Faculty Friday: Tom Lundberg

In a special weekly series, the College of Liberal Arts is featuring a faculty member from one of our 13 departments. We asked questions about why they are passionate about the subjects they study and teach, and how they found their path to CSU. See all “Faculty Friday” features here.  

Portrait of Tom Lundberg

Tom Lundberg

Tom Lundberg coordinates the Fibers program in the Department of Art and Art History. His courses focus on weaving, fabric surface design, and mixed-media textiles. Lundberg has lectured and taught in the US, England, Ireland, South Korea, and New Zealand, and in CSU’s Italy study-abroad program. He received a 2019 Ann Gill Faculty Development Award to support his May exhibition at Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul, South Korea.

1. Why do you study textiles?

Textiles are inseparable from human conditions. The history of textiles is the history of survival, pleasure, and everything else. I’m especially interested in cloth that marks time, carries identity, or migrates with people.

This year, I studied Korean textiles in Seoul and textiles from the early twentieth century in two Iowa museums: immigrant embroideries in the National Czech & Slovak Museum and flour sacks in the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum & Library. Hoover directed famine relief for Belgium during World War I, working to deliver flour from mills in Canada and the US. He received hundreds of decorated flour sacks as gifts, which display the makers’ talents with thread, paint, and beads.

Tom Lundberg in South Korea

What do you like most about fiber media?

Fiber can attract the eyes and appeal to the entire surface of the body. The emotional tones of color can change with differences in materials—say, the toughness of linen compared to the warmth of wool. The color qualities of fabric hooked me: the optical effects of intersecting threads, the cookery of dyes, and making colors from plants.

What inspired your interest in textiles as an art medium?

When I was introduced to weaving and fabric design, I began to pay more attention to handiwork in my family: a great-aunt who stitched her poems on linen; men who crossed borders to learn tailoring; the grandfather who listed his occupation as “weaver” on the ship’s manifest at Ellis Island. The impact of family textiles led me to study how global traditions such as needlework help people to mend, comfort, and persist.

2. What are your favorite things to teach and why?

I especially love to teach weaving. Physically, the medium requires finding a balance between tension and relaxation, and getting comfortable with a sequence of detailed actions. Weavers learn to pay attention to rhythms, pace, beginnings, and endings. These factors helped me to shift my approach to picture-making. My first weaving class was a senior elective. I made all the beginner’s mistakes of tangling and breaking threads, but liked seeing how lines of color merged to create new mixtures, as in Pointillism. Sitting at the loom was similar to working at an easel, and also like finding chords at a musical instrument.

Outside the studio, I enjoy being with students when they encounter the wealth of textile resources at CSU. Research projects take us to the Morgan Library, the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art, the Avenir Museum of Design & Merchandising, and other campus galleries. When students discover meaningful, unexpected connections with artworks or artifacts, the entire class gets a lift.

3. What did you want to be when you were little? When did you know you wanted to go into higher education/research?

Growing up, I gravitated towards art and music, writing and theater, religion and botany. I changed college majors three times during my freshman and sophomore years, but each term enrolled in one or two art classes. After completing my BFA in painting at the University of Iowa, I looked for a graduate program in textiles. At Indiana University, I worked with faculty known for their work with dyes and textile structures, and for their research of non-Western traditions.

4. How did you get to CSU?

Near the end of the road trip from Indiana, a downpour in western Kansas cleared and a full rainbow arched over the highway exactly at the state line. “Welcome to Colorful Colorado!”