It is interesting to see the same design woven in different ways. Ingrid Dessau had a strong association with the Kristianstad County Crafts Association in southeastern Sweden. She worked for this organization from 1945-49, first as a young employee and then promoted to the position of designer of hand-woven materials in her last two years. Then, after she had returned from living in the United States for several years, Dessau’s designs for hand-woven textiles were produced by Kristianstad weavers in preparation for her 1953 Stockholm debut exhibition.
The Kristianstad County Crafts Association ran its own weaving studio with full-time weavers in the small town of Önnestad, about five miles away. This operation produced most of the Craft Association’s special orders, large rugs and technically-demanding work. Occasionally after 1953 until at least 1965, Dessau partnered occasionally with the Kristianstad County Crafts Association to produce hand-woven textiles. In 1965 the studio in Önnestad wove a tapestry for Ingrid’s sister, and Dessau herself took part in the weaving of it.
Dessau produced at least one design which was woven in two ways— both as a flat weave, rölakan rug, and as a wall-hanging or tapestry. The two were very similar sizes. Only the rug is signed KLH by Kristianstad Läns Hemslöjd (but usually written with only the first name capitalized, so Kristianstad läns hemslöjd), and ID for Dessau, but the two designs are obviously from the same hand, and the same weaving team. Given the sophistication of their design, it is likely that these were made after Dessau’s 1953 Stockholm debut exhibition.
Ingrid Dessau, Flat weave rug (rölakan), 245 x 155 cm (96.4” x 61”), ca 1953-1960s showing KLH and ID, signatures.
In the flat weave rug, the warp threads determine the long direction of the rug and the pattern reads as a series of horizontal layers from either end. The pattern of this rug also reads easily from the side as well, if one sees it in a room.
In contrast, for the tapestry, the pattern is woven on the warp threads the same way it is on the rölakan, but in order to prevent sag, the tapestry is then hung up so that the pattern runs in the opposite direction. The shapes now read as notched vertical rectangles. Thus while both pieces have bands of a little turreted form at top and bottom, the pattern ends up reading quite differently in the two pieces.
The colors in the two pieces are also different. The flat weave rug is crisp and cool in its blues, white, grey, dark brown and a kind of inky blue-black, enlivened with its yellow edges and fine yellow lines; the tapestry is warmer and seems visually denser with shades of green, yellow, blue, brown and even accents of pink. Even with in each of the colored areas, there is a range of color: browns are brown-purples; greens are green-yellow-tourquoise; blues are comprised of lighter and darker hues. This subtle variation in color was one of Dessau’s strengths, and was in fact true of all of the great weaving colorists of this period.
The flat-weave rug is also a thicker weave (designed for the floor) while the tapestry, on a linen warp, is quite fine.
Seeing the two of these pieces together reminds us that the best of the mid-century designs were quite versatile, and could produce quite different effects when woven in different weaves or different colors. Especially by such talented weavers.
Gustafsson-Seife, Inger. Ingrid Dessau Textildesigner, Textilmuseet i Borås, 2008.
FJ Hakimian, New York City; http://www.fjhakimian.com
Firstdibs online antique website
JM Modern, Sweden; http://www.jmmodern.com.