Ullrich has been an artist all his life, working in a wide variety of media. Educated at the Academy of Art in Hamburg, he then trained as a stage designer before moving to Denmark in 1964, where he met his wife, Mette.

Together, they worked for many years as freelance artists, Ullrich undertaking many works in textiles, stone, metal and wood, including a number of tapestry designs for churches. Mette wove each of these designs in her workshop.

In 1994, they became involved in the running of a residential school for art and craft in Jutland. Mona Lise Martinussen was at that time working in Mette's workshop, and thus started a long and successful collaboration on a number of tapestries for churches and public buildings.

Ullrich still works extensively in other media, including the theatre in Copenhagen and the illustration of books for young people.

The Ely-Ribe tapestry is the first piece of work he has completed for an English commission.

Ullrich describes his thoughts behind the design.

"This picture is a portrait of two different cities in two different countries.

"It's a kind of labyrinth where you have to find your way around to discover motifs from both these great places, which in many ways are quite similar. Both of them had their origins in the early Middle Ages. Both of them have famous cathedrals whose size dominates the surrounding countryside.

"But that is not all that I am trying to convey in this sketch. I found it more important to show the spirit and history of each place, and not to forget that everything we have today is the product of the efforts of many people across more than a thousand years. What we see now is undoubtedly something we should be proud of.

Image A

"Starting in the top left hand corner, the labyrinth mosaic (from Ely Cathedral) symbolises life and its twists and turns (A). We always have choices, and maybe we reach a dead end, which means a decision and a different way forward. You can treat the whole picture in the same way, exploring one part of it, then going back a little to find another route and another theme. However, you will notice that there is no central point or end to the labyrinth, only a glimpse of what the future may hold in the bottom left hand corner!

Image BImage C

"The picture needs to be something that draws you towards it, so the colours are bright and welcoming, picking out the red and white of the two flags - the cross of St George for England (B), and the Dannebrog for Denmark (C). At the top of the picture, I have also included an heraldic expression of the early development of the two cities.



Image DImage EImage FImage GImage H

Image I

"Important people feature in the centre of the picture. We have the Danish King Valdemar (D), just to the right of Ribe Cathedral, and the English St Etheldreda (E), as the founders of Ribe and Ely respectively. Above Ely Cathedral is Hereward the Wake (F), who symbolised the early resistance of fen folk against their Norman oppressors. Below him is Oliver Cromwell (G), amongst the statues in the cathedral defaced 100 years earlier by command of King Henry VIII, and to his right is the 16th century Danish reformer and bishop, Hans Tausen (H). Finally we have Bishop H A Brorsons (I), who wrote many Danish hymns and psalms that are still sung today.

Image J Image K

"For me, the land around each community is important. In both cases the power of the water gave the landscape the characteristic richness that we all know today. Through history, the sweat and toil of the local people have contributed to the development of that landscape. In turn, the land and the water have given their produce back to the people - as the fishing for eels in the waterways around Ely demonstrates. Around Ely, we had the drainage of the Fens, depicted by the Stretham Pumping Engine (J) to the left, and below it the old windmill (K). In Ribe, the impact of the sea through the many floods that have inundated parts of the town, is reflected in the Flood Pole that stands on Skibbroen (L).

Image LImage MImage NImage OImage P

"And finally, up to the present day, we have two very historic locations with old streetscapes, in which the car (M) is beginning to present its own problems - symbolised here by them being stacked on top of each other! And in the bottom left hand corner, we have some motifs of the new century - a train (N) depicting modern transport, the use of wind turbines (O) to generate power, and our dependence on the computer (P).

Image QImage RImage S

"Yet, despite all these pressures of the modern age, traditions are still extremely important. In Ribe, the Watchman (Q) still does his nightly patrol of the streets, wearing the traditional costume, carrying the staff of office and singing as he goes. In Ely, the Cathedral Choir (R) maintains the traditions of religious music, the roundabout represents the annual fair, and the rower the links with the river and the University Boat Race. You will also find our heritage depicted by buildings in the picture. Apart from those already mentioned, you can find The Maltings, and of course, Oliver Cromwell's house (S). From Ribe there are local artefacts of note that reflect the many archaeological finds - a Bronze Age burial ground and the mask of Odin.

Image T

"Of course, we should always have a little humour in our lives, if at all possible. So maybe you can find something here to make you smile, for example the street dog barking at the head of the cat (T) that forms the 11th century doorknocker from Ribe Cathedral.

"I could have chosen many hundreds of images, of persons, objects and buildings that suggest Ely and Ribe. I hope that my selection reflects the very strong similarities and affinity between these two wonderful places. Above all, I hope that my picture will stimulate the mind of the visitor!"

Click on The Weaver's Tale to find out how the design was transformed into the final tapestry.