At mid-20th-century, a number of talented designers worked for the Southern Kalmar County Craft Association, either as free-lance or part-time designers, or as full time staff. This organization was located in the city of Kalmar on Sweden’s southeast coast. This blog post offers a little snapshot of several individual designers and rugs they designed for SKLH. I will show these rugs in order of their composition. which corresponds to the periods during which these designers designed for this craft association, called in Swedish, Södra Kalmar läns hemslöjd. One of these rugs has not previously identified—and it is up for auction this week, so check it out!
The Southern Kalmar County Craft Association was founded in 1908, and It was not until 1973 that Södra Kalmar absorbed Norra Kalmar läns hemslöjds (founded in 1910, and located about 80 m north in Västervik) into a new organization, becoming the Kalmar läns hemslöjd —KLH. The new organization remained in Kalmar. Thus before 1973, rugs made for this organization were were labeled SKLH.
The three artists featured here represent a range of ages, and career paths. All obtained professional training and traveled abroad. All studied to teach drawing, and did in fact teach at some point. Hildegard Dinclau taught for most of her career, although this did not preclude showing her own work at exhibitions both in Sweden and abroad. Two of the three, Anna Maria Hoke and Kerstin Butler worked in art-weaving therapy at some point. Dinclau and Hoke both had international exposure of their work, representing Sweden in international exhibitions. Hoke worked for multiple county craft associations around Sweden, and Butler also worked her whole life for county craft associations but in the narrower geographic region of Kalmar and Växjö. All three were well known in Sweden during the mid-century.
The Southern Kalmar County Craft Association and its shop was located at Larmgatan 26 in Kalmar, where two of these women, Hoke and Butler worked full time, and for which, it appears that Dinclau and others contributed designs on a free-lance basis. During her tenure as head of the organization, Anna Maria Hoke commissioned a wonderful iron sign to announce the shop on the street.
The sketches and/or working drawings for rugs that these three designers did for Södra Kalmar läns hemslöjd are from the Kalmar archives in Pukeberg. While rugs themselves carry the SKLH label, the initials of the designers of the rugs were sometimes used and sometimes not. (Note also that there were three different craft organizations with a KLH signature: Kristianstad, Kronoberg, and Kalmar although Kalmar’s KLH did not exist before 1973. Another company called, Klockargården in Tällberg which made and marketed crafts and ran a tea-room, used KH rather than KLH signature, as it was not a county craft association.)
Hildegard Dinclau, designer of the first rug, was the oldest of this group of designers. She was born in 1890, in Stockholm, a descendant of a German noble family, von Dinclau who had come to Sweden after the Franco-Prussian war in 1871, but I know nothing more about her childhood, upbringing or family members. Like many of the designers we see on this blog, she studied at the Higher Industrial Arts School in Stockholm, later known as Konstfack and was apparently also able to study abroad. Early in her career, about 1916- 17, she worked for the Institute for Cultural Handicrafts (Kulturens Konstslöjdsanstalt), the craft-teaching arm of Lunds museum. She was one of ten Swedes to exhibit carpets at the 1925 Paris World Exhibition, and continued to participate in international exhibitions throughout her career. In the early 20th century, she was a well-known figure in the world of Swedish crafts.
Dinclau subsequently worked at several county craft associations designing rugs and church textiles— Jämtslöjd and Västernorrland läns hemslöjd are two I know of. For 26 years, from 1930-56, Dinclau taught at the Johanna Brunsson weaving school, and overlapped there with Hoke, who came in as a young teaching colleague.
Dinclau was a talented designer of damask woven fabric, a student of historical weaving, and she was impressive in her ability to continue to keep her own designs contemporary with changing times and styles.
Like a number of other designers, Dinclau seems to have worked free-lance to the Southern Kalmar County Craft Association, perhaps recruited by Anna-Maria Hoke, who became head of the organization in 1956. Brunssons weaving school where she had worked in for many years closed in 1958; it is unclear if Dinclau designed the rug shown here while she was still working there, or if she had retired.
The rug Dinclau designed for SKLH that year, when she was 66, seems as fresh as that of many younger designers. She takes a simple single element —a double arrow shape—and alternates it with color and secondary elements of small dark squares to create an animated and well-balanced pattern. The edges and two vertical bands of the rug are comprised of woven black and white stripes. It is called “Vine”on a rosy pink ground. As woven, the rug has a more brick-like color (unless that is the light in which it was photographed). The size indicated on the sketch, 200 x 280 cm is not far off from that of the rug itself which measures 196 x 297 cm (which may include the fringe). This suggests that even though the sketch is incomplete, the rug pattern evident in the rug is as was intended by the original sketch.
Hildegard Dinclau, Detail of flat-weave (rölakan) rug, signed SKLH 1956, showing signatures. Unattributed rug offered for sale at Bruun-Rasmussen Design auction 6/18/20, item 895/835..
Born in 1911 in Filipstad in the province of Värmland, Anna Maria Hoke (original name Ann- Mari Ericsson) moved with her family to Stockholm in 1917 where her father was an editor. A period of tuberculosis and recuperation interrupted her attendance at the Higher Industrial Arts School where she trained a drawing teacher, but she graduated in 1936. For a few years, she became a teacher of pattern composition at Johanna Brunssons weaving school in Stockholm.
During the next 22 years, Hoke worked for or directed multiple county crafts associations, and participated in a number of international exhibitions. From 1938-40 she worked for Varmland County Crafts Association (Värmland läns hemslöjd). She showed work in the 1939 New York Worlds Fair, and the same year, won a fellowship on which she travelled to Germany, Switzerland, England and France. From 1941-44 she was artistic director and director of production for the Stockholm City and County Craft Association (Stockholms stads och läns hemslöjdförening). While in this position she also showed her work at Saltjöbads and Liljevalchs. In 1945, she initiated a project of weaving therapy at the hospital in Söderby in Stockholm, with perspective she had gained from her own earlier bout with illness.
From 1946-52, she was artistic director and consultant in handicrafts for the Gotland County Craft Association, where she designed an enormous variety of textiles for Gotland’s medieval churches: rugs, altar cloths (called “antependium”) and priests’ robes. From 1952-54, beginning when she was forty-one, Hoke was head of the County Craft Association of Västmanlands, located in Västerås is west of Stockholm. In 1954, Hoke had a professional “adventure,” an unsuccessful attempt to start her own rug company on St Thomas, in the West Indies, funded by an American millionaire named Herbert Myer. From 1956-60, she took on the directorship of the Southern Kalmar County Craft Association in Kalmar. She spent the rest of her life in Kalmar, doing freelance textile work and was recognized with the Kalmar Cultural Prize in 1972.
The SKLH archives have no sketch, but there is a working drawing for a flat-weave rug designed by Hoke. Based on the date in the corner of the rug itself, the design dates from 1959 but this date is not on the drawing. Yarn samples are attached to the working drawing on a large sheet of graph paper. The rug was apparently intended for an individual client, apparently a contact of Hoke’s from her time at the Västmanlands craft association, a female apothecary whose address in Västerås is given on the working drawing.
In any case, this handsome geometric overall design has surprisingly color combinations, so that the sober smoky background colors are animated by internal figures bordered in gold and copper-colored yarn which take on an almost metallic glint. This is less apparent in the watercolor working drawing than in the rug as finally woven, but Hoke clearly had this effect in mind. The working drawing is in watercolor on graph paper with numbered annotations about the colors intended. The rug dimensions are slightly different than those shown on the working drawing, but the proportions and pattern arrangement are clearly exactly the same. It would be fun to find a sketch for this rug with a title; the name of the rug is unknown.
Kerstin Butler was born in 1923 in the Gothenburg area where her father was in the navy or in shipping. (Her memory was of a large blue jacket with gold buttons!) Determined and energetic, Butler trained in Stockholm at both the Friends of Handcrafts School (Handarbetets Vänner) and then at Konstfack in Stockholm under Barbro Nilsson. To broaden her horizons, she worked in the United States as a nanny for several years, and learned English– well enough to converse with me in 2018 in the last year of her life! Returning to Sweden, she took a job for several years at Kronoberg läns hemslöjd in Växjö, where she worked with Irma Kronlund who was four years her senior.
Butler moved to Kalmar in 1961, joining Södra Kalmar läns hemslöjd just after Anna Maria Hoke had left, becoming a consistent and important member of the organization. She made this city her home for the rest of her life. Butler worked for the county craft association from 1961-69. She made a name for herself and brought customers into the craft association shop almost immediately with her fresh new designs for flat-weave (rölakan) rugs. She designed for churches, local institutions and individuals, and seems to have been the primary contributor of rug designs to the organization for many years. While at SKLH she generally worked, as do painters, on a series of designs on a theme. She would find a particular pattern of stripes or checks or other elements of interest and keep exploring this in successive rug designs, playing with subtle variations in color or pattern. Her mature style produced rugs which are quiet and understated, but full of life and color nuances.
Butler won the Kalmar Culture Prize in 1969 and left the Southern Kalmar Craft Association that same year to found her own freelance business. She was ready to be working on her own, and also involved herself with weaving as art therapy for a local hospital. It’s useful to remember that although Butler worked for both Kronoberg läns hemslöjd early in her career, and Södra Kalmar läns hemslöjd for a longer period, there should be no confusion about “K” county craft associations and her signatures, since she left SKLH before it became KLH in 1972. So rugs with KLH and KB were from her time at Kronoberg; rugs with SKLH and KB were from her long association with Södra Kalmar. Rugs with just KB were from her own atelier after she left SKLH.
The rug below is one of a series of checked rugs which Butler designed between 1964-6, most in a blue palette. There is no sketch for this particular rug, but it is clearly a brown variation on Butler’s “Blue Mosaic” rug, for which there is a sketch. The four other sketches which follow show other examples of rugs in this series.
Kerstin Butler, Water color sketches for two colors of Diamant flat-weave, both the same size 170x 240 cm, the first signed and dated 1964 with archival identification number KLH 472: 268, and the second, signed and dated 1966, archival identification number KLH 472: 266.
Kerstin Butler, Water color sketches for Fogelfors flat-weave, 200x 275 cm, signed but undated, archival identification number KLH 472: 265 and Rutlek flat-weave, 170 x 200 cm signed but undated, archival identification number KLH 472: 271.
Kerstin Butler, Flat weave rug for Södra Kalmar läns hemslöjd, Details of SKLH and KB, signatures, currently up for auction at Bruun-Rasmussen, Copenhagen, item 895/941..
The differing involvement of these three designers who all did work for Southern Kalmar County Craft Association illustrates the way these organizations employed designers both full-time and part-time, long time employees and others hired for shorter periods. But the consistently high quality of their designs reflects also the extensive training and experience these hemslöjd designers brought to their work. And the rugs themselves evidence the further work of a group of talented hand-weavers who translated the designers’ conceptions into these wonderful rugs.
Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Copenhagen
Gefors, Agneta. Hemslöjdkonsultent for Kalmar läns hemslöjd. Email correspondence.
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 for arranging my September 2018 visit to these archives. Photos of sketches and weaving proofs not otherwise identified are from this collection, photographed by Anne Whidden, September, 2018.
Sandström, Katarina and Gunilla Petri, Gunnar Hillerdal, and Rolf Lind, Livets Tråd Anna Maria Hokes textila värld. Barometerns förlag, 1996.
Please reference as follows:
Whidden, Anne, “Three designers for Södra Kalmar läns hemslöjd ” theswedishrugblog (6/15/20); theswedishrugblog.wordpress.com; accessed (day/month/year)