By Robbie LaFleur
Several of Lila Nelson’s pieces in danskbrogd technique are included in the retrospective of her work currently hanging in the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. Next to this piece, hanging prominently at the beginning of the show, Curator Laurann Gilbertson wrote,
Lila felt a special connection to danskbrogd because she and Marion “discovered” the technique in a coverlet for sale in a Norwegian antique store. The Nelsons eventually received permission from the Norwegian government in 1989 to purchase the coverlet for Vesterheim’s collection. The coverlet inspired numerous weavings by Lila and other American weavers in several different loom threadings.
Danskbrogd, which can be translated as “Danish weave,” is known in Norway in just one area, southwest Agder County. Old danskbrogd coverlets had a stippled look and a combination of rows of large motifs and narrow pattern bands. The weaver picked up the designs while weaving.
This piece was also featured in the September/October, 1996, issue of Handwoven magazine.
For Lila, a traditional weaving technique was a language. She could speak the language plainly and eloquently. But then it became poetry, as she used the technique expressively and creatively. These pieces show her moving on, making the technique her own.
Piet Mondrian would approve of this piece, completed in 1997 or 1998 as part of a study of danskbrogd and variations for Scandinavian Study Group of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. (Vesterheim collection number 2011.032.047)
Lila wove two pieces using danskbrogd to depict northern lights. (Vesterheim collection number 2007.404.009)
Which came first — the chicken or the egg? (Vesterheim collection mumber 2011.032.046)
“Neighborhood” dates from 1996-1998. From the Vesterheim description: “For many years, Lila and Marion Nelson lived in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood in Minneapolis. Neighbors included downtown Minneapolis (top row), I-35W and the Mississippi River (second row), blocks of Craftsman-style apartments (third row), and the University of Minnesota (fourth row). One of several works created as part of the Danskbrogd Study Group, Lila used danskbrogd on two harnesses here. She worked some wefts separately with a needle to give a raised effect.”
(Vesterheim collection number 2007.404.003)
If you look carefully at the Mississippi River portion, you can see that the white water flecks are almost, but not quite, the typical diamond designs found in traditional danskbrogd coverlets. It’s almost like an inside joke for weavers.