Märta Måås-Fjettterström had a contemporary, whom she did not meet until the middle of her life, but with whom she shared the traits of imagination and persistence. Without him, her career might have been quite different. This man was Ludvig Nobel.
Nobel was an engineer, nephew of the famous Alfred Nobel, who founded a lucrative business on the production of dynamite, but went on to endow the Nobel Peace Prize. Ludvig was named after another uncle who had made an enormous fortune developing the Russian oil fields in Azerbaijan, but who was also a humanitarian, establishing profit sharing and decent working conditions for his workers. When the younger Ludvig inherited a great deal of money, he wanted to find something to do that would both use his engineering training and let him do good. Ludvig visited Bastad, on Sweden’s southwest coast, in 1905 and saw its great potential. He purchased nearly 225 acres to the west of the existing village, and by 1906 had begun to develop the sleepy little town into something quite different. He extended the town’s street grid; ran water and sewage lines, installed electric lighting, and began to build summer houses. But he did it well, providing red tile roofs for his houses as well as for the local 15th century church, and encouraging flagpoles at the houses in his new community. He also formed a local historical society.
Nobel built the first tennis court in 1907, and then more and more courts. By 1925, Bastad was designated as the site for the Swedish Open, held every summer. Nobel enticed King Gustav to come and compete annually at this tournament on the Center Court. The king came for 15 years, from 1930-44, playing for the last time when he was 84. But even within the first ten years, Bastad was attracting well-to-do Swedes. It was becoming a place be seen, to shop, and to relax in the summer sea air.
Thus by 1916 Nobel was ready to embark on another project – the construction of a resort hotel for Bastad. Nobel took his inspiration from local vernacular farm buildings built of brick and low to the ground, and he wanted to avoid the wooden balconies and verandas commonly found on Victorian seaside architecture. He hired architect Karl Güettler with the intention of building a hotel luxurious in its amenities –toilets and electricity in most of the bedrooms—but one which fit in well with the rest of the town. The hotel was called Skånegården. Güettler designed much of the furniture, but by 1918, with the hotel nearing completion, rugs, draperies and other wall hangings were needed.
Nobel thought he knew the right person for the job.
At the 1914 Baltic Exhibition held in the southern city of Malmö, Ludvig Nobel had seen Märta Måås-Fjettterström’s Hjorthagen pile rug and bought it for the hotel he was intent on building. And in the next few years, Ludvig persuaded Märta to produce some hundred rugs and textiles for Skånegården. This was the encouragement Märta needed to get her own atelier off the ground. In 1919 she bought a house in Bastad close to the shore, which she called Strandgården. The weaving studio occupied the first floor, and Märta’s own apartment and office were on the second floor. From Vittsjö, a small town about 25 miles east of Bastad, where she had been working, Märta bought 5 weavers with her, and slowly hired other local weavers as she needed them. As Ludvig had anticipated, the affluent Swedes who were attracted to the resort activities and the community he had created in Bastad were exactly the kind of clientele whom MMF needed. Her hand-woven rugs, beautifully designed, but costly to make, became well-known luxury items. Märta found fashionable buyers- buyers who often had useful links to important institutions and commercial enterprises which also began to commission carpets.
Skånegården ceased to be a hotel in 1968, and was turned into a small apartment complex. Here are two rugs associated with the hotel and the town itself:
Below is a curious small pile rug, a ”flossa” with rölakan ends. It has a woven inscription across the top: “Av L. Nobel Bastad”, and across the bottom, “För Aren 1932-35” which seem more like commemorative gift inscriptions than the usual MMF signature. It is unclear whom this was woven for, but clearly has a connection with Nobel himself, and may commemorate time someone named Aren spent there during these years.
Somewhere there should be records of the rugs and other textiles Märta’s atelier produced for Skånegarden, the hotel of which Ludvig Nobel was so proud. If I discover others, I will put them in another blog post. There certainly were quite a few more!
Liljevalchs konsthalls katalog: Märta Måås-Fjetterström, Märta flyger igen, 90 år med Märta Måås-Fjetterström, Värnamo 2009, färgplansch sid 93.
Skånegården luggage tag (title image) purchased on ebay
photograph of Skånegården:from wiki commons (originally a postcard)
Trenner, Richard, “A Seaside Town’s Country Airs,” New York Times, June 25, 1989