Karin Maahs has treasures she has known her whole life, and a recent find.
Tapestry cartoon. Hans Georg Berg. Watercolor, 1929. 22″ x 23″ wide.
Hans Berg, born in 1895 in Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway, studied painting under Christian Krohg at the National Art Academy in Oslo. After marrying Inga, he studied in several academies in Paris, Germany, Italy, France, and throughout Europe. He practised in several media: oil painting, fresco, watercolor, drawing, jewelry making, metalwork, and ceramics. At one point Hans worked as a silversmith for David Andersen, a famous jeweler in Norway. In 1950, following WWII, Hans, Inga, and their youngest daughter Ellen emigrated to America and settled in the Minneapolis area. Hans became one of the premier rosemaling artists in Minnesota, and taught painting and rosemaling at Augsburg College.
Tapestry. Inga Berg. warp: linen. weft: handspun and dyed wool. Woven in the early 1930s. 22″ x 23″ wide (excluding fringe)
Inga Berg, born in 1897 in Lier, Norway, married artist Hans Berg in 1921. They studied art on a months-long honeymoon throughout Europe. In 1929 Inga studied weaving theory at Sister Bengston’s weaving school in Oslo, Norway. She was prolific in spinning, dyeing, knitting, weaving and sewing. Often Hans would create a pattern for his adoring wife to weave.
Karin has many memories of the artistic activities of her grandparents.
As a child growing up in the 60s and 70s, living next door to my grandparents, I spent countless hours watching, listening, and learning about all kinds of art. Many afternoons were spent quietly watching grandma weaving by a big picture window in the warm winter sunlight. I was also mesmerized by watching grandpa paint. With grandma, I often sat on the floor waiting for instruction as to when to push the peddles for the spinning wheel or the very old Singer sewing machine.
Inga made many pillowcases, table runners, and wall coverings large and small to warm and decorate the house. Every flat area in their home was covered with paintings or weavings. It was a true museum filled with inspiration to fill the artistic imagination.
I recall that this particular weaving portrays a Norwegian folk tale, possibly Hans Christian Andersen’s “Folksangens fugl.” Hans Berg designed and painted it in 1929 and Inga wove it shortly after that, using her own handspun and dyed wool.
Monksbelt Coverlet. Warp: linen. Weft: linen background and wool pattern weft.
It is not certain that this coverlet is from Scandinavia, but if we were told it was from Sweden or Norway, it would seem quite plausible. Karin found the textile on a recent trip to the East Coast.
I purchased it from Lifeline Thrift in Portsmouth, Virginia. I was told it was acquired from a very old farmstead in Suffolk, Virginia, just up the river from Jamestown. It appears to have handspun linen warp and handspun and dyed wool weft. It is delightful to dream about who may have woven this, more than a century ago, and who may have used it. This is a treasure from colonial times with a Scandinavian flair.
Judith Payne, who is familiar with historical textiles, estimated that the coverlet is 18th century, mid to late. It is woven in a Monks Belt structure called checkerboard. The dye is cochineal, madder or bloodroot.
The coverlet has been cleaned by placing a screen over it and gently vacuuming using an attachment tool.
Judy Larson received her treasure decades ago.
Tapestry of Rattvik, Sweden. By Kerstin Ackerman. Warp: cotton. Weft: fabric strips. 15″ x 12″ wide.
Judy described how she came to own this tapestry.
My grandfather’s cousin’s wife was one of the first Swedish relatives I met in 1976. She was a weaver, who had the studio on the first floor and lived on the second floor of the family homestead in Vikarbyn, Sweden. She showed me her Glimakra loom, with the photograph of the village on Lake Siljan all gridded out. Then she explained that she would go line by line, adding in the colors as needed, and counting the spaces to determine the length. As a college student, I was amazed and intrigued, but never thought I’d ever have a chance to explore the wonders of weaving.
Now, when I go to see Kerstin, which I still do every other year, she has stopped weaving and taken up photography, so we discuss my weavings. She still has a special stash of her weavings that she gives as special presents, like the Rattvik rug that she gave my daughter for a wedding gift. Kerstin’s looms are now part of a village weaving cooperative, but she still has a houseful of beautiful weavings on her floors and walls. Her rugs still inspire me, and I treasure the weavings that I have from her.
Jane Connett knows Norwegian tapestry when she sees it.
Tapestry. Warp: linen. Weft: wool. 20.5″ x 30″ wide.
Jane Connett acquired a beautiful Norwegian tapestry during a time she was feeling a bit laid up a few months ago. “I spent a lot of time on Ebay,” she explained. Although the tapestry was advertised as an “Albanian kelim,” fans of Norwegian tapestry know perfectly well that it is a replica of a portion of a Norwegian Wise and Foolish Virgins tapestry. It was slightly faded on one side, but the colors were clear and strong on the other. The technical quality of the weaving is outstanding. Since the weaving followed Norwegian tradition, all the ends were sewn in so that either side is equally beautiful.
Sylvia Mohn was active on Ebay.
Kastehlmi (Dewdrop). Warp and weft: linen. Woven label: Kasityoliike Sylvi Salonen, Handmade in Finland. Design: Ritta Suomi. 41.5″ x 21.5″ wide (with frame).
I bought this perhaps 10 or 15 years ago on eBay. At the time I was looking for woven wall hangings using peach/rust/brick colors. This weaving was a similar in construction to a transparent weaving I’d gotten earlier, with the weaving lashed onto a frame. What I liked about the design were the curved lines, the lightness and openness, and the asymmetry. I thought this might be from the 1970’s with the orange and brown colors, reflecting the midcentury popularity of imported Scandinavian textiles and graphics.
Puluset. (Doves). Warp and weft: linen. Woven label: Sylvi Salonen*. Design: Tuula Jarvinen. 21.5′ x 21.5″ (with frame).
I bought this weaving at a local thrift store, perhaps 15 years ago. I liked the way the birds were abstracted into a graphic design, with their rounded lines juxtaposed against a linear background, even though the colors seemed a bit dull.
*Anita Jain, a Finnish-American textile artist, added information about the pieces, including the English words for the titles of the transparencies. Sylvi Salonen is the name of a handcraft store in Turku. It was started by Sylvi Salonen in 1927, was later run by her daughter, Riitta Suomi, and is now operated by Riitta’s daughter, Sanna Suomi.
See more treasures in Part One of this article.