Kärt Ojavee (1982) is an artist and designer who combines new technologies with traditional craft. Her approach to textiles is conceptual, exploring their historical meaning and possibilities for future development. In addition to academic research and creating new materials, she is also a musician and creates stage designs and costumes.
In 2013 Ojavee defended her PhD thesis “Active Smart Interior Textiles: Interactive Soft Displays” which included the development of a series of hybrid materials and interactive textiles, combining traditional and the new technologies. Ojavee’s interactive materials and installations often feature electronic components that speculate on future possibilities, characterised by their ability to change during their life cycle. She is interested in the transformation of materials over time, and ways in which the materials are in symbiosis with their environment.
In addition to developing smart textiles, Ojavee creates experimental materials as well. For example, in the 2020 exhibition “Leviathan: the Paljassaare Chapter” at the Kai Art Center (curated by Inês Geraldes Cardoso, Karin Laansoo and Triin Metsla), Ojavee exhibited several artworks. Among other pieces, she showed a series of tools and objects made of experimental materials created for imaginary future communities. For example, the work “Dissolving Hat” (with Kadi Adrikorn), is a combination of a sewn and woven pirate hat and a fisherman’s hat, which gradually dissolves when it comes into contact with water. The hat is created using leather-like sea-sourced raw material.
Since 2013, Ojavee has worked together with the designer Johanna Ulfsak. Their collaborative projects experiment with contemporary technologies and traditional techniques. In 2016 they presented the installation “Live Streams” at Hop gallery. The 9 metres long handmade textile reacted to the changing weather conditions in Tallinn Bay in real time, visualising the height of the waves and wind speed using playful lighting. The central piece of Ojavee’s and Ulfsak’s exhibition “Save As” was a hand woven large scale textile (Temnikova & Kasela gallery, 2018; Espoo Museum of Modern Art, 2019/2020), consisting of materials that were meant to last forever (carbon fibre, optical fibre, glass fibre and PVC). Removed from its original surroundings and function, within the context of Ojavee’s and Ulfsak’s work, the used materials created a link between the beginning of the industrial and the contemporary era. “Save As” documented the process of handmade objects and the human errors it involves, representing the hours dedicated to making in the piece’s mass.
At the beginning of 2021, Ojavee presented a solo exhibition titled “Episodes 1, 2, 3 and 8” at Hop gallery, exploring the role of textiles in politics and the economy. The exhibition showed textiles with very different meanings and functions woven together. The display highlighted their origins and asked under what conditions do some textiles become highly valuable, and others just worthless material.
Kärt Ojavee graduated from the textile department of the Estonian Academy of Art (MA, 2004), where she also defended her PhD thesis in Art and Design (2013). Since 2014 she is a senior researcher at the Estonian Academy of Arts. She has received the Annual Award of the visual and applied arts endowment of the Estonian Cultural Endowment (2012), the Young Designer Award Säsi (2012) and in 2014 she was nominated for the Köler Prize. Ojavee’s works belong to the collection of the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design. From 2019 to 2021 she was the recipient of the national artists’ salary.