Matias – upholstery & Uhra Beata Simberg
Hand woven fabrics by the metre
Since the early 1920s hand woven upholstery fabrics and curtains have been a key product of the Friends of Finnish Handicraft. Fashionable patterns for modern fabrics by the yard were first designed by Valborg Madsen-Himanen, Margareta Ahlstedt-Willandt, Laila Karttunen and Lotta Ring, among others. Laila Karttunen was recruited as the director of the companny’s weaving workshop, and she designed several lines of hand woven fabrics for domestic use as well as ecclesiastical textiles during the 1930s. Also design competitions for upholstery fabrics were organized during those years.
Hand woven fabrics for home decoration became a very important product group and thousands of metres were produced and sold in the shop of the Friends of Finnish Handicraft each year. In the 60th anniversary exhibition in 1939, more than 40 different upholstery fabric designs were on display. Later fabrics were woven both for private homes and for public spaces. The hand woven. fabrics designed by Irma Kukkasjärvi (1993) for Mäntyniemi, the official residence of the President of Finland, is a special case. Another. textile designer, Raija Rastas designed in the 1980s a series of upholstery fabrics, which were still in production in the 1990s.
Laila Karttunen (1895-1981) was born into a priest’s family in Suonenjoki. After finishing secondary school she moved to Lappeenranta to study weaving in a craft school, although she actually was more interested in fine art. However, she got excited about the technical side of designing textiles, and when she moved to Turku to study painting in the art school she also continued her craft studies at the Central School of Applied Arts in Helsinki. Karttunen graduated as ”draughtsperson” or decorative artist in 1922. There was no special training for textile designers at that time. After graduation she worked for 8 years as art teacher and designer at the Fredrika Wetterhoff Institute in Hämeenlinna training weavers and crafts teachers. From 1931 to 1940 she was the director of weaving workshop of The Friends of Finnish Handicraft. During her career she designed a lot of different kinds of textiles and published patterns for DIY, finishing her career as the artistic director at Wetterhoff. She was a diligent, very skilled and successful designer. Some of the fabric designs that she made for The Friends of Finnish Handicraft in the 1930s are being produced again today.
Lotta Ring (1915-1965) worked as a designer for The Friends of Finnish Handicraft from 1948 to 1952. She graduated as crafts teacher in 1941, after which she worked first as a teacher for a few years and then for the Tampella textile mill in Tampere. During the Second World War, Lotta Ring participated in collecting samples of traditional textile crafts from the Finnish Karelia region in the East of Finland, which later lead her to design modern patterns with Karelian embroidery techniques. Ring studied at the Central School of Applied Arts in Helsinki and graduated as textile designer in 1949. She started working for The Friends of Finnish Handicraft already before graduating. She designed upholstery fabrics, carpets, rya rugs and double cloth weaves (Finnweaves). In 2019 The Friends of Finnish Handicraft in collaboration with the Annala Company took up the production of upholstery fabric designs which she had designed in 1949. The fabrics ”Anja”, ”Leinikkö”, ”Virna” and ”Minttu” are woven in eight different colours and they can be bought from the webshops of Annala and The Friends of Finnish Handicraft.
Green Morning (Vihreä aamu)
Uhra-Beata Simberg-Ehrström (1914-1979) is considered a key creator of the colorful and abstract Mid-century rya rug – called the colorist or toned ryijy (in Finnish valööriryijy). She designed ryijy rugs as art works – individual and unique. The daughter of the well-known painter and graphic artist Hugo Simberg studied textile design and ceramic design Central School of Applied Arts in1931-36 and painting in the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts 1935-41. Possessing an exceptional sense of color, she was often called the “poet of colors”. The compositions of her rya rugs are often simple. Her special talent was to create vivid and animate color surfaces in the woolen pile by using clever combinations of yarns of different color. To find exactly right hues was essential, and yarns were often specially dyed. To oversee the weaving process, she visited her trusted weavers every day in the weaving ateljé.
Starting in 1935, Uhra-Beata Simberg-Ehrström designed all 70 individual rya rugs for the Friends of Finnish Handicraft. A recognized artist and designer, she acted also in the Board of Directors of the company in 1948-77. She was awarded a number of prizes, from the Paris World’s Fair exhibition 1937 and the famed Milan Triennials in 1951-60 among others. Her most formidable rya rug is called Forest (Metsä). The gigantic artwork, almost 42 m2, was commissioned for the Finnish exhibition at the World’s Fair in Montreal in 1967, Expo 67. It took seven months for two weavers to finish the rya rug, and it has more than 300 different colors.
The Green Morning (in Finnish: Vihreä aamu) is a rya rug design from 1967. In the 1950s, Simberg-Ehrström renewed her way of designing rya rugs, she dropped all figurative motives and moved to more ascetic compositions. In the 1960s she mostly preferred geometrical and very simplified compositions. The most important thing for her was how different color combinations work together. Green Morning is a good example of Simberg-Ehrström’s visual ascetism. The lower part of the rya rug is dark green, and the colors float from lighter green to lilac in the top. The toning is discreet, and the different colored surfaces are connstructed of many parallel coulors. The textile gives the impression of an early morning.
Annikki Toikka-Karvonen 1971. Ryijy. Helsinki: Otava.
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Leena Svinhufvud 2009. Moderneja ryijyjä, metritavaraa ja käsityötä. Tekstiilitaide ja nykyaikaistuva taideteollisuus Suomessa maailmansotien välisenä aikana. Helsinki: Designmuseo.
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Juha-Heikki Tihinen & Sabina Westerholm (eds.) 2016. Uhra-Beata Simberg-Ehrström. Porvoo: Stiftelsen Pro Artibus.