For those of you who read a previous very short-lived post on this company, my apologies. This was a serious flame-out on my part! My basic assumption behind the post was just wrong.
At issue was the identity of the founder of the Vävaregården weaving company in southern Sweden, a man named Erik Lundberg. I had confused this man with an architect named Erik Johan Lundberg, the brother of one of Sweden’s most famous designers of hand-woven rugs and tapestries, Barbro (Lundberg) Nilsson. Both men were from Malmö, both had at least one daughter. I was perplexed as to why the architect would want to design rugs at the end of his life, but accepted that it might be so, given the traditional nature of the designs of the Vävaregården rugs and his own very strong career in church restorations. I forgot one basic fact of life in Sweden: many Swedish people have the same names.
So eventually, you will probably see some of the material I had gathered for the earlier version of this post in a future post, on the collaborations between Erik Johan Lundberg the architect, and his sister Barbro Nilsson, the magisterial rug and tapestry designer.
This brief post will look at a group of commercially-made flat-weave rugs from a company which continues today, primarily so that those of my readers who are trying to sort out which rugs are designed by “important” designers and which are from a more commercial operation, will have some clarity. When I began my study of Swedish flat-weave rugs, it was apparent that it was a largely female field, and that there were only four or five male designers. Erik Lundberg was one of these, a man name whose rugs appear frequently at auction under the name of his firm, called Vävaregården (“Weavers’ Farm”).
In any case, Erik Lundberg, a man whom I know little about, began to employ a group of local weavers in Malmö sometime in the 1960s to produce a group of hand-woven flat-weave “rölakan” rugs. In the absence of information on other designers, these rugs are largely attributed to him, although it is unclear whether he was a designer or primarily a businessman. In the late 1960s, these rugs attracted the interest of a nearby firm called Svängsta Mattor AB which was already making rya rugs. They acquired his firm, and in 1967 moved it to Eringsboda, a small town about 30 m to the north of Karlskrona. Lundberg himself seems to have continued his involvement, and the firm took over the town’s old school building for the new operation which employed at first 6 weavers, and then grew to double that. Lundberg’s daughter, Gertie, had started designing for the firm at least by the mid-1960s, and in 1988, became the firm’s artistic director. Both rugs and scenic wall-hangings were manufactured. The firm has since left the family, but many of Lundberg’s designs are still in production (which also makes determining the age of particular examples difficult).
The firm’s symbol is often called a “V” but it is really a kind of two-toned T shape with one arm of the T higher than the other, woven in colors to match each rug, so always different. It is said to have been derived from the shape of a tree seen outside a studio window. As one reader has noted, it helps to know where the maker intended their signature to be, since auctions often show rugs upside down (usually since one side has more wear on it than the other) or inverted. In this case, the firm currently shows their rugs with the maker’s mark placed in the lower right hand corner, with the lower branch facing outward. Rugs and wall hangings designed by Vävaregården also carried a distinctive leather tag, See the images below.
Generally speaking, the designs of the Lundberg line of rugs are derived from traditional patterns of southern Skåne, a few of which are shown below.
Lundberg rugs have several conventional bordered designs; other rugs employ the technique of isolating one traditional design element and blowing it up in scale, so that while the forms may be similar to those seen on older Skanian weaving, they are super-sized. The rugs called “Vemmenhög” and “Lister” shown below, particularly recall those shapes found in the typical patterns shown above, but at a much-enlarged scale. Colors for the most part are also traditional with reds, blues, whites and golds predominating. Vävaregården had a number of standard patterns which were repeated in various color variations.
There are several bordered designs, as shown below.
And several designs based on Skanian traditional forms:
There are also designs which have been attributed to other designers working for Vävargården. Those by Lisette Norlander are consistent in using Lundberg’s traditional forms for an over-scale border design. Because these were woven by Vävergården, they are often cited as Lundberg’s own designs.
There are also several rugs attributed to Lundberg’s daughter, Gertie Lundberg, shown below. I know very little about her training or her career.
One of Gertie’s rugs carries both the Väveregården mark, and also an HH for Helge Hamnert.
Although his signature is on this rug, Hamnert was not a designer but rather a retailer, marketing from his own rural house in Högsby (100-some miles northwest of Kalmar on Sweden’s east coast) what he considered the best contemporary design he could find, including Carl Malmsten and Bruno Mattson furniture, Märta Måås-Fjetterström carpets, oriental rugs; and then also commissioning other rugs and furniture to be carry his own mark. Hamnert’s operation seems to have been non-commercial in the extreme. A true enthusiast, he apparently collected the friendship of makers as much as the things themselves, and was always eager to introduce customers to his collection of objects by friends, and to befriend new customers.
The rug called Coral, (“Korall”), shown above to the right of the photograph, was made in several colors and always attributed to Erik Lundberg. Its similar feel to Gertie’s “Gaia” makes me wonder if this was also one of Gertie’s designs, rather than her father’s, but perhaps his rug was her departure point. I would be glad to hear from anyone who can confirm or disprove this.
Other rugs known to have been designed by Gertie are nature-themed abstractions, quite unlike her father’s. The one in the photo above, Blå Klippor, is shown below, and another as well.
The wide variety of Scanian traditional patterns have never really died in Sweden. Not only were they collected by Lilli Zickerman in the early 20th century in her hugely ambitious project to record and save traditional folk textile patterns, but throughout the 20th century, weaving students as well as home weavers have looked back at these designs. There are thousands of copies of Scanian tapestry images in homes throughout Sweden, and they seem to have a never-ending appeal. The rugs attributed to Erik Lundberg and his Vävaregården operation are perhaps not as refined as a hand-embroidered cushion in a Scanian design, but they appeal to the same sense of a nostalgic past when textiles were all hand-made, and allow contemporary users to continue to enjoy those traditional patterns in their own homes. For some rug buyers these patterns which celebrate Swedish textile traditions may be more appealing than those in a more modernist vein composed during the same period.
–auctionet.com for access to Auctionverket Engleholm; Crafoord Auktioners; Garpenhus Auktioner; Halmstads Auktionskammare; Helsingborg Auktionskammare and Växjö Auktionskammare
–Bruun Rasmussen Auction house, Copenhagen
–Bukowskis Auction house, Stockholm
–website of Lundamattor store