Sometimes as I review photos of rugs or sketches I have taken earlier, I find that I see new things, because I have learned more in the interim. This blog post is about one of those experiences.
Two years ago, in April 2018, I visited Stockholm’s Kungsholm church, built originally in Stockholm by Sweden’s King Carl IX for his wife Ulrika Elenora. It opened in 1688. At that time, I wanted to see Barbro Nilsson’s large purple-blue Tanga rug in the large centralized space, and because this was a church which was renovated by her brother, the architect Erik Lundberg. I wrote a blog post in August 2018 about Lundberg’s work and his collaboration with his sister which gave the interior of this church a new bright appearance in 1954-56.
When I visited this church, I also noticed another smaller rug, labeled with the initials ALOE, but at the time, I didn’t know who that designer was. The pile carpet sat in front of a small side altar, and seemed to have been designed in the 50s or 60s, but no one at the church seemed to know who the designer was either. So I took photos of the rug, and that was that. I went back to my focus on Barbro Nilsson and her brother.
This past spring, I discovered the designer Anna-Lisa Odelqvist-Kruse, whose prolific career was spent in the design of church textiles. Two recent posts look at her work, from liturgical vestments, to rugs, to wall hangings serving as backdrops to altars. When I recently looked back at photographs of the smaller unidentified rug in the Kungsholm church, I found I now knew who had designed it, and the approximate date.
Anna-Lisa Odelqvist, in 1954 became both managing director and artistic director of the firm Libraria, which designed hundreds, if not thousands, of Swedish church textiles. That same year, she was married to a Stockholm business man, Alvar Eckström. At that point she began to sign her rugs ALOE. But the two were divorced several years later. In 1960, Odelqvist married Sven Kruse, a minister with a parish in Ramsele, in Solleftea, some 300 miles north of Stockholm. She took his name, and subsequently signed her work A-L O-K.
So I was pleased that the mystery of the rug’s designer was solved! But having recently looked at a number of Odelqvist-Kruse’s designs, I now found her work for another church even more interesting.
As discussed in my previous blog post, in 1957, the firm of Libraria was hired by Robertsfors Church, a rural church located far north in Sweden, about 400 miles north of Stockholm and north of Umeå, Norrland’s largest city. In doing this job for Libraria, Anna-Lisa Odelqvist-Ekström designed a long rug leading from the choir toward the altar.
Looking at the carpet which Odelkvist-Ekström designed for this church more closely, it is remarkable how closely it is related in design to that of the rug for Kungsholm we are looking at. This one is a longer rug, and a large triangular element points and leads to the altar in a way which is not true for the Kungsholm rug. But both rugs have a central circular element. That element in the Kungsholm rug has a kind of compass-rose quality with radiant rays. The circular element in the Robertsfors church is more of a quiet center. And the colors are very much the same: yellows, greys, browns and whites, with rust and grey blue, and even a bit of green in both of these two rugs. They are not identical by any means, but it is very clear that they are from the same designer working with similar compositional elements. Thus it seems very likely that we are able to give the rug for Kungsholm church a more precise date. I assume that rug was also designed, as this one was, sometime around 1957 .
This post is a post-script in our understanding of Odelqvist-Kruse’s career with Libraria, and yet another church where her work is evident. It is also brief glimpse into the natural working process of any artist, where ideas and forms and questions are all germinating and finding expression in particular ways at particular times. It is fun to find— quite by accident— two pieces from the same period of thought and creative investigation by this designer.
Ekström, Anette, Fastighet och trivselvård, Bygdeå Församling, email correspondence with, confirming ALOK’s design of both körmatta and gobeläng for Robertsfors church. 4/23 and 4/24/20. Thanks also to her for several photos of the church textiles.
kyrkokartan.se. with thanks to Gert Årnström for his photo.
Svenska Kyrkan website for Robertsfors Kyrka, Robertsfors, Sweden
The Swedish Rug Blog, two prior posts on Anna-Lisa Odelqvist-Kruse
Visit to Kungsholm Kyrka, April 2018