The previous post looked at the remarkable creative synergy in the partnership of two Swedish textile artists, Raine Navin and Gunilla Skyttla, and at the variety and inventiveness of some of their knitting and embroidery projects. This post will look at a number of rugs Raine designed for the South Kalmar and Kalmar County Crafts Associations. (This organization was the South Kalmar County Crafts Association, or SKLH until 1973 when it merged with the North Kalmar Crafts Association to become the Kalmar County Crafts Association, KLH, which it remains today). Raine’s designs for woven textiles were primarily rya rugs, and few flat-weave röllakan, with a number of small woven pieces as well.
In Raine’s rugs, there is the same sense of play and the same graphic rigor as we saw in his embroidery designs. Discussing his designs for ryor (the plural for rya), Raine acknowledged that he wanted “strong” designs. Both his rölakan and rya designs are bold, inventive and abstract. Several, including the flat-weave rug shown below did not sell at the time because they were considered too modern. Unfortunately, I have seen very few of Raine’s rya rugs as woven, so most of what we have as evidence of his designs are sketches.
Raine seems to have designed no other flat-weave rugs at this time, leaving most of that work to the other designer in the SKLH organization, Kerstin Butler, who designed many many röllakan. Raine’s rya designs, like his embroidery designs and small wall-hangings, were made as kits to be sold in the store and to be made at home, although the last two —made much later— could be bought already made.
Raine’s first several rug designs use a restricted palette and then begin to brighten. The first of these, the 1967 “Black-White” has a disconcerting quality — while on one level it is an abstract design, on another, it has the appearance of a wild animal skin.
In the next design, it is clear that Raine was playing with both a sunnier palette and with distortions of a grid.
The next series of designs for rugs are all looser and more painterly in style.
Elements of the previous design for a rya rug are echoed in the design of a small wall-hanging from the next year. This is shown below. Raine designed a number of kits for wall hangings to be sold in the Craft Association shop. This nicely-woven example seems to have been one of these.
The following design for a rya rug is clearly of the same aesthetic phase of Raine’s work, but in 1973, Södra Kalmar läns hemslöjd (SKLH) became Kalmar läns hemslöjd (KLH), and the lettering style and name on the organization’s yarn cards changed. The yarn card for this design reflects that change, and lets us date the design to 1973 or later.
The following design for a rya rug, also made after SKLH had become KLH (note yarn card) is less painterly and more graphic, a wonderfully inventive design. This “sketch” is actually an assemblage of paper strips which were then painted and then overlaid with other painted strips. Whether or how a woven rug would have reflected this design, I don’t know. But it’s one I’d love to see!
In the late 1990s when he was a freelance artist, Raine collaborated with the Kalmar County Craft Association and four other regional County Craft Associations, in studying traditional ryor. The project was called UllMa. The ryor that he and the Kalmar County Crafts Association, under the direction of Agneta Gevers, looked at were known as Öland slit ryor, traditionally made on the long island located off the coast from Kalmar.
These ryor, which were bedcovers, not rugs, had been made and used by Öland families— families of farmers and fisherman, masons and sailors for at least several hundred years. When a couple married, they would have one of these densely knotted ryor, turned fleecy side down and smooth side up on their bed. They would be used for warmth in beds, boats, carriages, and when a bit worn, in sleds. They were even used, when very worn, to keep a big mound of bread dough warm enough to ferment or to keep horses warm! If you were a sailor in the Swedish navy, it was an essential part of your gear: you were required by law during the mid 19th-century to have one for your bed since they didn’t stiffen up in salt water as fur blankets did.
Linen was used for the warp threads, with more linen for the rya bottom weft threads and thickish wool yarn for the knots. The bedcovers were woven on on fairly narrow looms in two pieces and then joined together, placing the two pieces in opposite directions, so that the pile on each piece ran in opposite directions, and that one would always catch the light. Patterns— woven in nearly dark rooms—were simple and often not aligned. Dates and initials of the weavers were woven so that they could be read on the smooth (top) side.
The 36 extant Öland bedcovers studied for this project varied in density, with the average number of knots per square meter being about 300, and including one with as few as 182, and the one with highest at 660 knots per square meter (the one shown above). Obviously, the more knots, the more warmth.
Raine’s first Öland style rug was a kind of imitation of a rya from 1700 with its imperfect alignment of elements. (I don’t know how dense his knots were).
Raine’s second Öland rya was more of a variation on the theme. One aspect of the UllMa project was the commissioning of a local artist do a modern rya rug based on the form of rya indigenous to that county. In this case that was the Öland slit ryor. Here the slit has been transformed to a straight line made up of the kind of red patches typical of the original ryor. Called “Rakt på sné” (sned), it means “Straight (and) Slanting,” and the diagonal black and white lines are the new addition to the form. The result is that Raine’s rya design is entirely different than the original Öland ryor, yet it still speaks to those early designs. It also seems appropriate that Raine was involved in this project, since he and his wife, Gunilla, were part of an energizing force which both built on the hemslöd or craft experience in Sweden and yet pushed it to be more forward-thinking.
I also find it interesting that in their irregularly- brushed appearance, the black and white lines of Raine’s “Rakt på sné” rug recall one of his first (smaller) rya, made nearly 40 years earlier, the Black-white one shown at the beginning of this blog post. Here,while they are certainly still energetic, his slashing black lines have been tamed and coherently organized. Given his own proclivity for transformation of found objects, this project seems to have been an ideal one for Raine’s talents, and an appropriate conclusion to his designs for the Kalmar County Craft Association.
Bukowskis Auction house, Stockholm
Jeppson, Tina and Gunilla Petri. Rolf Lind, photographer. En Livs Levande Bok om Raine Navin och Gunilla Skyttla. Hallén & Hallgren Förlag, 1999. Permission granted to reproduce photos by Rolf Lind.
Kalmar läns hemslöjd archives, now located in designarkivet building in Pukeberg, Sweden. Permission granted to use photos taken of the Kalmar County Craft Association collection (Kalmar läns hemslöjdsföreningen). Kalmar läns hemslöjdsföreningen shall be named as the owner of the collection. These photographs may not be reproduced without permission. The individual artifacts depicted are protected by copyright, and the names of the creators behind the photographed objects will follow the photos at publication. With thanks to Agneta Gefors, Hemslöjdskonsultent. Photos of sketches and weaving proofs not otherwise identified are from this collection, photographed by Anne Whidden, September, 2018.
Lundahl, Gunilla, Varp och Väft /Textilkonstnärerna och hemslöjden, Hemslöjdens småskrifter no 1, 1994. Permission granted by Rolf Lind to reproduce photos.
Gefors, Agneta “Ölandska slitryor” in Parholt, Anntott, Eva Anderson, Linnéa Rothqvist Ericsson, editors. Nock, Ragg, Rya —Det glänser om ullen, Föreningen Sveriges Hemslöjdskonsulenter UllMa, 2001.
Gefors, Agneta, Hemslöjdkonsultant, Kalmar läns hemslöjdsföreningen, email correspondence.