The Big Three in AB MMF

After Märta Måås Fjetterström died at Easter in 1941, her studio in Bastad, was reestablished in January of the next year—with the help of a number of important and powerful friends—as a commercial entity, and one still active today. Barbro Nilsson (1899-1983), who had been head of the textile department at Konstfack, the nation’s leading design school in Stockholm, was hired to be the first artistic director of the new company, AB MMF. Nilsson very quickly recruited several talented former students, one of them, Marianne Richter (1916-2010), and a year later, Ann-Mari Lindbom (1916-1992). In time both of these women also became managing directors. All three were trained as both weavers and designers. Together they were an extraordinary triumvirate. For nearly 30 years, they took the MMF studio in brilliant new directions, building on the MMF design legacy and using the talented in-house weavers. Today their work is being more and more widely appreciated and is commanding huge figures at auctions and carpet showrooms.

The change in leadership at MMF also meant some changes in way the Bastad studio functioned. Although Märta herself had lived “over the shop,” she spent long private hours in her upstairs studio drawing and working out the entire design of each rug and the colors needed from her sketches. According to a former weaver, while she left the weavers to their work during the day, she would come down and inspect the progress in the evening. None of the three new designers lived at the Bastad studio, but designed at home and came and went both from Bastad, and from the MMF exhibition and office space at Myntgatan 5 in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (older part of the city) for meetings and consultations with weavers, and clients.

The three women had individual styles and skills. Barbara Nilsson had started weaving at a very young age and by the time she took over at MMF, was highly experienced. She spoke of finding great inspiration in nature, particularly the ocean shore near Lerberget, about 40 miles south of Bastad, where she lived with her husband and family. Her works are a combination of abstraction and repetitive patterning. Although she wove large picture tapestries to the designs of others, she herself never designed with figures. She often worked in murky color combinations, very much like colors found in nature in shade or twilight—or like the tones of seaweed or mosses Characteristically, Nilsson’s work has the Initials BN in lower right, and AB MMF in the lower left. The photo below, though one of the first things she wove at MMF, is typical of her tapestry work:

Cropped Knappatång1 Phillips 6-14 copy
Barbro Nilsson, Knappatång, green and red version of Kärnfrukt, gobelin drapery, 1942. This example, 93 1/4″ x 63 1/2 in”. (236.9 x 161.3 cm)sold by Phillips, NY 6/11/14. photograph by author.

Both Richter and Lindbom learned to be colorists from Nilsson. Many of their designs also had a sense of whimsy or a kind of folk-art charm counterbalanced by their inherant modernism. Richter’s primary characteristic was her playful and fearless use of colors. She designed both rolakan and flossa, as well as several series of gobelin tapestries. She lived in Stockholm and taught at Konstfack, as well as designing for MMF, and later for other weaving mills. In 1951, Richter was also commissioned to design and oversee production on an enormous piece of weaving, that of a curtain for the UN Economic Council Chamber in New York. I will look at that weaving in another blog post. Richter’s rugs for MMF were signed MR in the lower right hand corner, and AB MMF in the lower left. The rug that follows is typical of her work for MMF:

MR Hakimian03401 pile 6'7x4'5
Marianne Richter, Gula Trädet (The Yellow Tree) flossa, or knotted pile rug, designed 1945. This example is 4’ 5” x 6’ 7” and is for sale at HJ Hakimian, New York, item #03401. Image used by permission.

Ann-Mari Lindbom had a very strong graphic sense, and both her rugs and some of her tapestry weaves are a satisfying balance of color and repeated shapes. Yet she also had another side—like Märta Måås Fjetterström, she was a story teller. Several of her best known works are gobelin tapestries which reflect her own childhood and evoke memories of the Swedish summers. I will also look more at these tapestries in a future post. Lindbom signed her work AML in the lower right corner, and after marrying, when she became Ann-Mari Forsberg, used AMF, and in both cases AB MMF was in the lower left corner. The rug that follows is characteristic:


AmF  Nazmiyal 45508
Barbro Nilsson, Knappatång, green and red version of Kärnfrukt, gobelin drapery, 1942. This example, 93 1/4″ x 63 1/2 in”. (236.9 x 161.3 cm)sold by Phillips, NY 6/11/14. photograph by author.


Märta Måås- Fjetterström och hennes efterträdare. Barbro Nilsson – Marianne Richter – Ann-Mari Forsberg, Båstad/Stockholm 1951.

Moller, Viggo Sten, En Bok om Barbro Nilsson, Bokförlaget Trevi, 1977.

Phillips Auction House, New York, Design Auction, 6/11/14, Barbro Nilsson Knappatång tapestry, item #45.

Selkurt, Claire, “Harts and Flowers – Sweden’s Märta Måås-Fjetterström’s designs inspired a textile renaissance” in The Weaver’s Journal, vol IX, no.4, issue 36, Spring 1985, pp. 30-39. p257

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