Kerstin Mauritzson was happy to show her home and weaving to a visitor. Unfortunately, at the time, that visitor —me— didn’t ask several obvious questions. But recent research has serendipitously answered some of these unasked questions.
In 2017 I interviewed the designer, Kerstin Mauritzson, in her home in Malmö, in southern Sweden. At 90, she was extremely articulate and thoughtful about many aspects of her 33-year long career with the Malmö County Crafts Association (Malmö läns hemslöjdföreningen). We discussed many of the products she designed, first as a designer (1953-69) and then later as as hemslolöjdschef or Head of the organization (1969-86). Several earlier blog posts cover this material. An earlier blog post also used the photograph reprinted below:
At the time of the interview I noticed rugs in her own home— like the red one behind her in the photograph above and like the blue one in the front hall— but somehow these didn’t get a very through discussion. This blog will look at these two rugs.
Before Mauritzson came to work for Malmö, her first job was with another craft organization, this one in Kristianstad. She was at the Kristianstad County Crafts Association for only 4 years before coming to Malmo in 1953), but while she was there, she designed quite a few flat-weave rugs. Two of the rugs she designed there — using her birth name of Kerstin Bergman since she was not yet married—are those in her own home today.
I recently discovered the sketches for these rugs in the hemslöjd archives in Kristianstad, and it’s fun to see the lively designs of the young designer, just out of design school. None of Bergman’s Kristianstad sketches are dated, nor do they have sizes indicated, but they do give the names of these rugs, and we can date them between 1949-53, her years living and working there.
A note about signatures however: as is the case with many sketches I have seen of designers from this period, Bergman’s name on her Kristianstad sketches is signed in abbreviated form: “K. Bn”. She undoubtedly used this abbreviated signature there, but the initials on her sketches in this archive consistently appear to have been added later by another hand. Bergman (later Mauritzson) consistently wrote in cursive rather than printed— the names of the rugs and the appellation “röllakansmatta” on most of these sketches are in her own writing. I have compared this writing and these signatures with her written notes and signatures on her sketches in the Malmö läns hemslöjd archives. Those have an infrequent KM signature which is considerably less legible than this printed K.Bn here. The handwritten annotations on her sketches in both Kristianstad and Malmö is in the same cursive hand, however.
The red rug shown in the photograph above seems to have been made only in that color, and was called “The Grape” (“Druvan”). The photographs below capture more of this terrific design:
The front and back side of the woven sample, called a vävprov, show how densely woven these flat-weave rugs were.
In Mauritzson’s front hall is another rug, this one a bit smaller, but again lively in its pattern and color.
For several years, I thought this was designed by someone else- perhaps a friend- since it had been attributed to Kerstin Butler in a previous international auction. This was not such a surprising mistake since both women were Kerstin B, but as Kerstin Butler herself told me emphatically in an interview last month, she worked both in Kronberg and Kalmar County Craft Associations but never in Kristianstad. But a recent review of sketches in the Kristianstad archive make it clear that this rug was another design by Kerstin Bergman during the time she worked in Kristianstad.
The rug’s title was also not provided in earlier auctions but my recent archival research lets us give it a title, “Sea” or “Havet.”
This design was drawn in four colors — and despite the title, not all of them particularly nautical. A much less frequently used definition for “havet,” is “waves,” and that may be the way that Bergman was using the word, which might make more sense with the range of colors. The sketches for the various colors follow— and where there is a weaving sample, that is shown as well.
And finally, we come to the version which Mauritzson has in her front hallway, a light blue with yellow “telephone pole”-like figures. Note that in the sketch these figures seem green, but that in the weaving proof they are the same color they are in the final rug. We don’t really know if a green color might have been tried earlier, but there seems to be no weaving sample for one like that.
Comparing this detail of the rug (above) sold at Christies with the weaving proof and the image from Kerstin Mauritzson’s own home provides conclusive evidence that this rug was designed by her.
How wonderful to think that this designer has kept and enjoyed living with these two rugs that she designed some 65 years ago!
Christies Auction house, Paris
Kristianstad läns hemslöjd archives, Kristianstad
Permission granted to use photos of these drawings and woven samples, taken in the collection from Kristianstad County Craft Society (Kristianstad läns hemslöjdsförening). The photos may not be reproduced without such permission. Östra Skånes hemslöjdsförening (The Handicraft Association of Eastern Scania) shall be named as owner of the collection. The individual artifacts depicted are protected by copyright, and the names of the creators behind the photographed objects will follow the photos at publication. Particular thanks to Åsa Stentoft for arranging access to these archives.
Kerstin Bergman Mauritzson, interview, Malmö, April, 2017.
Kerstin Butler, interview, Kalmar, September, 2018.