TRACES

‘Decoration is a form of trace-making,’ said Tina Ratzer when I call to hear if I could talk with her about the topic of decoration. She added, ‘If we don’t decorate and don’t leave any traces behind – in a way, it’s like we were never here.

When we meet to go for a walk together, she has just finished an online workshop in vegetable-based textile dyeing organized and transmitted from her kitchen by the Trapholt museum of modern art, craft and design. On her balcony, there are colour baths with enough saturation for one more round, she explains.

Read about the preparations for Tina Ratzer's recently re-opened exhibition ‘Tæt på Træer’ (Close to Trees), at Trapholt museum here

You were the first to buy throws “by RATZER”,’ says Tina; that was in 1998.

From 1994 to 2000 I was a co-owner of the shop Klint & Frydendahl in central Copenhagen. We sold clothes of my design along with handmade jewellery and other items. We also sold furniture, lamps, interior textiles, flowerpots and marigold seeds. In other words: anything that we found beautiful and relevant. The clothes were made in Denmark and the Baltic countries. The furniture came from manufacturers both in Denmark and abroad, the decorative interior articles were purchased at trade fairs in Paris and Frankfurt. We also had a keen eye for Danish craft makers with their own studio production.

On a summer day in 1998, Tina Ratzer showed up in our shop. She had recently graduated as a textile designer from Kunsthåndværkerskolen i Kolding. She brought along her graduation project, samples of a series of biodynamic, machine-woven throws. She called the collection ‘Tracks’. Tina had joined forces with a weaving mill in Jutland that handled the production. The collection was sustainable, she pointed out. The throw samples were top-quality, they spoke a language of their own, and our rapport was good. Of course, we would carry ‘by RATZER’.

The idea for ‘Tracks’, she now explains, arose during the final year before her graduation. Until then, she had worked persistently in the school’s workshop, at times with more abandon than the classic weavers may have liked, but she had not been truly innovative, she now says, in hindsight. ‘The breakthrough came when I got up from the loom to seek inspiration in the environment outside the school. Here, I looked for traces, which I first photographed and later turned into patterns. Traces of chewing gum on asphalt, graffiti at the railway terrain and vegetable scraps in the kitchen sink.’ And ‘Yes,’ she replies when I ask, ‘that was when I laid the groundwork for my design method; there are clear parallels to the way I have approached every subsequent project.

2000 Klint & Frydendahl was dismantled, and I set up shop at a new address, still in Copenhagen, now with a main focus on design and sale of my fashion collections, and for some time, my contact with Tina was sporadic and based on chance encounters. Her collection ‘by RATZER’ was established and available from several locations in Denmark and abroad.

2003 Tina Ratzer exhibits side by side with the ceramicist Marianne Nielsen presenting her piece ‘20 AVE B #3’ at the curated autumn exhibition at Charlottenborg in Copenhagen. This was her first use of an expression that has since become a sort of signature. Seen from afar, the image looks like pixels, but up close it reveals itself as being interwoven strips of fabric, reminiscent of an enlarged plain linen weave. Based on this exhibition, she was invited to create a large patchwork wall hanging for the atrium at the Danish Design Centre in Copenhagen.

2004 The decorative project at the Danish Design Centre in Copenhagen was unveiled: a large piece woven of fabric strips. I remember being both impressed and surprised. Textile art was in a difficult position 17 years ago, but Tina’s woven piece claimed the space with its textile, feminine softness, ragged imperfection and offbeat colour scale.

That same year she presented ‘Blossoming’ at the Biennale for Craft & Design. Here too, the expression was pixelated, both a woven section and a huge patchwork section hand-sewn of recycled textiles in a joint effort involving many, both experienced and less experienced hands.

The Copenhagen design scene was on fire during the years leading up to the financial crisis, possibilities seemed unlimited, and I was successful. But I thrive on change and adventure, and in 2005, when the father of my children got the chance to spend a year in Berlin, studying, I sublet my studio spot in Copenhagen and moved with him.

We loved living in Berlin,’ says Tina. ‘I was 34 years old and ready to become a mum. One year turned into five, and the two of us turned a family of four.

My children are lucky that we were in Berlin when they were born. If I had had children back in Copenhagen, it would have been much harder for me to make them my absolute priority. In Berlin, they had my almost undivided focus or, rather, I reduced my workload – as a designer you do have to keep your hand in. A signature expression doesn’t just emerge while you are working on an assignment or looking over someone’s shoulder; it develops through a continually playful and curious approach to your material and your expression. A sort of basic preparation. If only half of what I do turns into a concrete outcome, that’s good.

It was during your time in Berlin that you developed your first throw for the weaving mill Silkeborg Uldspinderi?

Yes, my manufacturer was retiring, and no one wanted to take over his weaving mill. So I was looking for a new manufacturer for my ‘by RATZER’ collection.
I had reached out to my network to find someone who met my requirements, and everything pointed to Silkeborg Uldspinderi. I went to Frankfurt to meet them at a trade fair where they had a stand. They were happy to help me out with production but were also interested in establishing a design collaboration. I accepted their invitation and decided to discontinue “by RATZER”, so I no longer had to be in charge of inventory, marketing and sales. Silkeborg Uldspinderi gave me completely free reins in a very trust-based set-up, which led to a partnership that has proved rewarding for both sides. So far, it has lasted 12 years and has resulted in a range of different designs.

“Twist a Twill” is the first throw I designed for Silkeborg Uldspinderi. I created the pattern, or the decoration, if you will, for it by examining their traditional throws, looking at both materials and techniques. Most of them were twilled (a weave that produces a pattern with parallel diagonal ribs), and I zoomed in on the lines as a basis for my own pattern composition, just as I zoomed in on the plain linen weave in my pixelated pieces. What I’m trying to say is, nothing comes from nothing. I don’t decorate surfaces but examine and find anchor points and references and engage in a dialogue. What’s unique about the throws I have designed for Silkeborg Uldspinderi, my own first Track and also the one I designed for Muuto is that each of them is one big image without a clear repetitive report.
‘Twist a Twill’ was launched in 2009, the year before Tina and her family moved back to Copenhagen.

We had lots of room in Berlin, and along the way I had had some surplus yarn from my Tracks production sent to me; I can’t let anything go to waste.
When we were about to move back to Copenhagen in 2010, to a smaller place, I had to decide what to do with the yarn. I figured the most value-creating approach would be to turn it into products. I knew a knitwear plant in Jutland, and they were willing to experiment. I sent them all my yarn, and together we developed my striped, knitted throws, which you know so well. We also made a series of neckwarmers. “By RATZER” was back in business.


This was when our paths crossed again, in 2011. That was 10 years ago. Now, we just got back from a walk in the green area Sydhavnstippen and are sitting in Tina’s studio at one end of the flat where she lives with her children in a newly developed urban area overlooking Copenhagen’s Sydhavn district. ‘I moved my studio home in 2019 and feared that I might miss having other people around, but wow, it has really improved my ability to focus when I work. I’m actually fairly introvert and easily end up chatting in order to cover up my shyness, but chatting takes time and energy. Right now, I prefer this set-up; that doesn’t mean I’m always on my own, only that I choose when I would like company.
The area has many benefits, and the children love it here. The flat is nice, but I do miss some history, some softness and some graffiti; look, over there – the first tag appeared recently, traces of people.

You can read the full article about Tina Ratzer in HÅNDVÆRK bookazine no. 5

SPOR

“Dekoration er en form for spor”, sagde Tina Ratzer, da jeg ringede hende op for at høre, om hun ville tale med mig med afsæt i temaet ‘dekoration’. Hun sagde uddybende: “Hvis vi ikke dekorerer og ikke afsætter spor, så er det på en måde, som om vi slet ikke har været her.”

Da vi mødes for at gå en tur, har hun netop afsluttet en on-live plantefarveworkshop, som museet Trapholt har sendt fra hendes køkken. Der står stadig farvebade på altanen, som har kraft nok til en omgang mere, fortæller hun. – læs mere om forberedelserne til Tina Ratzers udstilling tæt på Træer, som netop er genåbnet på Trapholt, du kan læse om forberedelserne her

“Du var den første, som købte mine plaider som hed by RATZER”,
fortsætter Tina – det var i 1998.

Fra 1994 til 2000 var jeg medindehaver af forretningen Klint & Frydendahl i det centrale København. Vi solgte tøj i mit design og håndlavede smykker, blandt andet. Vi solgte også møbler, lamper, boligtekstiler, urtepotter og morgenfruefrø. Med andre ord hvad som helst, som vi fandt smukt og relevant. Tøjet blev produceret i Danmark og i Baltikum. Møblerne kom fra danske og internationale producenter, de dekorative indretningsartikler købte vi ind på messer i Paris og Frankfurt, desuden havde vi et vågent øje på danske kunsthåndværkere med værkstedsproduktion.
En sommerdag i 1998 dukkede Tina Ratzer op i forretningen, hun havde netop taget afgang som tekstildesigner fra Kunsthåndværkerskolen i Kolding. Med sig havde hun sit afgangsprojekt, prøver på en serie biodynamiske, maskinvævede plaider. Kollektionen kaldte hun ‘Tracks’. Tina havde allieret sig med et jysk maskinvæveri, som kunne stå for produktionen. Kollektionen var bæredygtig, pointerede hun. Plaidprøverne var lækre i kvalitet, talte deres helt eget sprog, og kontakten mellem os god. Vi skulle naturligvis sælge by RATZER.

Ideen til ‘Tracks’, fortæller hun nu, opstod i året inden hendes afgang. Frem til da havde hun arbejdet vedholdende på skolens værksted, til tider mere løssluppent, end de klassiske vævere brød sig om, men ikke egentlig nyskabende, sådan ser hun det i bagklogskabens klare lys. “Gennembruddet kom, da jeg fjernede mig fra væven for at søge inspiration i omgivelserne uden for skolen. Her søgte jeg efter spor, som jeg først fotograferede og siden omsatte til mønstre. Spor af tyggegummi i asfalten, graffiti på jernbaneterrænet og grøntsagsaffald i køkkenvasken”. Og “ja” svarer hun adspurgt, “det var dengang, jeg grundlagde min designmetode; der er tydelige paralleller til, hvordan jeg har arbejdet med alle senere projekter.”

2000 skiltes Klint og Frydendahl, og jeg etablerede mig på en ny adresse, stadig i København, her med hovedfokus på design og salg af mine tøjkollektioner, og min kontakt med Tina var i en periode sporadisk og kun båret af tilfældige møder. Hendes kollektion by RATZER etablerede sig og blev solgt flere steder i Danmark og internationalt.

2003 Tina Ratzer udstiller side om side med keramiker Marianne Nielsen værket ‘20 AVE B #3’ på den kuraterede efterårsudstilling på Charlottenborg i København. Det var her, hun første gang arbejdede med det udtryk, som siden er blevet en slags signatur – et udtryk, som på afstand ligner pixler, for på nærmere hold at afsløre sig som flettet af stofstrimler – tænk forstørret lærredsbinding. Udstillingen afstedkom, at hun blev bedt om at lave en kæmpe patchwork til væggen i atriummet i Dansk Design Center i København.

2004 Udsmykningsopgave på Dansk Design Center i København blev afsløret. Værket var et storstilet tekstilt fletværk. Jeg var både betaget og forundret, husker jeg. Tekstilkunst havde trange kår for 17 år siden, men Tinas værk insisterede på at tage plads med sin stoflige, feminine blødhed, sin trevlede u-perfektion og sin skæve farveskala.

Samme år deltog hun på kunsthåndværkerbiennalen med værket ‘Blossoming’. Også her var udtrykket pixeleret, dels i form af et flettet parti, dels som et enormt patchworktæppe håndsyet af genbrugstekstiler i fællesskab af mange øvede og mindre øvede hænder.

“Der var fuld fart på designscenen i København, i årene op til finanskrisen syntes mulighederne uanede, og jeg havde medvind. Men jeg trives godt med forandring og med eventyr, og da mine børns far i 2005 fik mulighed for at studere et år i Berlin, fremlejede jeg min værkstedsplads i København og flyttede med”.

“Vi var vilde med livet i Berlin”,
fortæller Tina, “jeg var 34 år og klar til at blive mor. Et år blev til fem år, og vi to blev til en familie på fire.”
“Det er heldigt for mine børn, at vi var i Berlin, da de blev født. Havde jeg fået børn hjemme i København, havde det været langt sværere at prioritere dem 100%. I Berlin fik de næsten hele mit fokus, eller rettere jeg skruede ned for det arbejdsmæssige blus, dog er det som designer nødvendigt at holde sig i form. En personlig signatur er ikke noget, man får, mens man løser en opgave eller ved at se de andre over skulderen, men noget som opstår ved løbende at forholde sig legende og undersøgende til sit materiale og sit udtryk. En form for grundforberedelse. Hvis bare halvdelen af det, jeg laver, ender med at blive til noget konkret, er det godt.”


Det var i Berlin, du udviklede den første plaid for Silkeborg Uldspinderi?
“Ja, min producent ville gå på pension, og ingen ville overtage hans væveri. Jeg ledte derfor efter en ny produktionsløsning for min by RATZER-kollektion. Jeg havde forhørt mig i netværket for at finde en, som kunne leve op til mine krav, og pilen pegede mod Silkeborg Uldspinderi. Jeg tog til Frankfurt for at møde dem på en messe, hvor de udstillede. De ville gerne hjælpe mig med produktion, men de ville også gerne indlede et designsamarbejde. Det takkede jeg ja til, og jeg besluttede i den forbindelse at lægge by RATZER på hylden og slap dermed for varelager, markedsføring og salg. Silkeborg Uldspinderi gav mig helt frie hænder i et meget tillidsfuldt set-up, som blev indledningen til et for begge parter lønsomt samarbejde, som foreløbig har varet i 12 år og har indebåret flere forskellige designs.”
“Mønsteret eller dekorationen, om du vil, på ‘Twist a Twill’, som er den første af plaiderne for uldspinderiet, er blevet til ved, at jeg dykkede ned i deres traditionelle plaider, både i deres materialevalg og i deres teknik. De fleste var kipervævede
(en binding, som giver et mønster med diagonale, parallelle ribber), jeg zoomende ind på linjerne som afsæt for min mønsterkomposition, på samme måde som jeg på mine pixelerede værker har zoomet ind på lærredsbindingen. Hvad jeg vil sige, er, at intet kommer af ingenting, jeg dekorerer ikke overfladen, men undersøger og finder ankerpunkter og referencer og går i dialog. Det særegne ved de plaider, jeg har tegnet for Silkeborg Uldspinderi, min egen første Track og i øvrigt også den, jeg har tegnet for Muuto, er”, siger Tina, “at de er et stort billede uden tydelig repetitiv rapport.”
‘Twist a Twill’ blev lanceret i 2009, året inden Tina og familien flyttede tilbage til København.

“Vi havde god plads i Berlin, og undervejs havde jeg fået overskudsgarner fra mine Tracks-produktioner sendt ned, intet må gå til spilde. Da vi skulle tilbage til København i 2010 til mindre plads, måtte jeg tage stilling til, hvad jeg ville med garnet. Jeg tænkte, at det mest værdiskabende var at omsætte det i produkter. Jeg kendte et strikkeri i Jylland, og de var med på at eksperimentere. Jeg fik alle mine garner sendt dertil, og sammen udviklede vi mine stribede, strikkede plaider, som du kender så godt. Det blev også til en serie rør (halstørklæder). By RATZER var i gang igen.”

Det var i den forbindelse, vores veje igen krydsedes i 2011. Det er 10 år siden. Vi har gået tur på Sydhavnstippen og sidder nu i Tinas studio i den ene ende af hendes og børnenes lejlighed i en helt ny bydel med udsigt ud over Københavns Sydhavn. “Jeg flyttede værkstedet hjem i 2019 og frygtede, at jeg ville komme til at savne selskab, men wauv, det har givet mig så meget arbejdsro. Jeg er faktisk ret introvert og kommer let til at snakke for at skjule min generthed, men snakken tager tid og kræfter. Lige nu foretrækker jeg det sådan her; det betyder ikke, at jeg er alene hele tiden, bare at jeg vælger, hvornår jeg vil have selskab.
Området har mange fordele, og børnene elsker at være her; lejligheden er god, men jeg savner nu både noget historie, noget blødhed og noget graffiti; se derovre, den første tag dukkede op for nylig, spor efter mennesker.”

Du kan læse meget mere om TinaRatzer i HÅNDVÆRK bookazine no. 5
Bookazinet kan du købe her eller i kiosker, boghandlere, mange muserums- og designbutikker fører også HÅNDVÆRK bookazine, herunder fås det på Trapholt i museumsbutikken