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A Wonderful Scanian Art Weaves Adventure

By Edi Thorstensson

Our teacher, Gunvor Johansson

This issue includes contributions made by weavers—all of us Americans– enrolled last June 2017 in a Scanian Art Weaves class, taught at the Swedish Handicrafts Center for Skåne in Landskrona, a beautiful city on the western coast of southern Sweden.  Here we experienced the unforgettable opportunity to study classic Swedish weaving techniques under the tutelage of master weaver, Gunvor Johansson. 

Skåne (often referred to as Scania in English-speaking countries) is Sweden’s southernmost province and, historically, one of its most prosperous and populous.  Rich in textile tradition, Skåne has been influenced by its proximity to Denmark, of which it was a province until 1658.  Still, it’s culture is distinctly Swedish.  Landskrona is a quiet, thriving city with a citadel dating from 1549 and a lovely community garden colony, where one in twenty-seven city inhabitants has an allotment.  (For more information, see the Landskrona Wikipedia entry.)

Landskrona’s Old Train Station, home of Skånsk Hemslöjd.

Seven of us—Mary Erickson, Melba Granlund, Liz Hunter, Sharon Marquardt, Jan Mostrom, Mary Skoy, and Edi Thorstensson — came to Scandinavia with the  Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum’s 2017 Textile Study Tour through Denmark and Norway. It ended on June 24, and we prepared to leave Bergen for Copenhagen, the closest air connection to Southern Sweden.  A flight cancellation had us rebooked for a late arrival that gave us little time to catch the train from Copenhagen to Landskrona, but all went well, and we arrived at our destination in the dark— even though it was the weekend of Midsommar, the summer solstice celebration! The eighth member of our group, Janis Aune, met us in Landskrona. Here, we settled into the comfortable Hotel Öresund, situated within walking distance of Skånes Hemslöjd, located in Landskrona’s old railroad station, where our class took place.

Classroom, with Liz Hunter at the table, Melba Granlund and Edi Thorstensson at the looms

On Stiftelsen Skånsk Hemslöjd’s archives and the appreciation for historical textiles

In addition to rewarding class time at our looms, we were treated to a very special insiders’ tour of the SSH archives and a visit to Bosjökloster, where we saw a beautiful exhibit of our instructor’s work in a lovely historical setting (see Mary Ericsson’s article, “Gunvor Johansson’s Exhibit at Bosjökloster.” 

Field inventory, showing provenance, yarns, and pattern

A short walk from Hemslöjd to a quiet street, we entered a secured building that houses the Skåne Handicrafts Foundation’s textile archives.  Climbing a narrow stairway to a locked door, we followed Åsa and Gunvor into a room lined with storage cabinets and drawers where precious textiles encompassing many genres are stored.  Here are the historical links to a vibrant textile heritage, examples reflecting the skills of women who wove for their households and, in some cases, for others.  Much of the collection has been documented for provenance, but it includes items that have not been documented and field records, as well.  All are cared for with respect and pride, all are inventoried.  All are important and valued parts of Skåne’s and Sweden’s cultural history, its textile legacy. 

Åsa and Gunvor in the archives. Gunvor is wearing gloves used when handling textiles, paper, photographs, and other materials. The gloves help protect archival materials from skin oils and other substances that might cause damage.

Following are examples of items in the archives. 

Closing Words and Images 

Each weaver came away with special memories, only some of which are told here.  Liz Hunter writes, 

“this time in Landskrona was a joyful turning point for me!  i knew i wasn’t going to do the classical patterns. i did gain a greater understanding [for] them. instead, i concentrated on flossa and rya.   these will give me the ability to combine painting with weaving….and to turn from production weaving to more artistic expression.  gunvor and asa were so kind to me:  i’m sure having one student going in a different direction, and trying to speak to them in broken norwegian from 40 years ago, was not easy.  at the end of the session, they each gave me a vintage rya pile measuring tool, which i treasure.  i also treasure their passion and love of swedish weaving!”

Each weaver brought home with her a story and a sample of her own making.  Here are three samples that have found or are finding their way to completion:

Mary Skoy plans to make her sample into a pillow with ribbon embellishments.

Janis Aune’s sample, fashioned into a purse to wear with her folk costume.

Edi Thorstensson’s sample, showing knotted finishing in progress, for a wall hanging that will eventually include bobbin lace and inkle loom-woven band embellishments.

Special praise for Gunvor Johansson’s excellent book, Heirlooms of Skåne : Weaving TechniquesShelburne, MA : Vävstuga Press, 2016.  This is an excellent resource for both textile historians and weavers.  It features chapters on various techniques mentioned above, as well as three-harness weaving.  It is beautifully illustrated and includes pattern drafts.  Highly recommended.

We students share a feeling of deep gratitude for all that Gunvor Johansson and Åsa Stentoft gave us during our time with them.  They welcomed us and treated us with great optimism, patience and kindness.  They taught us skills that we will incorporate in our weaving–some of which will find its way into loved ones’ lives–and pass along to others. This is community.  This is who we, as weavers, are.

I wish to thank everyone who contributed words, photographs, and moral support to make this set of Skane adventure articles happen.  I apologize for not crediting photographers individually for the images they shared in our Skane articles.  Can you live with our being a collective of pretty good anonymous photographers? 

Read more about how this textile adventure came about and what it entailed in the other articles in this issue.

Weaving the Art Weaves of Skåne 
Inspiration, Outreach, and Connection   
Gunvor Johansson’s Exhibit at Bosjökloster 
Fika and the Joy of Lingonberry Cake

Edi Thorstensson is a retired librarian and archivist who has appreciated the history and creation of Scandinavian textiles since her first visit to Europe in 1961.    She is a member of the Minnesota Weavers Guild Scandinavian Weavers Study Group and the Pioneer Spinners and Fiber Artists guild.  She lives in St. Peter, Minnesota, with her husband Roland and Icelandic sheep dog Ára.

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Gunvor Johansson’s Exhibit at Bosjökloster

By Mary Erickson

Gunvor Johansson

As with most weaving classes, I tend to focus on weaving and finishing the project.  So I was somewhat reluctant to be “pulled away” from the loom to go on an excursion.  As it turned out, an invitation such as this gave me a rare opportunity for an understanding of place and history of weaving that I could not have experienced on my own.  

Gunvor invited us to view an exhibit of her work called “HISTORICAL THREADS :  Scanian Art Weavery & Church Textiles” at the Bosjökloster Castle and Gardens.  She and her husband both drove cars to transport us and, as we traveled through the countryside, we passed farmsteads and field after field of crops, which gave us a sense of the landscape.

Bosjökloster originally was a Benedictine abbey, founded in 1080, and remained so until the Reformation.  Today the site is privately owned and open to the public.  Gunvor’s weavings were displayed in two rooms of the Bosjökloster  Castle.  The extensive exhibit included traditional weave structures we had been studying and liturgical weaving. 

The liturgical textiles on display were examples of Gunvor’s work, designed and created through a business she co-owns, Kyrkotextil i Syd (Church Textiles in the South).  Below are examples of Gunvor’s beautiful liturgical textiles. 

Janis Aune inspects a beautiful robe.

More information and images can be found at: www.kyrkotextilisyd.com.

Mary Erickson lives on the Mesabi Iron Range and is interested in the cultural connections found in weaving traditions.   She recently retired as an exhibit researcher at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm, MN and is currently a fiber artist focusing on the influence of landscape and place in our lives.  Mary holds a  Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education from Bemidji State University and a Master of Art Degree from the University of Wisconsin, Superior.

Virgin Tapestries and the Bridal Theme

By Randi Nygaard Lium

Editor’s note: The most-woven motif at the peak of medieval Norwegian tapestry weaving was the biblical story of the Wise and Foolish Virgins.  The two rows of virgins with a highly patterned background are emblematic of Norwegian billedvev (literally, picture-weaving) and recognized by museum-goers worldwide, like this version owned by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). Why did this image resonate with weavers of the era?  We are grateful for permission to present this translation of Art Historian Randi Nygaard Lium’s expert analysis, which appeared in her new book, Tekstilkunst i Norge (Textile Art in Norway). 

The most popular Norwegian medieval tapestry motif is, as earlier mentioned, the Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins. The fundamental basis of the image is a representation of virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom. The background text is from Matthew, Chapter 25, Verses 1-13.  

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 “Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 “For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 “Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 “But at midnight * there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 “Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 “The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 “But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 “Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. (These verses in English are from the New American Standard Bible.)

The motif was used in European visual art in the Middle Ages. When it became popular in Norway, the image spread through prints. In all the tapestries the virgins are woven in two horizontal lines, with the wise virgins uppermost and the foolish virgins below. The wise virgins proudly hold up their lamps. The foolish virgins hold handkerchiefs to dry their tears; their situations were difficult.  They couldn’t have known beforehand how much time it would take for the bridegroom to arrive. This image shows the high demands made of young women. To be pure and innocent when the bridegroom arrived was not enough; they also needed to be alert and vigilant. 

Along with the ten women in long dresses, men are woven in as side characters. It is interesting that the bridegroom is Jesus. In several tapestries the oil seller is placed in the lower right hand corner, and one tapestry even has the inscription “eros kiøbe” (eros purchase). This male figure has associations to something completely apart from virginity and purity.  It is as if to purchase extra oil could be interpreted as having to do with prostitution. Therefore there are many layers of meaning to this theme. The tapestries were used as bedcovers, and as a beautiful covering for the marriage bed it was a reminder of moral demands.  

In the oldest virgin tapestries from around the middle of the 1600s, the women are dressed in festive renaissance dresses, jackets with a high waist, and pleated collars. They often have crowns, and the long dresses are richly detailed, with a center section that resembles an apron. Behind the upper women you see architecture that looks like a city. The women are woven in two horizontal rows, one over the other, with a border between. 

In the tapestries from the 1700s you see stylization and abstraction, which results in figures that are increasingly ornamental in their expression.  The skirts, upper parts of their clothing, faces, and crowns create an ornamental whole. The inscriptions disappear, as well as the extra figures. The architecture behind the row of wise virgins is gone, replaced by decorative elements. The virgins’ lamps and handkerchiefs have disappeared, and with them much of the meaningful symbols of the story. Perhaps the message was forgotten over time, and when weaving a bridal coverlet the weaver perhaps followed a pattern she inherited. 

Three original coverlets from 1760 from Bøverdalen have been preserved.  The weaver was called the “bibelsprengte” weaver (the weaver who broke with the Bible), because she interpreted the motifs in her own style. Her unique tapestries included her rococo tapestry, Kristi forfedre (“Christ’s Ancestors”), and three identical Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins tapestries, which included a whole row of accompanying figures.  The three virgin tapestries were gifts for three sisters. 

1760, Bøverdalen in Gudbrandsdal. Nordenfjelske Kunstindustrimuseum. Photo: Dino Makridis

 

Above the upper virgins is a whole new row depicting from the left: Joseph, Mary and the Christ Child, and the three Wise Men. On the right is Jesus, the heavenly bridegroom. Beside the virgins Jacob stands to the right in the upper row, and Joseph to the right in the lower row.  The names of Jacob and Joseph are woven in. 

This is an innovation of the virgin motif. The three tapestries from Bøverdalen aren’t rigid in the same manner as the other 1700s coverlets. Now the figures are freer and more lively, and they are clothed in elegant rococo clothing. “Christ’s Ancestors” is quite special, with many elegant men placed in diagonal rows up the tapestry.  They wear a rococo costume with a long, narrow jacket in brocade, knee pants, and knitted stockings. The women have beautiful dresses—narrow in the middle, with a skirt bustling over a form. The weaver was well-acquainted with fashion of the day.  In “Christ’s Ancestors” we find a rhythm and liveliness that is new in tapestries from Gudbrandsdal. Rococo playfulness and feminine elegance have made their marks? 

Tapestries with the virgin motif were woven in the western part of the country, too, but were not as common as in the valleys of eastern Norway.  The western virgin tapestries also had a unique expression, and were seldom the main motif of the tapestry. Virgins were often placed in the center  of the tapestry, surrounded by borders and ornamental designs. The virgin motif was persistent in the area, and was woven all the way to the beginning of the 1800s. 

A west coast virgin tapestry from the collection of the Norsk Folkemuseum. https://digitaltmuseum.no/011023130651/teppe

Virgin tapestries from Valdres and Trøndelag have been preserved, too.  They echo the Gudbrandsdal tapestries, which shows that work from that area was an inspiration for weavers in both Valdres and Trøndelag. Many fine tapestry pillows from the 1700s are also found in Oppdal (in Sør-Trøndelag). 

The virgin tapestries were used as wedding coverlets, and their symbolism signals moral expectations of the bride. That was indisputable and universally known. But it is less known that during that time marriage between a man and a woman was also a symbol of a woman’s bridal relationship to Christ, a marriage with spiritual meaning.

A young, god-fearing woman could enter into a spiritual marriage with Christ, dedicate her life to religion. In this way the purpose of marriage was both earthly and spiritual. Therefore Jesus was the heavenly bridegroom—and woven into the coverlets. The coverlets were religious beyond having just a moral point: they symbolized Christian purity and faith. 

Marriage was holy and formed the basis of the church’s moral requirements. Among other things, there were rules about when a couple could make love. The rules were strict and difficult to abide by, resulting in guilt. The couple were not supposed to have sex on weekends or during holidays, or during pregnancy. The function of sexuality was procreation and furthering your family, not unfettered intimate relations; that was sinful. 

At that time there was often a close relationship between individuals and the parish minister. The worship service was a time away from work and an occasion that helped support people in holding themselves faithful to God. The minister had a double function.  From the pulpit on Sundays he was an authority who admonished those who listened about a Christian life without sin, and at the same time he was a spiritual provider from whom people sought guidance in difficult times. Perhaps it was also the minister a woman might visit to seek consolation when relations with her husband had been too lively or moving toward the forbidden. The guilt was difficult to bear alone, and her husband may not have been the easiest one to confide in under those circumstances. 

Young women also had the opportunity to write a letter to the minister, called a “virgin letter.” However it wasn’t only unmarried women who confided in a minister; in Iceland a written confession is preserved from a young married woman who felt guilty because, according to church rules, she had an overly active sex life with her husband.  The minister learned the most intimate details of the couple’s relationship in this confession. 

Through his presence a minister was a sort of psychologist of that time. He gave penance and forgiveness for sins, and that helped women with issues they struggled with alone. 

When we examine the many preserved coverlets with the virgin motif, we come to understand their meaning is about more than just the requirement to be a virgin when entering marriage. It encompasses also a holy marriage that required one to lead a religious life.

A Wise and Foolish Virgins tapestry owned by the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. http://collections.vesterheim.org/items/show/561

Randi Nygaard Lium is a textile artist, author, and curator. Educated in Denmark, she has a degree in Art History from Aarhus University and studied weaving at Det Jyske Kunstakademi (Jutland Art Academy). She is the Senior Researcher at the Museum for Decorative Arts (Kunstindustrimuseet) in Trondheim, Norway.  She was the Director of the Trondheim Art Museum (Kunstmuseum) from 1998-2011, and the Head Curator at the Museum of Decorative Arts, Trondheim, 1986-88.  She has written several books on textile art, including Tekstilkunst i Norge (2016 and Ny Norsk Billedvev – Et Gjennombrud (1992). Her work has been shown in many exhibits in Norway and other countries, including a solo exhibition at the Design Museum Denmark in Copenhagen (2006). Her work is represented in several museums and in commissioned work in public buildings.

Book excerpt translated by Robbie LaFleur, who constantly runs into more depictions of the Wise and Foolish Virgins.  

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2017 Vesterheim Textile Tour to Denmark and Norway

By Robbie LaFleur and Laurann Gilbertson

The 2017 Textile Tour sponsored by the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in June was the first one to add travel to Denmark as well as Norwegian destinations. This brief overview should give you an idea of why these tours sell out as soon as they are announced. 

Copenhagen was our first stop, and our learning and inspiration began with a visit to Christiansborg Palace, the only government building in the world that houses all three branches of a country’s government. We toured the Royal Reception Rooms to get an overview of 1,100 years of Danish history through tapestries designed by Bjørn Nørgaard. The tapestries depict scenes from Viking times to today and were presented to Queen Margrethe II for her fiftieth birthday in 1990. The guide planned to visit other rooms, but the weavers in the group, in particular, were entranced by observing the tapestries and reading about the historical events depicted in them.  Laurann asked the guide, “Is it OK if we just stay here instead?”

Lapidarium of Kings.  Frederick V, King of Denmark-Norway, commissioned life-sized statues of Norwegian and Faroese farmers and fishermen for his palace grounds. Completed in about 1773, the figures from Nordmandsdalen (Valley of the Norsemen) are used today by researchers to understand the clothing worn in rural Norway in the past. 

The number of tour participants is small enough that we can take advantage of visiting artist studios and sights that would’t be possible for huge groups.  Our group divided in two for a visit to Knitwear Designer Geske Svensson.  Read about that experience in the article by Marilyn Huset

Our stay in Copenhagen was short, and we headed off to visit Greve Museum to learn about Hedebosom. Some even took a mini-course.  Read Edi Torstensson’s account of the museum in a separate article, here

Through gorgeous, trim countryside (and once having to change course because the bus was too big for the road), we reached Sagnlandet Lejre.  Solving Pollei wrote about the experience, here

Heading across country, we stopped at the High School for Design and Handwork in Skals for their annual summer exhibition and market, with fabulous exhibits of student work in weaving, clothing design, embroidery, hand- and machine-knitting, leather work, and ceramics. In tents in the sunny courtyard outside the school, leading Danish designers sold their work.  Molly Miles was struck by beautiful embroidered towels with hearts, and Ingebjørg Monsen loved a cleverly embroidered coat. She commented, “So happy young people take embroidery to a new level, but the quality prevails!”

Our final stop in Denmark was at Hørvævmuseet, a linen weaving museum in the heart of Denmark.  The museum is staffed by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the collection of jacquard looms, with educating visitors about the processing of flax to linen, and the history of linen production in Denmark.  This stop was a highlight of Elizabeth Hunter’s tour, and she described our guides as “a couple who are the oldest and most charming hosts ever!” The museum is housed in a former cowshed of a large estate. The looms and equipment, from a linen mill that closed in 1972, sat unused for 33 years until it gained new life. And after our group left, the gift shop staff had some serious re-stocking to do.  

Molly Miles loved the jacquard cards used on the looms to create letters.

After the Linen Museum we traveled by ferry over the Skagerrak, the strait between Denmark and Norway. The food was great on the boat, but the crashing, bumpy waves made the ride one that several of our group would like to forget. 

On a sunny Sunday morning the group traveled by rowboat ferry out to  Bragdøy, an island outside of Kristiansand, for a lecture and class with Annemor Sundbø. Annemor was awarded the King’s Medal of Merit in 2013 for her work to research, share, and preserve Norway’s knitting history. Her latest book is on the native short-tailed spelsau sheep. After giving a talk about the spelsau in folk belief, art, and everyday tradition, she gave a short class on knitting right from the sheep; in other words, the students sat in front of a giant pile of fleece and pulled strands into instant yarn and knitted it up.  This day was a highlight for Linda Devitt, who later translated her memories to a painting of sheep (above), which she gave to her tour roommate, Carole Johnson. 

Molly Miles noted that one of her highlights was watching Annemor guide Kay Larson through the fleece-washing process. 

We visited the Kristiansand Museum learn about regional textile traditions, including danskbrogd, a boundweave variation done only in Norway. When we toured the historic buildings moved in from rural Vest-Agder County the guide did her best to pull out all of the textiles, since she knew we were interested. 

We visited Sjølingstad Uldvarefabrikk in Mandal, a working textile mill museum that interprets the history of commercial spinning, dyeing, and weaving. 

In the village of Moi, which for years has been a center for the production of spinning wheels, we learned about spinning and the special Moi-style wheel at Lund Bygdemuseum.

After a drive with breathtaking scenery of the Jøssingfjord, we stopped for lunch in Sogndalstrand. This tiny seaport village is the only place in Norway where old wooden buildings and the surrounding landscape are protected as a cultural heritage site. The food was amazing at the Sogndalstrand Hotel. 

 

Floral detail from a Frida Hansen tapestry

In Stavanger we concentrated on Frida Hansen (1855-1931), a tapestry weaver who captured the essence of both Norway’s nationalistic movement and Art Nouveau style in her tapestries, including her patented transparent tapestries. We toured her house to learn more about her life, then continued on to Stavanger Kunstmuseum to learn more about her work. Elizabeth Hunter loved the lecture in the gallery with Frida Hansen’s work.  ” It was brief, but so insightful!!” Elizabeth is following up now, by reading  Japanomania in the Nordic Countries 1875-1918.  

 

 

We traveled on an often ocean-side route to Bergen, and the group appreciated the fact that our bus driver, when faced with the choice of two roads, always opted for the more scenic route.  In Bergen, our first stop was USF (United Sardine Factory), home to 200 artists, musicians, dancers, architects, and filmmakers, as well as offices for cultural organizations and performance spaces. We met several artists in their studios, including Kari Aasen, Åse Ljones, Sissel Blystad, and Kari Myrdal. A favorite of many was the artist Marta Nerhus, who crafted life-sized flat figures in metal wire. 

North of Bergen, we visited the Osterøy Museum. Our group arrived at a good time; the Museum recently set up a beautiful new permanent exhibition featuring local craft traditions, including warp-weighted loom weaving, knitting, and beadwork. Marta Kløve Juuhl shared her current project, a 91-foot weaving in the museum’s main exhibit hall, one that was described in previous issues of the Norwegian Textile Letter (here and here).  It stretches over a whole wall and down the long, tall room. And aren’t visits even better with food?  We enjoyed coffee and a local treat, stompekake. 

It would be interesting to know how many projects are completed by tour participants after a tour, based on inspiration from pieces seen in museums and shops and studios along the way.  Martha Schumann wrote, “Even though my favorite hobby is knitting, I only took one picture of a knitted item – a mitten at the Osterøy Museum.  It has a flame colorway in the patterning instead of being knit in two colors.  As soon as I saw it, I knew would like to copy it, so I took a picture.” 

Oleana sweaters are renowned in Norway and the U.S. In business since 1992, Oleana A/S is the only knitwear factory that knits and sews all their products in Norway. Combining art, culture, and good design, Oleana creates sweaters of fine wool and silk from Solveig Hisdal’s award-winning designs. The group toured the factory and explored the outlet store. 

The farewell dinner was prepared by chef Ingvild Bøge of Spisekroken i Bergen, who uses local products to create rustic food with a contemporary twist. If you travel to Bergen, you should eat there. 

Carol Johnson wrote that the highlight of the tour for her was the people. From her comment, you can see that her enjoyment of the trip began in the airport! 

The highlight of Vesterheim’s Textile Tour for me was the people.  There was the buzz in the MSP gate area as travelers checked in with Laurann, greeted old friends and got acquainted with new ones.  Arriving in Copenhagen, we were met with hugs from IngebjØrg and met more tour members who had flown directly there.  During meals and breaks, stories were shared on a variety of topics.  One learns that the spectrum of textile interest within the group ranges from awesome textile experts, some internationally known, to those of us who are merely textile spectators. It was energizing to meet textile designers, curators at small local museums and volunteers and staffs at small textile mills, all passionate about keeping traditional techniques alive, sometimes in new formats.  

Who planned this fabulous trip for us?

Tour Leader Laurann Gilbertson has been Textile Curator for 19 years and is now Chief Curator at Vesterheim. She holds a B.A. in anthropology and an M.S. in textiles and clothing from Iowa State University. She cares for the museum’s collections, curates exhibitions, and has planned and led seven textile study tours to Norway (with Sweden, Iceland, and Finland).

Tour Guide Ingebjørg Monsen is an electrical engineer, but is enjoying a second career in textiles. She teaches classes in weaving and sewing and specializes in constructing men’s bunader (national costumes). She has been president of the Bergen Husflidslag (handcraft association) and has planned and led them on tours in Norway, Iceland, and Denmark. Ingebjørg has offered textile instruction, interesting tour information, and lots of fun on Vesterheim’s seven previous textile tours.

National Exhibition of Weaving in the Norwegian Tradition, 2017: Even More Inspiration

Since The Norwegian Textile Letter is published as an online newsletter, we can include ALL the entries in the annual National Exhibition of Weaving the in the Norwegian Tradition.  Years ago, when print was our only choice, only a few photos of the top ribbon weavers were included.  The non-ribbon winners are of high quality as well! Also, pieces submitted by weavers who have earned a Gold Medal in weaving are not eligible for judging. Enjoy these excellent and varied entries, too. 

Gold Medalist Veronna Capone, from Brookings, SD,  entered “Slowly/Light Grows/Then Closes,” a wall hanging in pick-and-pick technique.

 Jan Mostrom, a Gold Medalist from Chanhassen MN, wove “Crossing Borders,” a wall hanging in Sjonbragd technique.

 Melissa Brown, Decorah IA, wove a table runner in Monk’s Belt Technique.

 Judy Ness, Gold Medalist from Eugene, OR, wove “Intention” bound weave rug.

 Lisa Anne Bauch from Bloomington, MN, wove a rya wall hanging, “Three Little Birds.” 

Meredith Bennett from Free Union VA, wove the rya “Confetti.”

Andrea Myklebust from Stockholm, WI, wove yardage in twill weave. 

 Nancy Ellison from Zumbrota, MN, wove a weavers flag in “Ja Vi Elsker (Yes We Love Wool).” 

“Lars” the sheep was commemorated in Nancy Ellison’s wall hanging with natural fleece rya.  Nancy (and Lars) live in Zumbrota, Minnesota. 

 Rosemary Roehl, a Gold Medalist from St. Cloud MN, wove “Fall,” in figurative bound weave.

Rosemary Roehl, Gold Medalist from St. Cloud, MN, also celebrated “Spring” in figurative bound weave.

See photos of the ribbon winners in this year’s exhibition, here. 

National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition, 2017: Award Winners

 

By Laurann Gilbertson, Curator

We have come to expect technical and artistic excellence from weaving entries in the National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition at Vesterheim.  And once again, in 2017, we were not disappointed.  The artists provided traditional and contemporary works in a wide range of Norwegian and Scandinavian techniques.  Several artists included some interpretation to go with their works.  Jan Mostrom’s wall hanging was woven entirely from yarn hand dyed with natural dyes, creating surprisingly bright colors. (See detail at left.) She wrote, “Weaving with these natural dyed yarns connected me with weavers of the past as I had to adapt if I ran short of a certain color of yarn. At times I used a different yarn and I occasionally had to change my original plan.”  Nancy Ellison used natural wool locks from from Lars, a white Icelandic-Gotland cross ram in her flock, for a charming handwoven image of the ram himself.  And Andrea Myklebust used flax she had grown and processed.

I had to interpret for one entry in the exhibition, a monksbelt table runner by Laura Demuth. It was displayed near the table where staff were stationed.  When visitors read the label, they looked up at me and raised eyebrows or asked, “Why is it thanks to you?”  Laura didn’t provide any explanation for the public, but I’m happy to share the story here.  As Laura was planning a beginning weaving class for Vesterheim, she came to get ideas from the collection.  She had decided on monksbelt and wondered what we had.  We had several beautiful, but basic monksbelt coverlets, so I pulled a more “advanced” one at the end.  From Lila Nelson’s personal collection, we have a monksbelt coverlet with four-sided border. The weaver changed from green on the edge to red for the center, while making a zigzag line between colors.  It was the perfect challenge for an experienced weaver.  I say thanks to Laura, and all the artists who helped make the 2017 exhibition a beautiful and inspirational show.  

As a Gold Medal weaver, Laura’s piece was not part of the judging.  She was on the other side of the table, serving as a judge for the exhibition, along with Doug Eckheart, Professor of Art (retired) from Luther College, Decorah, IA. Laura’s piece was still in the running for the annual “People’s Choice” award, and she won! 

A blue ribbon was awarded to Corwyn Knutson, Roseville, MN,  for “Nordlys,”  wool Rya wall hanging. It was also awarded BEST OF SHOW. Congratulations, Corwyn. 

 

Donna Laken, from Rockford, IL,won a red ribbon for “Simply Scandinavian,” a rug in bound rosepath. 

A white ribbon was awarded to Kathryn Evans from Lena, IL, for a slit tapestry wall hanging.   Slit tapestry is usually found in narrower bands. Her finishing techniques were original and beautiful, as seen in this detail. 

 

Winnie Johnson received an honorable mention for her boundweave rug. 

Helen Scherer, from Shawnee, KS, received an Honorable Mention for “When I grow up, I want to be like the Døvleteppe!,”  a table runner in Vestfold technique.

Andrea Myklebust, Stockholm, WI, won an Honorable Mention for her linen table runner in block Damask technique.  Andrea should get extra points for also displaying a carved distaff in the exhibition, writing, “I made this distaff for use on one of my spinning wheels. I’ve included a hank of my own hand-spun flax, which is the material used for this tool. It is an arrogant distaff because it is very tall to show off my long line flax.” 

 

See entries from Vesterheim Gold Medal weavers and other entrants in this year’s exhibition, here

 

 

 
 

 

 

Sagnlandet Lejre – the Land of Legends (and Textiles)

By Solveig Pollei

“Check out and turn in the key. Take your bag to the bus. Bus departs at 9:00 am for Lejre.” And so another adventure begins.

As we continue to practice our ‘bus-riding’ skills, the roads become smaller and less traveled. Then a turn into an area with tall trees, thatched buildings with moss accents and open fields – all just beyond a building with banners inviting us to experience the Stone Age, the Iron Age, the Viking Age, to visit the smallholder, to take historical workshops. We have arrived at Sagnlandet Lejre – the Land of Legends!

Dividing into groups, we follow our guides into the sunshine. Over hills, around a boat landing, ducks announcing our arrival, we walk to an Iron Age long house. Our guide is an archaeology student in period dress and she helps us imagine a world of people, animals, trade. A world where everyone works for the survival of the community. A world which helps build into our world.

Leaving the darkness of the house, we step out and walk past the tended garden. As is often the case, we take a few moments to check out the plants! Our guide continues to show other points of interest as we walk toward our next presentation at the Dragtvaeksted. Our walk takes us into a more wooded area with the last tendrils of a morning mist rising to disappear in the morning sun. One wonders if Grendel might appear.

For those walking toward the back of our group, the ‘oohs and ahhs’ drifting back to our ears make us quicken our steps. As you can see, it is a sight to gladden the heart of any textile addict! A warp-weighted loom resting against the side, a garden of dye plants reaching for the sunshine, and hanks of richly-dyed wool by the door. A glorious hint of what awaited us.

Inside the cycle of textiles awaited: Fiber. Spinde. Farve. Vaeve. Sy. A quick glance showed the raw fibers, spindles/spinning wheel, glorious dye colors, looms, and sewn clothing. From words to hands.

 

From Ida Demant we learned of the progression from animal skin to woven fabrics. Of how the construction of garments evolved from what worked best for sewing animal skins to what was best for the fiber/cloth. Clever ideas. We were taught how to prepare nettles for the cycle. It didn’t seem possible that the resulting cloth would have such a smooth hand. There was so much to see and our presenter was so very knowledgeable, that it was very hard to leave! But there was another presentation so we made our way to the Farver Laden – the colour barn!

We were greeted by our presenter, Fria Gemynthe, who proceeded to show us ongoing dye experiments, a terraced dye garden with the plants clearly marked and then the A-frame barn. Another slice of textile heaven! Hanks of wool dyed with madder, birch, indigo, cochineal, walnut and others.

Each was carefully noted for dye, mordant, etc. And in a corner of the barn, a posterboard with half the dyed skein visible and half under another piece of posterboard in order to test lightfastness. So much to learn. But there are deadlines, so we heed the call for lunch and head to the museum cafe.

After lunch, the shop awaits. (Were you surprised?) One slight change to the shopping experience however. A swan family were resting in the sun and as we made our way to the shop, the cob made his displeasure known in voice and body-posture!

Shopping completed, we made our way to the bus, some more dry than others in a sudden rain shower. Our next stop would be a linen weaving museum. But for now, our thoughts and conversations were on our wonderful time at the Land of Legends.

Celebrating Tapestry Artist Brita Been

By Karianne H. Sand,  January 14, 2017

Editor’s note: One of the problems with seeing notices on the Web for tempting exhibits of work by Norwegian textile artists is that, well, Norway is far away! Early this year an exhibit of the monumental tapestries of Brita Been opened in Skien, Norway. Karianne H. Sand delivered the welcoming remarks and she shared her talk with us, so we can imagine being there in person. These two photo collages were posted in a blog entry about the opening from the Skien Kunstforening, sponsor of the exhibit. Robbie LaFleur

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Dear everyone.  Dear Brita.

I wish to congratulate both Brita Been and the Skien Art Association–Brita for her 70 years and for her fantastic exhibit.  This year the professional organization Norwegian Textile Artists celebrates its 40th year, and it is this organization for which I serve as director.  Brita Been, too, is a member, and it is a great honor for me to be allowed to open this year of celebration with a textile celebration in her name.

This exhibit is called Arvestykker [“Heirlooms”], named for one of Brita’s woven series on display.  The exhibit also includes the series Skybragd [“Cloud Pattern”] and Repetisjoner [“Repetitions”].

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Rugs in the Repetisjoner series. Photo from the Skien Kunstnerforbundet

The series Repetisjoner is the earliest of the series in this exhibit.  And, where there is weaving, there surely is repetition.  Brita herself says that she creates three to four pieces per year, which speaks to how time consuming the process is.   It is time consuming and filled with repetition—the same motion over and over again.  Weaving is mathematics and geometry, something the works in this series reflect in their images.  Here one sees the repetitions, the mathematics and geometric shapes. Brita’s design language has clear references to the Bauhaus school and functionalism.  She constructs surfaces and creates space using color and design alone.  Patterns have no beginning and no end, like a machine that roars into motion.  But in the midst of all this, Brita sits and weaves with her hands—and with this closeness to her materials, she creates a fantastic energy and pulse in the tapestries.

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A detail from the Repetisjoner series, from Britabeen.no

Brita has an impressive curriculum vita, and I shall not even attempt to list the most important places where she has had her work exhibited—yet I feel it revolves around her having had one-woman shows at the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum [the National Museum of Decorative Arts, Trondheim], Kunstnerforbundet [contemporary art gallery, Oslo], Hå gamle Prestegård [Hå old parsonage farm, Jæren, Western Norway, now an art and historical culture center] and, last but not least, SOFT Gallery [the gallery of Norwegian Textile Artists, Oslo], where I work, and, of course, the Skien Kunstforening [Skien Art Association].  She has also exhibited in several locations around the world.

Chinese-inspired clouds

Chinese-inspired clouds, from Britabeen.no

One of several old Norwegian skybragd weavings in the Norwegian Digital Museum, at: https://digitaltmuseum.no/011023238942/putetrekk

One of several old Norwegian skybragd weavings in the Norwegian Digital Museum, at: https://digitaltmuseum.no/011023238942/putetrekk

I wish to draw attention to one biennial event in which she has participated no fewer than four times, the International Fiber Art Biennial, which takes place in China.  It is from this meeting with the East that the inspiration for the series Skybragd comes.  Here, Brita became fascinated with the reliefs carved in marble of variations of the cloud motif, and she then combined this with the old, traditional pattern, skybragd, that was used in earlier Norwegian weaving tradition.  In the National Museum’s archives, I found one piece with that title dating from between 1700 and 1760.  It appears that this pattern, based on the pomegranate and palmette motifs, is a universal motif that has moved across cultures and through time.  Here, Brita weaves together the West and the East.  Everything is connected.

The series Arvestykker began when Brita was given a commission to decorate the Bø Hospital retirement home.  She wanted the tapestries to give both residents and visitors a sense of belonging and recognition.  Therefore, she took as her point of reference Telemark’s strong folk costume culture.  It has, of course, been known for a long time that the most beautiful costumes of all come from there.  And, if any of you are in West Oslo on the 17th of May, you will see that everyone there originally comes from Telemark…*  But, there is a reason why this costume is so popular, for it is rich and colorful, with beautiful details.

Detail from the an Arvestykker tapestry

Detail from the an Arvestykker tapestry, from BritaBeen,no

In this series, Brita has taken as her reference the embroidery on the costume’s stockings and shirts and translated them to another strong folk tradition—that is, weaving.  The lovely details from the folk costume are now allowed to play the lead role in Brita’s work.  The powerful handwork that took hours to embroider now gets to be not just a decoration and pretty detail but the work itself.  Brita herself says, “These tapestries are a celebration of women’s creative work, their time and patience.”

The exhibition shows three different series, but at the same time as Brita manages to constantly renew herself, she also remains true to herself.  There is no doubt when one encounters a Brita Been tapestry that it is her creation.  The same is true for the woman herself—when one meets Brita Been, one knows that it is Brita Been.  I still remember the first time I met you ten years ago at the exhibit honoring stipend award-winners held at City Hall.  I remember you, dressed entirely in bright pink stripes, your dark page-boy haircut, and, not least of all, your incredibly joyful and energetic radiance.  I remember I thought then what I think now—this is an incredibly cool lady.

Warm congratulations, Brita, for the year, the day, and the exhibit.

*The reference to everyone coming from Telemark is because the Telemark-style folk costume is so popular and worn by many Norwegians, regardless of where their families originally lived.

Karianne H. Sand is an art historian and the head of Norske Tekstilkunstnere (Norwegian Textile Artists) and the SOFT Gallery in Oslo, the site of frequent cutting-edge textile exhibits.
Translated by Edi Thorstensson

Read more about the work of Brita Been on her site, britabeen.no, including an article from a 2015 issue of the Swedish Väv Magasin that gives interesting details about her weaving technique as well as her inspiration. Several of her tapestries are found on the Norwegian Absolute Tapestry site, here.

Monster Weaving Update

Marta Kløve Juuhl recently reported that the “monster weaving” at the Osterøy Museum has reached the ceiling. Enjoy these photos, and if you missed the description of the seat-belt-webbing weaving, read it here: “Weaving on the Ceiling: A New Exhibit and Installation at the Osterøy Museum.”

Perhaps this scaffolding, as a support structure for weaving, could be considered a sort of loom?

Perhaps this scaffolding, as a support structure for weaving, could be considered a sort of loom?

Marta Kløve Juuhl under the Norwegian star

Marta Kløve Juuhl under the Norwegian star

Perhaps Monika Ravnanger  had tired arms after waving above her head?

Perhaps Monika Ravnanger had tired arms after weaving above her head?

This photo showing the wall and ceiling gives a good sense of the huge scale of this project

This photo showing the wall and ceiling gives a good sense of the huge scale of this project

Exhibit: Historical Scandinavian Textiles (Part One)

By Robbie LaFleur

At every meeting of the long-standing Scandinavian Weavers Study Group of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, members and guests bring weavings for show and tell. Usually we discuss our own creations, but often members bring pieces they have purchased or otherwise acquired.  These pieces are admired and studied, and in may cases, inspire new adaptations by group members.

Members of the group have seen many fabulous textiles over the years, and now we are sharing the opportunity to see them in person with visitors to the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, and digitally to the readers of the Norwegian Textile Letter.

These treasures from the collections of the study group members are a motley bunch, considering technique, materials, and method of acquisition.  What they share is good design and owners who appreciate and treasure them.

The pieces featured in this article, arranged by owner, are on display at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota until the end of December.

Where do the textiles come from?

Several pieces in the show are Swedish weavings gifted to Melba Granlund by her friend from church who knew that Melba would understand them and value them.

Some of our members are veteran scanners of online sales and recognize treasures. Sylvia Mohn bought mid-century Finnish transparencies. Jane Connett knew quite well that a tapestry reproduction of a row of Wise and Foolish Virgins was not an Albanian kelim, as was advertised on Ebay!

While buying Scandinavian dining room chairs, Phyllis Waggoner spotted rag rugs that had been used in shipping containers from Sweden, and bought them for a song.

Judy Larson shared a tapestry from a Swedish weaver who inspired her weaving journey. And finally, Karin Maahs shares family pieces she has known and loved her whole life.

Prepare to be inspired!

Phyllis Waggoner Recognized Rag Rug Treasures

Long Rag rug: plain weave. Warp: cotton seine twine sett at 9 epi.  Weft: rags, 2 cm wide of various fibers. Warp ends covered with fabric binding. 12’ 6” long, 21” wide.

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This was a serendipitous purchases from the International Design Center, importers of mid-century Modern Scandinavian furniture, about 1998. Well-worn rag rugs were used to wrap the furniture that was shipped from Scandinavia to the US. Phyllis paid about $10 each for four Swedish rag rugs.

img_0214-1The rugs were in a big pile at the corner of the showroom where I was shopping for dining room chairs to go with our teak table. Not surprisingly, the mound caught my attention and I asked the salesman about the rugs and he explained how they came to his showroom.

Smaller Rag rug: twill threading, treadled as Overshot and plain weave. Warp: cotton sett at 8 epi. Weft: 2 cm for plain weave, pattern weft 3 cm. Warp finish, overhand knots.

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This rug was purchased from a spinning wheel importer who explained that the rugs were used to wrap the spinning wheels during shipment from Sweden. Phyllis paid about $15.

Melba Granlund’s Gifts and Flea Market Find

Dukagång Pillow Cover.  Warp: linen. Weft: linen background and wool pattern inlay.  23″ x 22″ wide. Similar dukagång motifs are depicted in Gunvor Johansson’s book, Skanska Allmogevävnader, now available in English as Heirlooms of Skåne: Weaving Techniques.

 

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Swedish Art Weave Wool Runner, combining dukagång, and krabbesnår. Warp: linen. Weft: wool. 22″ x 75″ long.

art-weave-runner

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Swedish Art Weave Runner, combining rölakan and dukagång techniques. Warp: linen. Weft: wool.  23.5″ wide x 48.5″ long.

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Runner in M.M.F. (Marta Maas Fetterstrom) Technique. Warp: linen.  Weft: linen tow yarn for structural background, wool for the inlay pattern. 23.5″ wide x 78″ long (including fringe). The technique is described in the Manual of Swedish Handweaving by Ulla Cyrus-Zetterstrom, pp. 132-4.

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Melba explained the source of her beautiful pieces:

These four pieces were gifted to me from a close friend.  She and her husband, a former pastor, had received them (along with other weavings) from a parishioner while serving a congregation in Worcester, Massachusetts.    The pieces were apparently woven by someone in the woman’s family in southern Sweden.   Because the woman had no family to which they should be given, she gifted them to the pastor and his wife.   Knowing of my love for Swedish weaving and that my mother came from Skane, Sweden, close to where these weavings were created, my friend thought I should now assume the role of caretaker of these lovely pieces. Consultation with Laurann Gilbertsen, Chief Curator at the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa, revealed that all the pieces dated back to the late 19th or early 20th century.

Black/red/blue woolen table runner.  Warp: linen.  Weft: wool. 23.5″ wide x 89″ long.

black-swedish

helsinki-detailOn the final day of the 2013 Vesterheim Textile Tour, we had a free morning in Helsinki, Finland.  Having heard of a flea market only a few short blocks from our hotel, some of us decided what better way to spend our last few hours before leaving for the airport.  Besides, I still had $50 Euros burning a hole in my pocket.  At the first booth, I struck gold at the bottom of a cardboard box, in the form of two wonderful textiles — one woolen paisley shawl and the other a long, black woolen table runner.  Another shopper told me that the piece looked like weaving from the Karelia region of Finland, which our group had just visited a few days earlier.

Upon returning home, I showed this piece to Laurann Gilbertsen, Chief Curator at the Vesterheim Mususem in Decorah, Iowa.  She confirmed that the piece was woven in the Swedish krabbasnår technique. Apparently, the clue was in the finely spun yarn and the colors used.  Although Swedish krabbasnår is the same as the Norwegian Vestfoldmett technique, much heavier, thicker yarn is used in the Norwegian pieces.  Upon further research, I located examples of similar motifs in Doris Wiklund’s book, Old Swedish Weavings from North to South (pp.232-5).  In the book, the pieces are identified as being purchased in Dalarna from an itinerant peddlar woman.

The Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum has similar pieces in its collection. The American Swedish Institute also has many pieces in this technique, probably because they were popular tourist items sold in Sweden.

See Part Two for more Scandinavian textile treasures.