Atelier 61 contemporary tapestry Serbia – Textile Art enthusiasts are well aware of the vital importance of this Institution for the art of tapestry now, with a wide range of potential for the future. A pioneering institution for making tapestries since 1961, today has grown into a Center of tapestry art with a rounded multi-layered concept in the creation of tapestries in this area.

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A few days before, thanking my kind hosts in Atelier 61, I started an almost reverse cognitive process for me. It is because I am an experienced museum expert. But now, I am getting to realize the system of modern weaving production. Absolutely challenging experience, instead of gazing at ancient weavings, figuring out how weavers interweaved their threads in past Centuries. Research about contemporary tapestry is an optimal opportunity for me. Which is most important, getting active and patient explanations by the lady musters of art weaving. Finally, I was full of new information and confided to them that my impressions have yet to settle. In fact, I already know tapestries quite well, but were introduced to me only from exhibitions and books.

Especially since the act of weaving textile artworks has been my great interest for decades ago. Deeply sure that all this beauty results from high skills and patience. Now I am going through completely incomparable experience, which I want to convey to all of you.

Atelier 61 contemporary tapestry Serbia – An institution for the production and a multifunctional Center of Tapestry Art

Nowadays, Atelier 61 is a Cultural institution with a complex profile. Interesting for tourists, as settled in the very heart of the cultural and historical area of the Petrovaradin fortress. Based on its own production of tapestries, it has a museum fund. A large audience may enjoy masterpieces at the public gallery. It is accessible at the opening time every day. The guide conducts explanations about art subjects in Serbian and English. In addition to the selection of tapestries, visitors can have the opportunity to experience the atmosphere in the Production Department. This may be attractive for contemporaries to enjoy the charge of creating a tapestry. I have personally seen how many attractive factors the cultural industry offers here. The tourist programs regularly include offering a Tapestry center among the main tourist attractions on the spot. An active presence on social networks (Instagram, Facebook) significantly contributes to this.

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Students of the Textile Department of Art school “Bogdan Šuput” Novi Sad at the Exhibition

Therefore, I will conclude that Atelier 61, primarily with its functional concept of collaboration with artists. It is an optimal lever for the development of tapestry art. Also, museum funds increase permanently. That comes from the acquisition of the important tapestries from Ateliers’ own production. It is museological activity, optimal for contributing to cultural heritage for the future. Furthermore, masters of artistic weaving in production provide the experience of obviously teaching. Enables study programs of weaving courses for all types of education in textiles. So, I believe the spirit of Atelier 61 today is very close to the vision once shared by its founders. Boško Petrović the leader and Etelka Tobolka, a textile designer the first director of Atelier 61.

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Tapestry artists from Denmark (Ulrika Mokdad and Mariann Poulsen) visiting the Production Department of Atelier 61, 2018.

Atelier 61 contemporary tapestry Serbia – I am interested and sure you are too, in an insider’s insight into the production of tapestries

I am convinced that the essence of the creative process of producing works of art is much less known. These are how, from the author’s sketched initial idea, materialization takes place from the draft idea to the executed tapestry. What happens in the constant interaction of the author with the weavers who perform it? How many solutions intertwine starting from a visual idea? Then through the mastery of weavers who know the mysterious paths of thread and the language of tapestry form. Right down to cutting off the warp ends of the woven tapestry from the loom.

Atelier 61 contemporary tapestry Serbia – An insight into the history of Atelier 61 (from the Artistic Weaving workshop to the Tapestry Center)

Modern tapestry art had its impetus for its development. That was the Exhibition of French Tapestry at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 1946. The art Novelties toured hole Europe, including Belgrade (in 1953). It marked the renaissance of tapestry in Europe. But it stimulated a suitable climate for the birth of the national tapestry in our area. Local artists wanted to express themselves in tapestry and pointed out that some Aubisson was needed here. A generally accepted desire for novelty is soon supported by all more prosaic conditions (business headquarters, resources for work, specialized professional staff, budget…). In April 1961, brought into the studio of Boško Petrović, the first specially constructed loom for the tapestry weaving technique. And in the same year, three more such looms. This is how the local artistic community acquired its Obison, in the studio of Boško Petrović, at the Petrovaradin Fortress.

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Boško Petrović with weaver Verica Uzelac from Žabalj at a traditional loom
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Five weavers at a tapestry loom under the supervision of director Etelka Tobolka in 1971.

For the first decades, the institution survived with enthusiasm camming from the post-war times. There were upswings due to better financial support or hard persistence in times of crisis. The exclusivity of this type of activity attracted artists to participate in Atelier competitions for the execution of works according to the conceptual sketch. And the motive, in the case of selection, is the performance of the work from the materials of the Atelier. This is how he acquired an eminent clientele whose works are in his Atelier collection. On the other hand, competitions are also opportunities for artists to become more familiar with the peculiarities of tapestry as a branch of textile art.

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Boško Petrović in the space of Atelier 61, which is still part of the headquarters

Multifunkcije Tapiserijskog centra: stvaralaštvo, popularizacija, muzeološki doprinos, aktuelni umetnički trendovi

Over decades Atelier has gained a reputation for pursuing its innovative development concept. It improved the quality of the artistic performance of the work. Numerous exhibitions in the country and abroad have spread the glory of tapestry creativity at the level of the world’s avant-garde. As I mentioned before, by including samples of woven tapestry according to the selected cardboard, the representative collection is constantly increasing. In 1987 became an official museological collection. Since 1998, A61 organise the International Tapestry Colony “Boško Petrović”. Then, beginning in 2001, the Tapestry Triennial has been a review of the works of authors from the country and abroad. Thus, in one place, it shows the approximate state of tapestry in the world. It brings current artistic ideas, and personal poetics realized in tapestry as an art expression. The awards valorize two categories, classic tapestry and modern art expression in textiles.

1971. Jubilee tapestry exhibition of 10 years of Atelier 61 presented in the Gallery of Matica srpska Novi Sad
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2019. Jubilee of two decades of the Tapestry Colony in Svilara (Silk Factory) Cultural Station

In the headquarters at Petrovaradinska fortress, 9, are capacities of the Institution. On the ground floor is the Department of Production with looms, a warehouse of resources for the production and accommodation of the museum fund. Upstairs is an introductory overview of the historical development of Atelier 61. Then, a display that illustrates the cultural and artistic value of the Collection. An additional sensation in the exhibition area is the view of the Danube and Novi Sad.

Atelier 61 contemporary tapestry Serbia – About system procedures for working out tapestries in the Production Department

In this post, I cannot emphasize enough the scope and importance of the recognition that Atelier 61 has gained over the decades. And it is even less easy to convey the effects of performances in the country and abroad. Instead, in the very “womb” of Production, I will try to discern the functions of the creative process system. I found myself in a working atmosphere. Four tapestry looms have a capacity of up to 4.5 m wide and 2.8 m high. Because the loom frame does not limit the weaving length, weavers wind the warp along the upper warp beam. After weaving a quantity, women should unwind, and the woven part tightens and wounds around the lower roller. I have found several tapestries in various stages of work. One was at the very end and was soon finished, and the other had just begun.

Production department with four tapestry looms, on which eight masters of artistic weaving work

Production, by means of a developing elaborate system, for many decades materializes the artist’s ideas into tapestry artworks. In this system, each specimen is separately approached so that it grows in a specific way. It starts based on the artist’s ideas which he presented artistically on tapestry cardboard.

Team Principles of Cooperation in making tapestry: The cases with artists at the production

When the cardboard for a tapestry by the author is in time for execution, the artist comes to make an agreement on the details of the execution. Two masters of artistic weaving join the team. They will be co-authors of the tapestry. Weavers prepare ideas in advance, which makes it easier for the artist to decide about choices. The final agreement is based on the author’s concept with co-authors’ suggestions. The conceptual sketch on paper is in the dimensions of the projected tapestry. The cardboard gets all the needed elements, with notes on the details of the solution. There is primarily a selection of materials by type and thread thickness. Color palettes with all nuances, interlacing variants, and effects to the last detail.

This procedure is essential when authors of different artistic vocations encounter the creation of a tapestry. Especially if the artist does not know enough about textiles and tapestry weaving. Then all the solutions for finishing the cardboard are found by the principles of the tapestry, and openness to cooperation is the solution.

Atelier 61 contemporary tapestry Serbia – Examples of cooperation with artists at the finishing tapestries

Best experienced co-authors from the Atelier prepare initial proposals, and it is up to the artist to be ready to consider the weaver’s suggestions. Thus, the artist can choose the solutions that best translate his artistic concept into harmony with the language of the tapestry. Often, on such occasions, the exchange of ideas between the author and the performer creates innovations that become markers in the tapestry work. And they gradually enter the standard “speech” of the tapestry.

Overweave, by Dominika Morariu (the tapestry at the current weaving on the loom), co-authors Vera Lazić and Jelena Božić

Recently has just begun the realization of the cardboard for the tapestry named Interweaving by Dominika Morariu, a painter from Vršac. Winning creation of the tapestry at the International Contest in 2018. And for me, it can be an opportunity to present events directly from the creative “pot” of Atelier 61. The execution is entrusted to the masters of artistic weaving, Vera Lazić, and Jelena Božić. In the recent agreement with the author, many solutions were found for the conceptual draft.

On the floor, we see a cardboard the size of a tapestry. The work was created as a geometric composition. To the layman, it may look like a patchwork combination. Black surfaces, through tones of dove gray, shine snow white.

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The author and the artistic weavers come to an agreement
Looking at the printed copy of the Overweave cardboard, I read announcements of new “intricate” solutions

Surprisingly, in a few hours, the creative charge of the team brings the draft to the level of a workshop template for tapestry weaving. A small cardboard copy hangs in front of the weaver’s eyes. And behind the thick warp threads, visible big-sized cardboard. At the bottom of the loom, the weaving begins to grow, in which, through the black part from the sketch, the interlaced silvery llama is now visible. We can see traces of the thread’s mysterious journey. I am amazed to know how in the end, in the harmony of the whole, they will soften before the eyes of the visitor at the exhibition. The next addition is a double soft bleached wool with a thin darker hemp thread.

Illustrating the elements of a lengthy procedure, in sequels

Of course, this is all evident in the function of stimulating the tapestry speech of this dynamic idea. The surface area of the sketch is mostly without color, within a scale from absence to absolute light. The apparently numerous changes are only a discrete stimulus of the frequencies inherent in the stories of the tapestry.

Both ladies, Ms. Janković and Ms. Dobnovački kindly took photos of the weaving progress. Here, in the photo, the co-authors (Vera Lazić and Jelena Božić) were about a third of the tapestry. I know how meticulous tapestry work is, and how slowly weaver can progress. So I’m not surprised, to see less than half of future tapestry after a month and a half. After rolling the low part, further, weavers combine the relationships of yarn effects.

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Warm cream on the right edge, and grey nuances with sisal threads and silver lamé in a stripe around the middle. The texture combines the tapestry weave technique with variations of the loop weave.
An irregular circle in a sumac technique draws attention
Further, on the sample, in colors of uniform intensity, interweaving and yarn effects vary.

Whereas work on this tapestry will still take some time, I will keep an eye on the fact that matters and include them as they happen. Which may be the reason for you to return to this text. I will also, mark the cutting of the warp and removal finished tapestry from the loom, just as our hosts do with the completion of each piece.

Atelier 61 contemporary tapestry Serbia – Atelier 61’s openness to innovations in tapestry (example of non-textile material)

The point of the Atelier 61 concept is openness to innovation in the art of tapestry weaving. Starting with a wide selection of topics, like the medium of Strip art. Furthermore, through the most diverse materials for weaving and realizing the weaving of imagination. Such as an example, just-completed, contrast color composition made with a weft of multi-colored electrical conductors.

Wire installation by Dejan Marković, 2023; 145 x 185 cm; multicolored electrical conductors, tapestry weave technique. Co-authors Eva Đukić and Vesna Grbić.

New artwork is a socially engaging tapestry installation with its irregular, woven, and non-woven format. With the charm of colorful wire compositions, the artist points to the painful essence of the modern industrial production of electronic equipment. The weave is with a cotton warp, extremely strong, with wefts of plastic-coated wire of different colors. But the contrasting palette consists of very few colors. When I arrived, according to the colored drawing with the author’s instructions, the project was near completion.

Now I will attach several images as a stimulus for thinking about the idea and its execution. Obviously, weavers cope very successfully with a project in which they weave in “threads” if the hard wire of a circular section should consider something that. But by no means to be a kind of yarn. However, regardless of modern art controversies, I believe that weavers are curious about the final effect, as I am, after all.

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A copy of the workshop sketch for review while weaving the tapestry

The art of weaving with wire on a tapestry loom


The left image, on the tapestry loom, shows the detail of a female figure, a tapestry weaving with wire in two colors. The woman’s hand is next to the white and light brown shade, and there is a dirty purple string on the part of the dress.

Woven part of the installation wound on the lower roller. Weaver works each row with one wire, according to the scheme on the cardboard. So that the remains of the wire weft remain as long fringes.

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While I was writing the first version of the text, the weavers finished this work. Instagram posts and my presence convinced the author and product team to be satisfied. And in any case, it was one more in a series of challenges of Production Atelier 61.

In the photo, next to the finished artwork, is its author, Dejan Marković from Belgrade. He completed a Master’s in Art in Context in Berlin. There live and work at the “Art in the Underground” project. With installation and conceptual works, the artist examines and sheds light on complex artistic, social, and political relations.

Atelier 61 contemporary tapestry Serbia – Search for young talents, an International contest for tapestry design

International Competition for the A61 Award is a significant contribution to Tapestry art. In 2019. focused on new talents as an International Student Contest. The award went to Marija Ranković and Stefan Ilić for the conceptual designs of the tapestry, both from the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad. Here, I choose the works of Stefan Ilić, a graphic designer, now an assistant at the Novi Sad Academy of Arts. An illustration of the reflection of social circumstances on contemporary artistic currents.

Two tapestries by Stefan Ilic: First-time MAB, 2021; 137 x 192 cm; wool, tapestry technique. Co-author Željka Popadić. Another work is Jazz Roots MAB, 2021; 140 x 192 cm; both in the appropriate material and weaving technique, co-author Mirjana Dobanovački.

As I see it, the technically vivid works of contrasting colors and the usual tapestry technique. However, we can easily discern the allegories and elements of our social environment in these charming, colorful scenes. The author obviously creates engaging content through certain animal characters. Thus, he reshapes the sequences from his searches in graphics into a tapestry expression.

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The co-author and the artist pose with the completed tapestry called First-time MAB
Željka Popadić, a master of Weaving works First-time MAB tapestry. Behind the warp thread, you can see the design. While ahead, an abundance of colors and shades of wool.

I sense completely different energies in Stefan Ilić`s two artworks:

In the previous, initial hunger for victory; But another happening of the second, the Jazz roots MAB expresses resignation or anger. So, I’m guessing defeat just happened.

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Jazz roots MAB
Tapestry weave multicolored weft

We can see the detail (right) from the process of interweaving multi-colored woolen threads, following the painted cardboard behind the warp.

An epilogue: Stefan Ilić, now an assistant at the Novi Sad Academy of Arts, conducts the practice of his students in cooperation with the production team of Atelje 61.

Here I also came across an illustration that shows everything without words: Wall mirrors, by Ulrike Mokdad, in two versions, as cardboard, i. e. as a tapestry.

And the final words

After I generally presented Atelier 61 in Novi Sad here as a Center of tapestry art; I continued with a few examples from the work process to describe in more detail the principle by which a tapestry is created from an idea. I would be glad if I managed to clarify the relationship between the creators, the authors of the artistic concept on the one hand, and the masters of creative weaving who materialize that image.

Next time, I plan to select works from the museum collection because of their cultural and artistic value because of their cultural and artistic value, of course. But with an emphasis on applied techniques, materials, and additional effects.

Finally, I express my true gratitude to the entire team of Atelier 61 for accepting me and enabling me to work. And especially to colleagues who helped me in many ways: Jelena Đorđević Brcan, Mirjana Dobanovački, and Teodora Ž. Janković.

until the continuation of this topic, I hope soon

Sincerely, Branka on Textile

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