Intervjuu Anu Rauaga / Interview with Anu Raud
Anu Raud (born in Russia, May 10, 1943) is an Estonian textile artist and author. She is a long-time lecturer at the Estonian Academy of Arts and Viljandi Culture Academy. On the occasion of Raud’s 75th birthday, Helen Kästik and Ave Matsin sat down with her to look back on her life and work as an artist. Even though much has been written about the work of Anu Raud, its main focus has been on her tapestries as carriers of the idea of national identity. The mundane practical aspects of crafting and the social position of the craftsperson have received a lot less attention. These were the topics that were discussed at Kääriku Farm in June, driven by the conviction that the professional choices of an outstanding artist allow us to draw conclusions about the position of art based on heritage craft in both Soviet and independent Estonia.
While studying textile art at the State Art Institute, Raud developed a keen interest in ethnographic material thanks to the encouragement of her teachers Mari Adamson and Leila Pärtelpoeg. After graduating in 1967, she was assigned work at the national handicrafts manufacturing association Uku, which had been founded the previous year. Uku was based on an ingenious idea: to provide work to skilled craftspersons all over Estonia in order to preserve and popularise traditional handicraft. As the lead artist for Kihnu, Ruhnu and Southern Estonia, Anu Raud coordinated the work of crafts-people in these regions and went on collection trips to draw inspiration for the design of items based on traditional handicraft.
In 1972, Anu Raud returned to the National Institute of Arts, this time as a lecturer, which also gave her more time for personal creative projects. Her work consists of more than a hundred tapestries that have been displayed at nearly 70 solo exhibitions. In April 2018, the Estonian National Museum opened the exhibition Landscapes of My Fatherland on the occasion of her 75th birthday. Raud emphasises that there is a clear message in all of her works: „All tapestries I make bear the scent or at the least a tiny taste of Estonia.“ The tapestries of Anu Raud are a clear expression of her values and show her intimate connection to her homeland, its nature and the culture of its past. Her style is characterised by subtle play of colours and the skilful use of elements from national crafts.
The restoration of Estonian independence was followed by a turbulent period in the fates of both the republic and Anu Raud herself. Her work at the National Institute of Arts came to an end and her family was forced to move out of their apartment in Tallinn when it was returned to its former owners. After moving to her father’s home farm at Kääriku near Viljandi, Raud needed to find a new job. In 1994, she became the first head of the newly-opened department of farm design and national crafts at the Viljandi Culture College. While living at Kääriku, she has dedicated a lot of energy to the promotion of the region. Her rich collection of traditional handicraft accumulated over the years is kept at the nearby Heimtali Museum; for the 100th anniversary of the Estonian National Museum, Anu Raud gifted the Heimtali Museum of Domestic Life to the Republic of Estonia.
Anu Raud has had a remarkable career and the attention she has received in connection to folk culture is extraordinary. Since 2009, Raud has been a Professor Emeritus of the National Academy of Arts and an honorary member of the Estonian Artists Association; in 2016, she was elected to the EstonianAcademy of Sciences. She has received numerous awards, including the Order of the White Star, 3rd Class (1998), the Kristjan Raud Award (1978, 1994), several awards from the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the University of Tartu award for contribution to national identity (2013), National Culture Award (2014), and the National Lifetime Achievement Award (2018).