Selective Focus: Kirsten Aune


Kirsten Aune just hung a show of her bright, colorful work at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 835 W. College St. She talks about her process and inspiration.

K.A.: I work on cloth to create wall-hangings, garments, toys, table linens, hand bags, lampshades, quilts and lots of other goodies. I create original designs using stencils I cut by hand and then I arrange my visual compositions using bold blocks of color and repeat designs. I have also been using silkscreens to create yardage. However, I have been limited to one color for my designs. I will be implementing a rail system that will enable me to line up multiple screens which will open up more dynamic designs using this medium. Recently, I have been projecting my designs in installations in Duluth, Bergen, Norway and Aarhus, Denmark. Currently, I am planning to incorporate some digital animation for an exhibition at the Nordic Center in the fall.

Forestasia at two, king size quilt, stenciled and little dress

Forestasia at two, king size quilt, stenciled and little dress.

My style could be called “Modern Scandinavian.” I have traveled to Scandinavia several times to research, soak up the aesthetic and to inspire my work. My connection to this aesthetic is rooted in my childhood; I grew up in a house that was rich with modern Scandinavian furniture from the 1950s, Eames chairs, Bertoia butterfly chairs, teak tables and rya rugs. I love the simple, clean lines which are present in Scandinavian Modern design. This is reflected in some of my work. I also love the color and bold designs from the 1960s and ’70s as well as folk art and natural forms: I am a nature lover.

A few ornaments, hand stenciled

A few ornaments, hand stenciled.

For my art training I went to the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I was a painting major but it was not until after I graduated that I began working with textiles. I have always loved fabric and my mother gave me a pattern to create neck ties. Instinctively, I went to Pearl Paint in New York and bought some textile paint, tape and began painting on fabric. My work was very geometric at the time and for a long time afterward. I worked at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and all the employees at the front desk wore my ties. I began making table settings and went to Bergdorf Goodman to see if they were interested. They loved my designs and asked me how I would go about manufacturing them. I was stumped and really never thought about that; I was pretty young then. My work was, and is, hand painted and to make a quantity takes some time to do. I am still struggling with this situation but perhaps screen printing will be the answer.

After college, I moved to Santa Fe for a stint and then moved to Duluth. I came here to be near my sister and I got a studio in the Corner of the Lake Building paying $40 a month rent. The space was chronically dirty, dirt blew in from the walls and ceilings. So, I began painting again. I moved to Washington Studios and I was one of the first residents there, and I began working on textiles again. From there I had my first child, my work changed becoming not so geometric, and then we moved away from Washington Studios. I had my second child, and raised goats and chickens in town. I had no studio space. I was busy mothering, cloth diapering, milking goats, making cheese, and I helped start Spirit Mountain Farm with my children’s father. I did no artwork for ten years but art was brewing and growing within me during this time. After I split up with my children’s father I went back to my art. It’s been almost three years since then.

Forestasia, 13, hand stenciled dress and rainbow flower wall hanging

Forestasia, 13, hand stenciled dress and rainbow flower wall hanging.

The biggest challenge is always time. It is a fine balancing act that can become exhausting. Working to pay bills, taking care of my kids and then studio time and trying to develop ways to earn enough from my artwork is a challenge. I do see light on the horizon. I have received grant support from Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, which has been invaluable! I have created a large body of new work, mostly large-scale wallhangings and quilts, and I became pretty good at screen printing repeated yardage after going through quite a learning curve. I remember saying “I have to get the hang of it sometime, would it be possible to never tackle the fine art of screen printing?

Sky in "fancy pants", screen printed crown and pants

Sky in “fancy pants”, screen printed crown and pants.

I have a show up at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Duluth until the end of June. It is based on the spectrum of the rainbow. I will then have an exhibition, 4North, a group show, with Alison Aune, Ann Klefstad, Arna Rennan, at the Norway House in Minneapolis May 19 to July 15. The fish wallpaper at the Northern Waters Restaurant is my design. My studio is on First Street at the Magic Smelt Parade Shop, near Pineapple Arts. Feel free to stop in. I share the space with John Finkle and Justin Anderson. They are building a Viking boat which I hope to paint the sail. They, too, are super fun to studio hop to. Justin just kick started his Sawtooth Stitching company and he makes awesome packs! Artistic happenings are happening on First Street, Downtown.

I will be concentrating on smaller works and functional wares this summer. I’m also going to work with a seamstress to create some funky dresses to bring to Finland with me in early August. In mid-October I will be exhibiting textiles inspired from Finland at the Nordic Center in Duluth and plan to work on some projections and animations for this exhibit as well.

Flowers from Copenhagen, full size quilt, hand stenciled.

Flowers from Copenhagen, full size quilt, hand stenciled.

I’m teaching four introduction to textiles classes at my studio this summer. The second and fourth Saturdays in June and July, 10-1:30, six persons per session. You need to pre sign up. Feel free to email me for more information — ​aunemail @

Instagram: @kirsten_aune

No Comments

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Read previous post:
Walking My Portrait Home Retrieving my portrait from the Duluth Art Institute, where it had been part of artist Sarah Brokke's "Portrait of...