One of the attractions of reading the children’s book, Winnie the Pooh is that, even as a child, and even if too young to know the word “philosophical,” a reader intuits that this particular bear is a character with a philosophical view of life. In a typical remark, casual but profound, Pooh mentions two kinds of attitudes toward life— the first where one just lets things “come to you”, and another one feels compelled to “go and fetch them”. He notes that he takes the first kind of approach, and observes that the character of his friend, Rabbit, definitely takes the second.
In researching this blog, I confess that most of my research involves “going and fetching.” The occasions where things “come” to me are rare, but this blog post is about one of those.
A Finnish Instagram acquaintance wrote to ask me recently about a flat-weave rug he had recently found. Did I know anything particular about this rug, he asked? We both recognized the name of the designer, Ingrid Dessau, and her initials ID and KLH, and he said he thought it looked like the 1960s. He was right. But since the rug was woven in the southeastern city of Kristianstad, I wondered how it had gotten so far afield. He explained that he had purchased it at auction, from the estate of a Finn who had lived in Sweden earlier in his life.
The identification was quick and quite interesting. I had looked at Ingrid Dessau’s sketches for Kristianstad läns hemslöjd, the Kristianstad County Craft Association in southeastern Sweden two years ago, and had photographs of sketches she did of a series of flat-woven rug designs. This rug was clearly part of the series. We agreed to share our joint identification of the rug.
Several of the sketches from Kristianstad läns hemslöjd are dated 1961 or 1962, and the colors in his rug and the organization of his pattern are very similar to one of the colored patterns.
Photos of Dessau’s sketches follow, with titles as she gave them, and photos of the recently-found rug follow. Once again, following the chain from sketch to woven rug is fun, and seeing these photos of the rug again establish Dessau’s prowess as a colorist and designer. The use of a pattern of small colored squares is one which Dessau continued to explore, both in a number of rugs for Kristianstad and in later work for Malmö County Craft Association. (See three earlier blog posts from September 2015 on her Malmö rugs).
I’m grateful to this new online friend for the collaboration here!
The first sketch is for a long blue checked rug called Blue Boxes, or Blue Checks (Blå Rutor) meant to be almost 4 meters x 1.5 meters The design was long enough that Dessau couldn’t fit it all on one page, but, as she frequently did, drew what she could fit, and indicated the middle line so that it was clear that the rug was symmetrical. Blue and dark brown checks in various shades predominate, but two horizontal bands of blue and cream checks demarcate the rug’s center. Dessau is also using another of her familiar elements here: little vertical stripes of triangles on a light colored ground.
The second sketch is for a red and grey-black rug which is shorter with a very similar format, although the horizontal light colored bands have been eliminated. This rug fits entirely on the page ( a page with worn notebook holes: this rug was clearly drawn from the craft association’s notebook of rugs which clients could have woven for them). A horizontal band of the same red and black checks which form the rug’s outer border marks the midpoint of this rug. Vertical stripes of pale grey/ grey-blue triangles on a light ground are used again here, crossed by horizontal bands of red and white “tveskott”, the simple pattern of tiny vertically-woven stripes. (Traditionally this pattern was used to terminate the ends of flat-woven rugs).
For the third rug in this series, we have only a detail, not a sketch of the full rug, but we can understand this one fairly easily based on what we have seen of the previous two. This looks like an reddish-orange and brown/gold combination of colors, and since Dessau has marked “Mitt,” middle, on the sketch, we understand that the larger size of this rug, although almost identical in size to the last one, has an entirely orange center, with no horizontal cross bars of other colors. And the fact that the rug is divided vertically by little strips of triangular elements on a lighter ground is again familiar.
The last sketch in this series is from 1962. It is for a black and carmel-color rug laid out very much like the red rug shown above, with a horizontal band of black and brown at the midpoint. This is the rug which seems to correspond most in color to the recently-found rug, although the layout on that rug is more like the orange one, shown above, with no horizontal band. Again in this one, Dessau uses the page to show only half of the rug, with the middle line indicated at the top of the sketch, although she does not indicate the size of the rug. And again, there vertical stripes of little triangles on pale ground crossed at each end by horizontal stripe of tveskott weave.
The rug found seems likely to have been designed in 1962 as a variation on the previous sketch, and could have been woven by the Kristianstad hemslöjd weavers at anytime after that. The colors correspond very much to those of the sketch shown above, but instead of being black and brown, it is a very interesting rich combination of golden and chestnut browns with a range of smoky dark blues, navy blue and grayish blues. And the center of the rug is, to me, much quieter than that of the sketch, filled simply with large blocks of dark blues and grey-blues. The larger blocks of similar color tones in the center and in the top and bottom borders play off the much smaller multi-colored blocks in the body of the rug. And again, the lighter colored vertical and horizontal stripes are entirely consistent with Dessau’s earlier designs in that the pale tones of the small triangles in the vertical stripes are derived from the rugs blue-grey palatte, and the brown and white horizontal tveskott bands draw their color from the rugs brown tones. The photos which follow show this wonderful rug! These were taken in two different light situations, so the colors vary slightly.
Ingrid Dessau, for Kristianstad läns hemslöjd, Details of flat-weave rölakan rug, probably called “Ruta Blå och Brun,” ca 1962, showing KLH and ID asignatures woven into the bottom of the rug above the border.
One of the most exciting things about this rug, I think, is that we see Dessau working in an almost pointillist mode here. Known as a master colorist, Dessau was known for mixing multiple colors to get the effects she wanted. Here, she is choosing and separating multiple tones of her two primary colors, blue and gold-brown. She lets the large squares of flat unmixed color in the borders and in the center stand frame and offset her juxtaposition of little squares of color. The little color squares are placed so that each one maintains its own identity, and yet balances against the tones which surround it. Quite a feat!
Haddadin Antiques, Arts and Design, Helsinki.
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.
Please reference as follows:
Whidden, Anne, “A Checkered Story : Ingrid Dessau” theswedishrugblog (7/11/20); theswedishrugblog.wordpress.com; accessed (day/month/year)