play”, Collectible Design Fair, curated section, Brussels, BE
2022 Artist exchange with Kärt Ojavee, Cotton Factory, Hamilton CA
2022 "Material Change: Design and New Technologies", curator Karin Vincente, Adamson-Eric Museum, Tallinn EE
2021 "Soft Negotiations", Exhibition of the Department of Textile Design of EKA in the EKA Gallery, Tallinn, EE
2021 “Floor Plan”, London Design Festival, Dray Walk Gallery, UK
2020 “Soft copies”, The 7th Artishok Biennial COPY, curated by Laura Linsi and Roland Reemaa, Kai Art Center, EE
2020 “SENORA!”, a group show curated by Sarah Lucas and Kris Lemsalu, Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna, AUT
2020 “IRL” ; ”Can You Feel It?”, Virtual Destination by Adorno, London Design Festival online show, curated by Kai Lobjakas & Anne Vetik
2020 Guest lecturer at Estonian Academy of Arts
2019 NO FUN RUGS second collection “FOLDED” presentation, YEIJ Studio, Tallinn, EE
2019 "Interwoven", Johanna Ulfsak & Kärt Ojavee, Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Espoo, FI
2019 Installation “Live Streams S”, Identity, 6th Riga International Textile and Fibre Art Triennial Exhibition, Riga, LV
2018 “Save As”, Johanna Ulfsak & Kärt Ojavee, Temnikova & Kasela Gallery, Tallinn, EE
2018 “Inquiry & Investigation”, Johanna Ulfsak & Lolina, Artists Space, New York, US & Cafe Oto, London, UK
2018 “NO FUN RUGS”, Pirate showroom in Julice Laverie, Paris, FR
2017—2018 Interactive textile “Live Streams”, Intermedial in European Parliament building, Brussels, BE
2017 “Live Streams XL”, Johanna Ulfsak & Kärt Ojavee, Estonian Presidency in Creative Hub, Tallinn, EE
2016 “Live Streams”, Johanna Ulfsak & Kärt Ojavee, HOP Gallery, Tallinn, EE touring at: Contemporary Art Centre in Rapla, Rapla, EE
2016 “The Next Great Fashion Designer”, Johanna Ulfsak & Alina Astrova, OVERDUIN & CO, LA, US
2015—2016 Interior textiles installations, Rakvere Smart House Competence Centre, Johanna Ulfsak & Kärt Ojavee, Rakvere, EE
2014 Costume and stage design in Russian Theatre for a play "Cat Pampuš", Tallinn, Estonia

2019 Her works are included in the collection of the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design
2018 Riga City Council special award, 6th Riga International Textile and Fibre Art Triennial, Latvia
2017 Young textile designer award, Johanna Ulfsak & Kärt Ojavee
2014 Business starting scholarship from Enterprise Estonian

2019 Artist interview: Kärt Ojavee and Johanna Ulfsak, by EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art
2018 Floppy Cloth: Textile Exhibition Strategies Inside the White Cube, by Jessica Hemmings
2017 Storytelling Through Interactive Screens, by Nithikul Nimkulrat

2011—2013 MA Textile Design, Kolding School of Design, Denmark
2012 Kasuri weaving course, plant dyes. Autumn semester, Kawashima Textile School, Japan
2007—2010 BA Textile Design, Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonia