Artwork by Elfa Jonsdottir

The Artist

Elfa Jónsdóttir originally studied textile in Iceland and later obtained a masters degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. For several years she was a visiting artist in the Art School at the University of Michigan, working extensively in textile, including surface design and weaving. More recently she studied ceramics at the Worcester Center for Crafts. Elfa enjoysworking in a variety of medium, exploring the unique application each medium provides, and find new ways to express her ideas. She has had one-artist exhibitions and group exhibitions in several galleries in Michigan and on the East Coast.

Artist’s Statement

Windows have always captured my imagination. When I travel I take pictures of windows and they have been a constant theme in my artwork, both as patterns and as images. The “irregular regularity” of windows, where the same basic shape reemerges in infinitely many variants, and where many windows together form a repeat or a more complex patterns, will always inspire and fascinate me. But windows also inspire me in other ways. This wonderful hole in the wall gives us a peek into someones life and it opens up ours. Looking through, one can read the whole story. They radiate a wonderful warmth and reflect the whole sky. Rain or shine, they protect and separate, bring together and open. Maybe it is just me, but I know that I need these wonders of windows.


My textiles are inspired by architectural images and by the aesthetics of writings. All my textiles starts out with a plain white fabrics that I dye and layer, using different techniques and processes, to create a spectrum of saturated hand dyed fabrics. I often find that the texture and color of the fiber influences and often dominates my creative process, although I almost always vary from my original design and let the piece take its own path. Some of my textile work stay up on my viewing board for months before I finally puzzle them together. And more often than not, the piece needs one more layer, or one piece becomes two. I love this aspect of the processes, being able to add or subtract, to over-dye or remove color, to even start all over again. Or, to put it away for a time and get back to it later, finding that the piece then becomes something totally different. I find that this process gives me the freedom to be creative and open in the making of my pieces.
Weaving is a bit more rigid process. Ones the warp has been died, or painted, and threaded on the loom, it is there! Further manipulations become restricted, although the threading treadling and the weft together provide endless possibilities, giving a different kind of freedom.

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Why a new medium? I like challenges and when the situation came up I did decide to go for it and try. And like clay it stuck! In ceramics I have worked on several different themes, exploring one form for an extended period of time before switching to a new one. My themes range from nature forms such as rocks and bamboo to abstract sculptures to more conventional bowls, boxes and tableware. Most recently, my focus has been on the Dwellings.

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The inspiration for this project came from my endless fascination with windows and architectural images. I wanted to build windows that form buildings and to be able to vary the setup, suggesting the spontaneity of a settlement.
And, I wanted the piece to be big! The “Dwellings” are a collection of ceramics boxes, each with a base of about eight by eight inches and a thickness of two to six inches. The boxes are displayed by mounting several together on a wall. The piece is supposed to capture both the sameness and the variety of human habitats. The basic boxes, the individual dwellings, are similar, but not identical. Every assembly is, however, different---just as human settlements never are the same. The display comes in a variety of sizes: a few dwellings form a hamlet or a village. A larger number builds a town or even a city with complex and varied subdivisions. The “Dwellings” are hand-build from white stoneware slab, fired to cone 10. Some of the pieces are soda fired, some reduction fired and hopefully some will be wood fired. The pieces have been fired in different kilns for a variable surface finish. The firing was done at The Fire Works and at The Worcester Center for Crafts.

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Dwellings Brochure, see: