Ingrid Hjelmvik was born in 1926 in Gothenburg, in Sweden’s second-largest city, located on the west coast. Her father was in the military but I know nothing of her mother or possible siblings. At 18, Ingrid entered Gothenburg’s excellent art school, the Slöjdföreningens skola. She graduated in 1949, having taken a study trip to Paris the summer before, and after graduating, she traveled to Italy in 1950.
In 1951, Ingrid became a young designer for the Jonköpings County Craft Association (Jönköpings läns hemslöjd), and remarkably, stayed for the next 35 years, retiring in 1986. She married in 1953, and at first combined her husband’s name with her own, signing her work as IHjW in a distinctive signature. A few years later she often signed I Welander or simply IW.
Like many other hemslöjd designers we have looked at, Ingrid designed quite a few products to be made by the Crafts Association, among them embroideries, and even a series of charming painted wooden rooster figures for Easter.
But she also designed many rugs, and 1955 and 1956 were a busy years for her. During this period, Welander seems to move from an effective and decorative use of overall patterning (see first sketch below) to an exploration of more simplified grids. These grids nevertheless have considerable richness in tonal variation in the main colored areas, and make subtle adjustments to secondary elements— like borders, bands, and small blocks of color.
Hjelmvik Welander seemed to particularly enjoy working with blue tones but she also animated her blues with touches of yellow, white, pale green and grey. It is unclear how many of her designs were woven, but the fact that many had yarn samples encourages me to think there may be some of these woven designs still extant. Welander’s rugs did at a certain point carry her signature of IHW in the lower right corner and JLH in the lower left, but based on precedent from this and other county craft associations, rugs from the earlier years of a designer seem to have been left unsigned.
The rug that follows is a particularly rich and vibrant design. The title “ Blue Screen” really seems to mean blue seen through kind of a screen. That titile, “Blå Ruta” could also be translated as “Blue Box.”
The next sketch is from the following year, but it continues to explore many of the same visual themes. Its title, “Blå Hagen” really has the sense of an enclosed pasture, but in English the title, “Enclosed Blue Pasture,” doesn’t really work!
Also in 1955, Hjelmvik Welander designed a rug for a parish church not far from Jönköping. That rug is still used in the church today. The church has just recently emerged from a restoration process, but the rug is clearly is still actively used and enjoyed, testimony to the simple elegance and durability of its design.
The title of the rug was “Havet,” or “Sea.” Jönköping, though in the middle of southern Sweden, is located at the south end of Lake Vättern, Sweden’s second-largest lake, and the motion of waves on the lake was something Ingrid would have seen frequently. Her rug is a wonderful triangular abstraction of waves moving in two directions. It is also again, a study in overall blue patterning animated by brown and natural-colored borders and decorative bands. When used in an inland church, the active pattern is less about waves and more about the calm colors and clear visual structure. The rug becomes particularly elegant with the simple architecture of the rounded apse of the Byarum Church.
In comparing the sketch and the working drawing, it is also clear that the rug may have well been designed first as a smaller rug, about 5’x 7’ (150 x 220 cm), but that when approved as a design by the church, it was translated into a larger scale rug, with final dimensions of almost 7’ x 11’ (210 x326 cm).
As well as Hjelmvik-Welander’s sketches, Jönköpings Museum also holds the working drawing for this rug, which is both fun to see (note numbered color notations), and useful (it is only on this drawing, not the corresponding sketch, where the name of the rug appears). Photographs of this drawing follow:
Byarum Church is located in the village of Byarum-Bondstorp, which is about 32 miles or 50 kilometers south of Jönköping in south-central Sweden. The design of the church as it stands today appears simple and serene. Its neoclassical form dates from the 18th-century, but in fact the church has experienced multiple rebuildings, with various architectural periods represented. An very early original wooden building is assumed, and then there are traces of some 12th century building, and the interior walls retain a few fragments of 14th-century frescoes. The earliest layout of the current church seems to have consisted simply of what is now the nave, the long body of the church.
During the 17th-century local carvers provided important decorative elements. In 1668, the postmaster of Jönköping carved a handsome wooden crucifix which hangs on the south wall of the church. And the carved and guided pulpit was made in 1689 by a carver from Borås, a small city to the west. In 1758-9, Gabriel von Seth, a local nobleman, undertook to build a large family crypt into the church’s eastern wall and basement, and in 1775, he commissioned a dramatic marble sculpture in his own memory, which was placed in the apse of the church. Between the building of the von Seth family crypt and the installation of the von Seth memorial, though, the church was expanded to have north and south wings. Over time, the church has had several towers, and several roofs; the current clock tower dates from 1906. The 18th-century organ was replaced in the 19th- century and again in the 20th-century. In 1952-53, the church underwent a major restoration which provided for the installation of electric lighting and heating, and large arches were created to connect the nave and the two side transepts to north and south. Over the course of the 19th- and 20th-centuries, there have been multiple exterior cleanings and wall refinishing, and several re-roofings as well.
The church has just completed a year-long renovation, but the following photographs give a sense of the church prior to the renovation, with Ingrid Hjelmvik-Welander’s lovely “Sea” rug in place.
The recent renovation of Byarum Church was completed in December 2018. The renovation included a modest addition, which provides a small assembly room and toilet, and is located to the left (north) side of the church, and accessed from the passage leading into the church nave from under the organ loft. In the nave, the ceiling was painted a light grey, and a new natural-colored wood floor was installed. The effect of these changes was to lighten and freshen the church interior. Welander’s rug was removed and reinstalled after the 2018 renovation, as were all other decorative, functional and liturgical elements: cross, crucifix, altar, altar rail etc. The following photos, which are taken as screen shots from the church video available on utube, show a few phases of the restoration process:
But if we return to a few of the earlier photographs, there is something else that is interesting for us to see. The two photographs below, taken during this same liturgical time period —but not apparently the same year— as the first photo shown above of Welander’s rug in place (this is the one by Barbro Thörn), are useful. While Welander’s rug is not evident in these photographs, another handsome textile is— that of the altar cloth.
I realized, in looking at these photographs, none of which was taken by me, that this particular altar cloth looked familiar. So I went back to the photographs I had taken from my visit to the archives of the Jönköping County Crafts Association and realized that in fact I had seen a sketch for an altar cloth very similar to this one. The sketch I had photographed was designed almost twenty years after Welander’s rug, in 1973 by one of her co-workers at the County Crafts Association, Inga-Mi Vannérus Rydgren, who worked at the Jönköping County Crafts Association in 1956 and then from 1958-78. While the sketch is not exactly the same as the altar cloth in place in Byarum Church, it seems clearly to be a variant on Vannérus-Rydren’s design shown in the sketch, and is almost certainly her design. These lilies are a motif which she explored in multiple versions for several different churches between 1968-73, but the following sketch with its greens and tourquoise and white lilies comes closest to that woven for this church.
This altar cloth is designed to be used during the period after Easter known as Trinity time and marked by Trinity Sunday, which celebrates the doctrine accepted by Swedish Lutherans of God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The white lilies here seem to symbolize both Easter and Trinity Sunday, whose celebratory color is white, and to look forward to the next liturgical period of the year whose color is green. The photographs that follow are of the sketch for a wonderfully exuberant altar cloth, quite similar to the one held by Byarum Church.
It is exciting to see Ingrid Hjelmvik Welander’s wonderful rug for this church still in use, and to catch a glimpse of the altar cloth designed by Inga Mi Vannérus Rydgren as well. The church has been well served by the designers of the Jönköping County Crafts Association, and in turn, their work has been enjoyed and valued by this congregation. Although it slightly distorts the color of Welander’s rug, the following photo shows the apse area after renovation, with her Havet rug a principle element of the space.
Claesson, Anna Maria, Frostroser och Tulpaner Jönköpings läns hemslöjdsförenings samling 1909-1986. Småländska kulturbilder, 2003.
Jönköping 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 Museum.
Inger Skoghall, photo of Byarum Church on Instagram
The Swedish Lutheran church website: svenskakyrkan.se, especially video of Byarum church renovation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwppAAzOYPk
Please reference as follows:
Whidden, Anne, “Durable Beauty: Ingrid Hjelmvik-Welander,” theswedishrugblog (4/7/18); theswedishrugblog.wordpress.com; accessed (day/month/year)