A Multi-Generation Weaving Story

History. Color. Amazing workmanship. Funny images. Text and depth in fiber. You will find these things in pieces in the exhibit at Norway House, “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot,” up from July 20-September 10.  You will also find stories. In two small tapestries at Norway House you can find a three-generation weaving story that  stretches from Norway to Minnesota.

inga

Hans Berg painted his wife Inga at the loom.

Inga Berg, born in 1897 in Lier, Norway, married artist Hans Berg in 1921.  They studied art on a months-long honeymoon throughout Europe. In 1929 Inga studied weaving theory at Sister Bengston’s weaving school in Oslo, Norway. She was prolific in spinning, dyeing, knitting, weaving and sewing.  Often Hans would create a pattern for his adoring wife to weave.

Inga’s daughter Ellen was born in Oslo, Norway, in 1924. While in Norway, she became a registered nurse and a medical technologist. During WWII she helped hide her soon to be brother-in-law Gunnar Lislerud in the attic of their home.   After WWII, in the 1950s, Ellen, along with her parents, moved to Minneapolis.

Ellen the WeaverEllen married Don Anderson in 1958 and they had two children, Kent and Karin.  She was an excellent strawberry farmer, beekeeper, weaver, painter, cook and caregiver.  She took care of both of her parents; Inga lived to the age of 106.

Ellen had a love for weaving and her homeland, so she joined the Weavers Guild of Minnesota and the Scandinavian Weavers group. Inspired by her mother’s work, she took a tapestry class at the Weavers Guild and the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.  Ellen liked to use tapestry patterns from Norway that were sold for studying tapestry weaving, like this image of the girl and the cow. There is no doubt this same weaving is found on the walls of many Norwegian homes, too.

ellenweaving

In this particular weaving Ellen was interested in perfecting her tapestry techniques, and learning the various types of joining techniques that are characteristic of billedvev, Norwegian tapestry. This was Ellen’s last weaving before she died suddenly in 2003. She left an unfinished dream: to weave a picture of her beloved strawberry farm.

That brings us to the present, and the continuing weaving story of Karin Maahs, Ellen’s daughter, a member of the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group and a relatively new weaver. Karen relates the story of her tapestry in the American Reboot show.

IMG_6821

Karin Maahs

My inspiration was from the love of my mother.  For years my mom wanted me to draw a weaving for her of our strawberry farm.  After my mother’s death, I inherited all of my her and my grandmother’s wool, looms, spinning wheels, books and weaving journals. I initially joined the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group in 2003-2005.  I took some beginning floor loom classes to learn how to use my mom’s loom.  I was home schooling my children at the time so I stopped weaving and focused on them.  After both my kids started college I could not stop the burning desire to work with the loom again. The big question was, “What should I start with?”

I knew there was some very special yarn in my stash, Kunstvevgarn Spelsau yarn in every color of the rainbow, shipped from my aunt in Norway to my mother.  In an attempt to honor my mom, grandmother and aunt I decided to weave the tapestry my mom always wanted to do, a picture of “The Farm.”  At first it was intimidating because I knew nothing about how to start.  After some great encouragement from my mom’s Scandinavian weaving friends, and a plethora of books I inherited, I dove in.  My thought was—I know I can paint this, so why not treat the yarn like it was paint?  It didn’t take long to absolutely fall in love with working in wool.  Especially this wool… my mom’s wool.

karin-2

Karin has two grown children. Perhaps it is time to stretch the weaving tradition to a fourth generation? The Weavers Guild of Minnesota is a perfect place to learn.

Mark your calendars for a trip to Norway House between July 20 and September 10.  Come to the opening! Thursday, July 20, 5-8 pm.

 

 

 

 

About Robbie LaFleur
Weaving in Minnesota, when I can!

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