Years after a truly great aesthetic becomes an institution, it sometimes becomes far too easy to forget the people behind the patterns.
That’s the soul of hand woven rugs, after all — a ‘personality’ in the intricacies of any piece that communicates beauty on a level so simple, yet so sublime. In this way, to understand that the Scandinavian design movement was as much a renaissance of personalities as it was of design is, perhaps, to understand it on the finest level. The bold futurists of counterculture and craft alike — especially women — weaving these aesthetics so ahead of their time set the tone for a revolution inherent to both the 1920s and the mid-century modern renaissance in rugs alike; one forever changing the idea of beauty and functionality in architecture, design, home furnishings and so far beyond.
One could spend a lifetime learning all the names, utmost and unsung, and still only scratch the surface. As futile of an effort as might be to capture, let alone do justice, to the lives of these legends, today we hope to shed a light on a few of our most inspiring master weavers of Sweden whose works have particularly influenced our own collection:
A futurist ahead of her time, the profound impact of Märta Måås-Fjetterström is felt so fiercely long after her time that the name ‘Märta Måås’ is synonymous with the Scandinavian aesthetic well beyond the courts of connoisseurs.
Born in Sweden in 1873, Måås-Fjeterström’s famed workshop in Båstad was the womb of a woven revolution since 1919. From that incubator some of the most prolific names and profound rugs and textiles in history rose to prominence. Her experimentations with color, abstraction of folk-art into geometric form, and finely woven masterpieces drew the attention of an international audience — particularly the avant garde of France not but a few years leading up to the historic International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts.
To be inspired by her works, as we have, is natural, but to know that without Måås-Fjeterström’s ‘Swedish Deco’ that there would truly be no Art Deco movement is imperative to know her impact on a grateful craft.
If we can be so bold to say the world owes the lion’s share of its beginnings to icons like Måås-Fjeterström, we might as well be blunt to say we owe the survival of the Scandinavian aesthetic to her contemporary — the genius Barbro Lundberg-Nilsson, who would inherit the Båstad workshop and take over for the next 40 pivotal years.
The daughter of recognized designer and architect Erik Lundberg, Nilsson began her education at the acclaimed Brunssons vävskola and Tekniska school in Stockholm (today known as Konstfack).
No small part of what set Nilsson apart from other Scandinavian textile artists of the 20th century was that she was also a master of various weaving styles and techniques; a perpetual student of her craft and a kindred spirit to Märta Måås as her lead designer, with the two often sharing a notable signature among their coveted classics in rug auctions today.
Behind every great weaver is team — or in the case of Måås-Fjetterström and Lundberg-Nilsson, a legion of devoted students with a new standard of excellence to meet.
As Nilsson’s former student, Marianne Richter would eventually join the Båstad workshop and contribute some of its finest works. Cheerful colors, dramatic movement, less-traditional symmetry — some of the many calling cards of a Richter rug in their countless coveted traits today.
Among countless accolades, Richter earned a name for herself in an especially daring project — a ‘tapestry’ gifted to the United Nations on behalf of Sweden in 1952. At a stunning 22’11” wide and 72’2” long, the curtain was once the largest of its kind in the woven world. Just as importantly, it was one of the most vital commissions in Richter’s mid-century tenure at the MMF workshop.
A literal noble among figurative Scandinavian royalty, Swedish Prince Sigvard Oscar Fredrik was later known as Sigvard Bernadotte having forfeited his title when he married his first wife. Born in 1907, Bernadotte’s most prolific works for the legendary George Jensen especially exemplified the fervor of ‘functionalism’ inherent to Scandinavian style.
Spanning everything in decor from luxe tableware to fine textiles, Bernadotte was the epitome of a Renaissance Man in his time, both for his patronage of the arts and his progressive contributions in the ‘form follows function’ attitude of mid-century designs. While not the only man among the many women in this era, Bernadotte was arguably an embodiment of the Swedish Modernist attitude.
Bernadotte’s rugs and flat weaves, too, embodied the clean, livable presence of Scandinavian minimalism that would endure long after his death in 2002. While all antique and vintage Scandinavian rugs and Kilims are particularly rare to find, Bernadotte’s favor of the mesmeric, yet never-monotonous pattern continues to stand out in his seldom-curated works.