Woven Pixelation: Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren

Well before “pixelation” was a familiar word, a Swedish rug designer named Inga-Mi Vannérus began to explore the kind of fragmentation or mutation of images that pixels today make so common. She recognized that the grid implied by warp and weft threads lent itself not only to rectangular and square shapes so frequently used, but to a kind of breaking down of those shapes as well, allowing for more irregular shapes and playful visual ambiguity.

Inga Mi Vannérus was born in 1932 to a cultured family, and was educated, she said, “with music, theater and art.” Her grandmother gave her a piano when she turned four, and she recalls that as a child, she loved to sing and dance.  After high school, her parents urged her to become a teacher of handicrafts, but she submitted a portfolio to HDK, the Academy of Design and Crafts in Gothenburg, and was accepted into the basic arts course.  She had embroidered as a child but called her discovery of a textile vocation, “pure chance.”

Music was an abiding interest, however: in her later life she sang in a choir, and she founded and for many years ran an important music festival in the town of Hultsfred, Sweden, about 60 miles south of Linköping.

During the years Vannérus attended the Gothenburg Academy of Design and Crafts, the director of the school was the well-connected and well-respected designer, Åke Huldt. Huldt was one of the commisioners for the H-55 Helsingborg Exhibition and after retiring from HDK in 1956, he went on to be involved with the magazine, Svensk Form, to be the director of Konstfack art and design school in Stockholm, and to write a number of books in English popularizing and promoting Swedish design abroad.  I don’t know who was teaching textile design when Vannérus was there, but with Huldt’s leadership, it seems safe to assume that Vannérus studied with  strong designers.

If her discovery of a textile vocation was “chance”, Vannérus’ commitment to it was not. Inga-Mi took her first job out of school in 1956 with the County Craft Association in Jönköping in central southern Sweden and  then stayed with that same organization for 21 years (although she did not work there in 1957, but went back from 1958-78).  She became Head of the Jönköping läns hemslöjd (county craft association) in 1970, retiring in 1978. As did most of the designers for these county craft associations, she designed frequently for area churches—not only rugs, but priests’ robes, cloths for the altar and baptismal font—and also made lively designs for both flat-weave and rya rugs to be sold by the association.

Vannérus’  sketches capture her confidant character. Her designs are bold, often fancifully or exotically titled: Nagasaki, Jang Tse Kiang, Titicaca, as well as Neon, Tourquoise, and Dahlia. Two titles,“Per Apera ad Astra” and “SanSoucis,” suggest that she had studied languages. Her signature, which takes about 5 different forms over the course of her first 10 years, is always exuberant, and (unlike many other designers), she seems to have signed every significant sketch or working drawing or card of wool samples. Early on, she signed her name as ”V-us” or ”Vus”.  Then I.M. Vus; then a blur of ”Ingami VannéruS” with a vigourous last S.  Then once married, Ingami Vannérus, with Rydgren usually on the line below. Her rugs themselves are invariably signed JLF/IMV even after her marriage.

Here are three sketch designs for rugs showing a variety of signatures:

  1. A. IMG_6418
    Inga-Mi Vannérus, Sketch for flatwave rug called Chord (Ackord), 185 x 225 cm, 1959, signed Vus ’59 and Jönköpping Läns Hemslöjdförening (Jönköping County Craft Association). Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.47.737.

 

B. IMG_6388
Inga-Mi Vannérus, Sketch for flat-weave rug called Lichen (Renlav), size 225 x 305 cm, signed I.M. Vus and Jönköpping Läns Hemslöjdförening (Jönköping County Craft Association). Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.46.803.

 

C. IMG_6409
Inga-Mi Vannérus, Sketch for flat-weave rug called Turquoise (Turkos) size 150 x 210 cm, signed Ingami VannéruS ‘62 and Jönköpping Läns Hemslöjdförening (Jönköping County Craft Association). Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.47.731.

 

Even though the patterns and colors of these designs have a 1960s feel, they are nevertheless well within the parameters of convention for rugs of this and earlier periods, employing borders, regular centers and balanced vertical and horizontal elements.

But there is a group of more irregular rugs, apparently designed by Inga-Mi Vannerus between about 1965 to 1968 which are of particular interest. These tend toward a certain abstraction and formal fragmentation. All flat-weaves, these rugs employ small patches of color irregularly –but brilliantly– placed to create a play of shapes emerging and superimposed on each other.  It almost doesn’t matter the order in which these were designed, because they seem to be all working at the same idea, each from a different direction.  This blog post will look at a number of these particular rugs. For some of these rugs we have both sketches and actual rugs; for others only rugs or only sketches.

In two sketches dating from 1965, Vannérus began to explore the superimposition of primary shapes on a background made of colorful checks. In the first, there are diamonds, in the second, mostly small rectangles but with the suggestion of a circle at the bottom of the sketch.

1a-IMG_6590
Inga-Mi Vannérus, Sketch for flat-weave rug called Banko, size 160 x 240 cm. Signed Ingami Vannerus and and Jönköpping Läns Hemslöjdförening (Jönköping County Craft Association). Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.46.363

Sketch is undated but accompanying color chart is for both this and the next sketch, which itself is dated 1965.

1. IMG_6416
Inga-Mi Vannérus, Sketch for flat-weave rug called Checker, size 160 x 300 cm. Signed (faintly) on upper left side with date ’65 and Jönköpping Läns Hemslöjdförening (Jönköping County Craft Association). Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.47.736.

 

From 1967, we have good documentation on Vannérus’ design of a large rug with a double circle superimposed with diamonds which are themselves gridded into smaller colored squares—very much like the sketch for Banko shown above.  This was a design Vannérus called Domino.  She signed the sketch with her married name, but the initials on the rug are still JLH and IMV. Since the actual rug and the design are of different dimensions, it appears that the rug may have been made in several different sizes. Images of the rug itself and the sketches are below:

2.Inga-Mi Vanerius Rydgren Jönköpings LH 6 ft. 0 in.Wx9 ft. 3 in.L 184 cmWx281 cmL Swedish dealer via first dibs 12-2-17
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Flat-weave rug called Domino, measuring 6’-0 ” x 9’- 3” or 184 cm x 281 cm. Signed JLH and IMV. For sale on firstdibs.com 12/2/17.
2a. IMV Jonköpings LH
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of flat-weave rug called Domino, measuring 6’-0 ” x 9’- 3” or 184 cm x 281 cm, showing JLH and IMV signatures. Blue dot near IMV signature is weaver’s mark. For sale on firstdibs.com 12/2/17.
5a.IMG_6241
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Sketch of flat-weave rug called Domino size 105 x 205 cm, signed Inga- Mi Vannérus Rydgren ’67, and Jönköpping Läns Hemslöjdförening (Jönköping County Craft Association). Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.46.889.
5b.IMG_6240
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Sketch of flat-weave rug called Domino size 105 x 205 cm, signed Inga- Mi Vannérus Rydgren ’67, and Jönköpping Läns Hemslöjdförening (Jönköping County Craft Association), with attached chart of wool colors and numbers to coordinate with later working drawing. Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.46.889.
2c. IMV center
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of flat-weave rug called Domino, measuring 6’-0 ” x 9’- 3” or 184 cm x 281 cm, showing center of rug. For sale on firstdibs.com 12/2/17.

Ingrid Hjelmvik Welander was another strong designer who worked at the Jönköping County Craft Association during this same period. It is evident that, here as at other craft associations,  designers saw each others’ designs and exchanged ideas.  One of Welander’s  drawings, undated but presumably from this period, shows her exploring similar ideas of a shape made up of small colored checks. Which direction the influence went is anyone’s guess!

3-Ingrid Welander CompareIMG_6607
Ingrid Welander, Sketch of rug called Rutprick Blå (This means something like “Dot of Blue Checks” or “Checked Blue Dot”), unsized and undated. Signed Ingrid Welander and Jönköpping Läns Hemslöjdförening. Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.46.369.

The following rug designed by Vannérus Rydgren explores a very similar idea of a circle emerging from behind the grid of colored checks, some large and some small. But the weaving itself is equally interesting, with the colors themselves composed not only of different tones but different woven stitches as well.

4. IMV 212x173 Auktionskammare 5-21-17
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Unnamed Flat-weave rug, measuring 173 cm x 212 cm. Signed JLH and IMV. Sold at Auktionskammare i Vätterbygden (Jönköping) 5/21/17.

 

Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Details of unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 173 cm x 212 cm.  showing JLH and IMV signatures. Yellow and grey dots near IMV signature are weavers’ marks. Sold at Auktionskammare i Vätterbygden (Jönköping)  5/21/17.

 

4e,IMV 5:21:17 Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 9.59.53 PM
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 173 cm x 212 cm., signed JLH and IMV, showing different weaving stitches and textures. Sold Auktionskammare i Vätterbygden (Jönköping) 5/21/17.
4e.IMV 5:21:17 75906_4 Auktionskammare
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 173 cm x 212 cm., signed JLH and IMV, showing different color striations. Sold Auktionskammare i Vätterbygden (Jönköping) 5/21/17.

In a  sketch for a rug titled ”Per Aspera Ad Astra,”  or “Through Hardship to the Stars.” (probably from 1967 or later, based on the signature) Vannérus Rydgren offers a more monochromatic design using  the traditional Swedish 8-pointed star as a figure playing off small checks. This is a much more complex design than either the Banko sketch or Domino rug and may also suggest that Vannérus Rydgren was moving both away from centralized figures, and toward a more neutral colored palette.

4f IMG_6228
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Sketch for ”Per Aspera Ad Astra,” (Through Hardship to the Stars) flat-weave rug, 200 x 230 cm, ca 1968 signed Ingami Vannerus Rydgren. Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.46.890.

The next rug presents a circle made up of multiple small colored checks,on top of a background which is not checked.  The background makes this rug seem earlier than the others we have looked at, but the sophisticated composition of the circle with its apparently random arrangement of checks argues that it is later. The rug seems to play with phenomena explored in the then-contemporary op-art movement in which the viewer’s eye completes and makes rational a kind of pulsating image.  The colors of both the background and the figure itself offer however a pale contrast to op-art colors and to the punchy colors used in the rugs shown above. But again Vannérus Rydgren uses varigated stitches to produce different colors or textures. The play of the small orange checks against the paler greens, blues and lilac colors that make up the circle is terrific.

5.IMV JLH IMV, 1900-tal, 197 x 145 cm. Buk 11-5-2017
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 145 cm x 197 cm. Signed JLH and IMV. Blue dot near IMV signature is weaver’s mark. Sold at Bukowskis 11/5/17.
5a.Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 6.00.08 PM
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 145 cm x 197 cm. Signed JLH and IMV. Sold at Bukowskis 11/5/17.
5b Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 8.44.21 PM
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 145 cm x 197 cm. Signed JLH and IMV. Sold at Bukowskis 11/5/17.

 

The next rug dates to 1968, attested to by a sketch for the design.  Like the last rug, it is somewhat somber in tone, but enlivened by wonderfully subtle flashes of color.  Finding the sketch for this rug offered  a useful correction to my own preconceptions.  I had thought that this was designed for a church and that these were crosses, but in fact, the rug is called“Flower Rug” (Blomstermattan), with no mention of a church!  Once again, this may have been made in several sizes, since those of the rug and sketch we have differ in their dimensions, as well as in several colors.

6.IMV Stockholms Auk #219 140 x 2 + 7 (obviously an error)
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Flower Rug (Blomstermattan) flat-weave rug, measuring 140 cm x 2_7 (error in the original auction listing makes this unclear), 1968. Signed JLH and IMV. Sold at Stockholm’s Auktionsverket sale 11/25/11, item #219.

The signatures on this rug seem as randomly placed as the scattered flowers, with both signatures set well in from the lower corners, and the two blue dots identifying the weavers, placed along the lower left edge.

 

Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Flower Rug (Blomstermattan) flat-weave rug, measuring 140 cm x 2_7 (error in the original auction listing makes this unclear), 1968.  Details show JLH and IMV signatures, and blue weavers’ marks on edge of rug. Sold at Stockholm’s Auktionsverket sale 11/25/11, item #219.

The original sketch for this rug showed a different relationship between the flowers and the background; a different color palette; and a different size.

6c.IMG_6589
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Close-up photo of sketch for Flower Rug (Blomstermattan) flat-weave rug, 200 x 220 cm, 1968 signed Ingami Vannerus Rydgren ’68. Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.46.352.

 

6d.IMG_6588
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Sketch for Flower Rug (Blomstermattan) flat-weave rug, 200 x 220 cm, 1968 signed Ingami Vannerus Rydgren ’68. Wool swatches for this colorway attached. Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.46.352.
6e.IMG_6587
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Sketch for detail of Flower Rug (Blomstermattan) flat-weave rug, 200 x 220 cm, 1968, signed Ingami Vannerus Rydgren Nov. ’68. Wool swatches attached and even original colors of this discolored sketch may be close to those in the rug shown above. Jönkoping Museum identification number: JM.46.353.

This rug reminds me of something Inga-Mi wrote in an essay about a trip she took to the Faroe islands in 1963. She had been awarded a study stipend for travel, and she observed the scarcity of material culture of the islands due to the very real scarcity of materials of all kinds. And yet costume traditions persisted, and music and dance persisted. Inga-Mi had the unusual good fortune to see a dance of medieval traditions performed to the chanting or singing of a male leader. Describing this dance, she later wrote (my translation), ”All the time, the ring of dancers changes shape as more dancers join in. In the end, the whole room is full of dancing. … To watch everything above as a spectator, is fascinating. It’s a labyrinth of people, slowly moving in a swaying rhythm.”

For me, the flowers on Inga-Mi’s rug–figures both large and small– seem to  dance in a similar way, rather randomly circling the center and falling into unpredictable combinations.

6g Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 1.04.43 PM
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of Flower Rug (Blomstermattan) flat-weave rug, measuring 140 cm x 2_7 (error in the original auction listing makes this unclear), 1968. Sold at Stockholm’s Auktionsverket sale 11/25/11, item #219..
6h. Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 1.05.53 PM
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of Flower Rug (Blomstermattan) flat-weave rug, measuring 140 cm x 2_7 (error in the original auction listing makes this unclear), 1968. Sold at Stockholm’s Auktionsverket sale 11/25/11, item #219.

The rug below may well be Vannérus-Rydgren’s masterpiece. For all its startling oddness, it is a carefully composed compostion of squares and rectangles of varied colors and shapes, with an air of randomness which would have probably been disturbing in the 1940s, but which was likely to have been viewed as liberated in the 1960s. Today its cheerful pixelation makes it still seem entirely contemporary.  Even so it is rather extraordinary. If this was the page of a coloring book, it would seem to have fallen prey to a delirious hand. Someone with a Klee-like sensibility definitely blurred the lines which defined the borders  and center elements of a  traditional rug pattern.  Having looked at her designs exploring the fragmentation of forms in a number of her woven compositions, we  can now appreciate Inga-Min Vannérus Rydgren as the confidant rule-breaker this rug shows her to be.

  1. 8.JlH IMV 9 ft. 6 in.Wx12 ft. 6 in.L 290 cmWx381 cmL sold on first dibs by FJ Hakimian given 1960 date
    Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 9’-6” x 12’- 6” or 290 cm x 381 cm. Signed JLH and IMV. For sale by FJ Hakimian, NYC as of 9/9/18.

 

Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Details of unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 9’-6” x 12’- 6” or 290 cm x 381 cm. showing JLH and IMV signatures. Coral and green dots near IMV signature are weavers’ marks. For sale by FJ Hakimian, NYC as of  9/9/18.

8c.IMV_4_l
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 9’-6” x 12’- 6” or 290 cm x 381 cm. Signed JLH and IMV. For sale by FJ Hakimian, NYC as of 9/9/18.
8d.Screen Shot 2018-09-08 at 11.44.41 PM
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 9’-6” x 12’- 6” or 290 cm x 381 cm. Signed JLH and IMV. For sale by FJ Hakimian, NYC as of 9/9/18. Again note use of various textures as well as colors.
8e. Screen Shot 2018-09-08 at 11.45.07 PM
Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, Detail of unnamed flat-weave rug, measuring 9’-6” x 12’- 6” or 290 cm x 381 cm. Signed JLH and IMV. For sale by FJ Hakimian, NYC as of 9/9/18.

 

Sources

Auktionskammare I Vätterbygden (Jönköping)

http://www.barometern.se/nyheter/foreningsliv-nagot-sjalvklart/

Bukowskis Auction House, Stockholm

Claesson, Anna Maria, Frostroser och Tulpaner, Jönköpings läns hemslöjdsförenings samling 1909-1986, published Fälth & Hässler, Värnamo, 2003.

https://www.familjesidan.se/system/funeral_notices/pdfs/000/774/002/original/1559730-1.pdf?1487998276

Firstdibs.com

FJ Hakimian, New York

Jönköpings Museum. Permission granted to use photos taken of the Jönköpings County Craft Association collection (Jönköpings läns hemslöjdsförening). The moral rights must be respected and the names of the creators behind the photographed objects will follow the photos at publications. Jönköpings läns museum shall be named as the owner of the collection. Particular thanks to Maria Ridderberg at the Jonköpings Museum.

—https://samfundet-sverige-faroarna.se/artiklar/528-resa-till-faroarna-1963-koncept-till-hemslojden

Stockholms Auktionsverket, Stockholm

 

Please reference as follows:

Whidden, Anne, “Woven Pixelation: Inga-Mi Vannérus-Rydgren,”  theswedishrugblog (9/10/18); theswedishrugblog.wordpress.com; accessed (day/month/year)

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