Swedish Craft Societies

We have looked at the rugs woven at the atelier of Märta Måås-Fjetterström which either have the MMF initials (indicating that the rug was woven before 1941) or the AB MMF initials (from 1942- on). These initials are woven into the rug border, almost always in the lower left hand corner. Before Märta Måås-Fjetterström established her studio, there were other small  ateliers where rugs were woven, and many of these also carry initials representing that weaving studio. TPB was the mark of another earlier studio: this stood for Textilatelier Polly Bjorkman. And JBV was another early 20th c mark, associated with the vävskola or weaving school of Johanna Brunsson. Similarly at mid-century, there were other independent weaving studios such as Judith Johansson’s in Knäred, just inland from Halmstad on Sweden’s west coast. Her rugs are signed with her characteristic JJ in the lower left corner.

But one of the first things one notices when looking at many mid-century Swedish rugs is that they have a similar grouping of initials. These are usually located in the lower left hand corner, with the initials of the weaver located in the lower right hand corner. Sometimes this is reversed. But in general, there are initials like MLH, SLH and JLH,. These mean ____ läns hemslöjd. In Swedish, läns means county, and hemslöjd means craft society, so these initials indicate the provincial craft society where the rug was woven. Sorting out the names of the hemslöjd where there was active weaving (certain societies were more involved in woodworking and metal work, or very active in embroidery, but less in production of rugs, for example) and discovering which designers designed rugs for those craft societies takes some time, but it is a useful step in understanding the background of these rugs.

So— to take the examples given above, some of the most commonly seen. MLH means Malmöhus läns hemslöjd, with Malmö being a city in the southern most province. SLH means Svensk läns hemslöjd, which was located in Stockholm. JLH means Jönköping läns hemslöjd, with Jönköping being an old city in southern Sweden, located on an old trading route. SKLH means Södra Kalmar läns hemslöjd, the South Kalmar organization. There are probably 10 or 12 such groups of initials from those craft societies with an active rug-production program during the period 1935- 1965, and some, even later.

See the typical initials on the rug below. These are the SKLH for Södra Kalmar läns hemslöjd. This particular rug is atypical in that it has a date in the lower right of 1939, but no designer’s initials.

Anonymous rölakan, initials represent craft society where rug was woven Södra Kalmar läns hemslöjd. Date in opposite corner, 1939. Sold at Wright auction 6/13/14, item no. 539

There is one set of initials which creates attribution problems, however. This is the KLH combination. The problem is that there were several craft societies with active weaving programs which used the same KLH initials. These were Kristianstads läns hemslöjd, located on the east coast of the southern province, and Kronobergs läns hemslöjd in Växjo, still south but in the center of Kronobergs county. Another organization, the Klockaregarden hemslöjd, seems simply to have been KH.

So to conclude: for many rugs there are both __LH letters and then some initials representing a designer. Usually we we can recognize the organization by these letters, but sometimes we still don’t recognize the initials or know the name of the weaver.

It should also be noted that the vast majority of these mid-century rugs which one sees on the market and at auctions are either unsigned or signed with an unknown weaver’s initials. Many many people, almost all women, wove rugs at home and signed them with their initials, in many cases following patterns. But for recognizing those rugs woven under the direction of the local craft society, these groupings of initials are a useful tool.
The important Swedish word to remember is “hemslöjd!”


Wright Auction house, 6/13/14 auction catalog

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