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Noted: The Textiles of Märta Måås-Fjetterström

Aug 15, 2011

by Linzee McCray

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

State-supported crafts seem like a dream to most of us. In these challenging economic times, arts organizations struggle to stay funded and afloat themselves, much less to support individual artisans. But beginning in the mid-19th century, the Swedish government funded textile arts programs, ensuring that the country’s long tradition of hand weaving would continue and that design influences like Art Deco and Art Nouveau wouldn’t overshadow Sweden’s historic weaving patterns and motifs.

The programs meant that rural women could learn to weave and earn an income while doing so. One of them was award-winning rug weaver Märta Måås-Fjetterström, who in 1905, at the age of 32, was named director of a weaving workshop in Malmo. The purpose of these workshops was to preserve traditional designs, but Måås-Fjetterström wanted to create her own — and her insistence on innovation led to her being fired in 1911.

 

Scandinavian Design

Märta Måås-Fjetterström in the weaving room, 1923.

In 1919 she started her own studio and designed textiles for the home, which were woven by women in Malmo district. Her designs reflected Swedish traditions, including a nod to nature and the colors and light of summer, but also incorporated elements of the Oriental rugs she studied. These innovative designs stood out in an era when tradition reigned, as well as because few women were designing at the time. In the next decade her work was exhibited at the Paris Expo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1934, when she was more than 60 years old, she had a major show of her work in Stockhholm and Swedish art critics took notice.

Marta Flies Again

Examples of Märta Måås-Fjetterström's work.

Måås-Fjetterström died in 1941, but left more than 700 designs, as well as instructions for their creation. Her workshop paved the way for other innovative women designers, including Barbo Nilsson, Marianne Richter, Ann-Mari Forsberg, and others. Each new designer built on Måås-Fjetterström’s work, while bringing her own aesthetic to the workshop. Rugs with the initials of these innovative designers woven into the corner continue to be sought after by collectors and interior designers alike. And the support provided by the Swedish government for crafts workers meant that people with an interest in weaving could make a living while learning the art, ensuring a high level of professionalism and skill. As noted by Kim Hostler of Hostler Burrows in an article in the June 2011 Elle Décor, “Because of socialism, people didn’t have to worry about whether they could afford good schools or health care. If they loved a craft, they could afford to pursue it and still have a decent quality of life.”

Scandinavian Design

A contemporary "remix" of Märta's "Brown Heath" by Front Group.

Märta Måås-Fjetterström Foundation

Contemporary examples produced in Märta's studio today.

Rugs are still woven by hand at Märta Måås-Fjetterström AB studio. A combination of tradition and innovation continues, as well: wool is dyed using recipes collected by Märta Måås-Fjetterström and Barbo Nilsson, and each year the company names a Swedish textile artist MMF Artist of the Year and produces one copy of a rug of their design. The company started by a headstrong Swedish weaver melds the imagery and skill of the country’s textile history with the vision and innovation of today’s artists.

Do you think state-supported crafts could produce skilled craftsmen and women today?

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97 comments

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection said 9 years ago

    Just Beautiful Interesting article M~

  • DreamyIsabel

    DreamyIsabel said 9 years ago

    these are so amazing! thanks for posting!

  • bonjourpoupette

    bonjourpoupette said 9 years ago

    A wonderful article - thank you!

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 9 years ago

    Really beautiful work and patterns! A great story from that time era! Thanks for the article! (PS, Linzee, love the way you spell your name)!

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 9 years ago

    Such beautiful work! Loved this! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • blueskyclouds

    blueskyclouds said 9 years ago

    Oh, BE STILL MY HEART! I am a textile lover, and this article is just so inspiring. I love that she had a major show of her work at 60 years old. And that she was so determined to be innovative (which led her to being fired!). And I adore that contemporary textile above in reds....serious beauty. Thanks so much for this article.

  • BonnieCastle

    BonnieCastle said 9 years ago

    Great article!

  • Jashme

    Jashme said 9 years ago

    Great color!

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 9 years ago

    This really speaks to my inner texturephile! Thanks for this wonderful post!

  • lizhutnick

    lizhutnick said 9 years ago

    Great article! My sister is very much into weaving (she has several looms) and textile art and will love seeing this! :)

  • RedorGrayArt

    RedorGrayArt said 9 years ago

    what an artist that paved the way for many .. thanks for a wonderful post , so inspiring

  • sparrowgrey

    sparrowgrey said 9 years ago

    A great article with an amazing story. Thanks!

  • vKnit

    vKnit said 9 years ago

    This is amazing! What a great story! Thank you for sharing :)

  • FranceGallery

    FranceGallery said 9 years ago

    I love the colors in these pretty textile designs!

  • katielynnjewelry

    katielynnjewelry said 9 years ago

    Beautiful patterns!!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 9 years ago

    Beautiful rugs, timeless handcrafted items are just that..

  • PyxusPassionProject

    PyxusPassionProject said 9 years ago

    I really need to learn how to weave.. This woman did amazing work and good on her for sticking to her guns and getting fired for it! "C'etait plus fort qu'elle!"

  • hoganfe

    hoganfe said 9 years ago

    Amazing blog post !

  • texturesgallery

    texturesgallery said 9 years ago

    Fascinating article! And what a pleasant surprise to find my rug here in the blog. Thank you so much!

  • beliz82

    beliz82 said 9 years ago

    Wonderful story and love the rugs !!! So amazing

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ said 9 years ago

    Beautiful!

  • siennaorlando

    siennaorlando said 9 years ago

    Gorgeous designs!

  • FruitOfMyHands

    FruitOfMyHands said 9 years ago

    Don't you love it when people follow their hearts and refuse to compromise? Very inspirational article and beautiful rugs.

  • destroymodernart

    destroymodernart said 9 years ago

    I think state supported crafts would be fantasticly awesome. I know so many creative people that are forced to suppress their inner artist purely due to lack of funds- we need to eat so we end up doing jobs we hate and we have no work/storage space or time. Many of us are trying to be environmentally responsible as well- support for that and our creativity would be wonderful.

  • Trenza

    Trenza said 9 years ago

    Absolutely stunning work. Great article!

  • hildes

    hildes said 9 years ago

    Great article!

  • thelittlemarket

    thelittlemarket said 9 years ago

    Brilliant article and photos!!!! Thanks!!

  • Verdurebydesign

    Verdurebydesign said 9 years ago

    This story reminds me of a Australian designer, Florence Broadhurst. How wonderful that the Swedish goverment sees the importance of the weaving and its history.

  • amysfunkyfibers

    amysfunkyfibers said 9 years ago

    Amazing work and choice of colors by this designer.I would love to have been in that weaving studio years ago!

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts said 9 years ago

    Great colours and patterns!

  • mamif

    mamif said 9 years ago

    government funding. amazing.

  • salvageshop

    salvageshop said 9 years ago

    these rugs are amazing!

  • MaryFosterCreative

    MaryFosterCreative said 9 years ago

    Beautiful work and fascinating story.

  • dylangirl99

    dylangirl99 said 9 years ago

    Just fabulous what women can do! Love that she was an independent pioneer that trusted her own instinct! And government supporting art is beautiful!

  • TNShopthailand

    TNShopthailand said 9 years ago

    It is beautiful. Convey an amazing art form.

  • gretchenmist

    gretchenmist said 9 years ago

    her designs are incredible! such an interesting article ~ there's something comforting about being supported while working on a dream. wouldn't it be great if that could be the way everywhere!

  • NecessiTees

    NecessiTees said 9 years ago

    Simply beautiful designs! Classic!!!

  • LouSax

    LouSax said 9 years ago

    I love Etsy - for sharing such inspiring stories and for encouraging the creative traditions of the home to continue living on in new generations. I love finding vintage needlework through this site and commissioning some small pieces from people - the conversations and stories people sometimes tell me of the needlework's history is so uplifting. Thank you Etsy! Louise Saxton (Melbourne artist)

  • MirandagirlDesigns

    MirandagirlDesigns said 9 years ago

    Great article! Beautiful! This is why I love Etsy!!!

  • ShawnBoenArt

    ShawnBoenArt said 9 years ago

    I love Textiles and I love this story. I will be doing some textiles of my own and this article has given me even more inspiration. Thank You

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 9 years ago

    Amazing article ! Many thanks for your time !

  • dreamingdevotchka

    dreamingdevotchka said 9 years ago

    I am a textile-lover and this article was SO inspiring to me. Kudos to her for following her artistic vision despite criticism and the rigid traditionalism of the times. And I do think that state-supported art programs would produce high-quality craftsmen and women. When one doesn't have to worry about where his or her next meal will be coming from, one can devote that energy to their craft instead.

  • tomokotahara

    tomokotahara said 9 years ago

    Very interesting article.Thanks for sharing.

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 9 years ago

    Do you think state-supported crafts could produce skilled craftsmen and women today? Yes. The 1930s Depression Era did and much of the work produced is outstanding and stands the test of time. I was lucky to have attended a school with WPA murals in my early years though I had no idea at the time. I volunteered to run errands in school so I could go to the upper floors of the big old place and would dawdle on the way back, admiring these fantastic works of art. They made an indelible impact on me. Thanks so much for this, Linzee! Beautiful textile art works.

  • stepbackink

    stepbackink said 9 years ago

    Yes I strongly believe state supported crafts could produce skilled crafters. I worked at a rural program in a country where weaving and pottery making became the national treasury because of state support. No matter what artists of all kinds need a support system to help them come through. I look at Etsy as the support that many of today's successful artists give attribute to. No matter where the source comes from, support is a must for any success of any nature.

  • strawberryluna

    strawberryluna said 9 years ago

    Wow, thank you for introducing me to Märta Måås-Fjetterström and her work. So cool and inspiring!

  • theresahutnick

    theresahutnick said 9 years ago

    Wonderful article and very thought provoking too. If only we all could make a (good) living at what we are passionate about making/doing. I enjoyed this, thank you.

  • CrossStitchPatterns

    CrossStitchPatterns said 9 years ago

    A great read, I will use some of this on my site at: http://www.carolinascraftycorner.com

  • zenceramics

    zenceramics said 9 years ago

    Gorgeous textiles. I did not know about Märta Måås-Fjetterström work before. Thank you for the great story.

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 9 years ago

    Beautiful!

  • tomatoheaven

    tomatoheaven said 9 years ago

    great article, thanks - i just discovered the etsy blog, more like this please!

  • laKattun

    laKattun said 9 years ago

    Great traditions! Great colors! Great style! Thank you!

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy said 9 years ago

    the patterns are exquisite. great article.

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 9 years ago

    Beautiful patterns- what an interesting story!

  • SquidWhaleDesigns

    SquidWhaleDesigns said 9 years ago

    Excellent article recounting an overlooked designer in an overlooked field. Textiles are so ubiquitous with our everyday experience that it's easy to forget how much work, innovation, influence and cultural preservation is present in our surroundings, often labeled as "women's work". And currently textiles is increasingly a dying field, relegated to factories in developing countries often for the sake of cheap and fast items. There are few current examples of studios such cultivating the likes of Märta Måås-Fjetterström or Gunta Stolzl & Anni Albers from the Bauhaus.

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart said 9 years ago

    Interesting and inspiring article, what beautiful work! In the US it is important to be realistic about the fact that funding art programs will never be a primary focus of our government spending. In fact the arts are usually the first to experience cuts during hard times (like now). However, we are fortunate to have many generous philanthropists who continue to support the arts, especially knowing that they have supported the success of an emerging or even an experienced artist. A well administered supported arts program whether state or privately funded definitely goes far to produce successful artists. Americans for the Arts http://www.artsusa.org/ is a wonderful organization that advocates our government in support of the arts. If you go to their site and get on their email list, they will email alerts regarding proposed cuts. They will also provide you with your local politicians so that you can send them an email in support of art funding. Aloha!

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField said 9 years ago

    Amazing.

  • kathiroussel

    kathiroussel said 9 years ago

    stunning in every aspect-- a wonderfully informative feature. the work has that magic that no words can fully describe. it's a shame that artists have to struggle so much in this country-- just trying to pay for health insurance alone can eat up any profits from hand made works. living in a world where people's basic needs are met allows everyone the possibility to become much more creative and contribute beautiful works and ideas that enhance life's experience. thanks for the wonderful feature!

  • nicolesweavingart

    nicolesweavingart said 9 years ago

    As a weaver myself, I second what SquidWhaleDesigns said about weaving being an overlooked field. We deal with fabric every day, all day, but do we ever really think about where it comes from, how it was made, the time and materials that go into it?

  • lilinspirations

    lilinspirations said 9 years ago

    The wooden table weaving is super cool! Love it.

  • blainedesign

    blainedesign said 9 years ago

    Wonderful post. If we could upload photos in comments, I could share fabulous buildings, murals, and public sculpture in this area, all financed by the government as WPA projects during the Depression. We have amazing, lasting, and USEFUL works of art only because the government supported artists. I also think textiles and fiber are about to enter public consciousness. We grow some of the world's best fiber in the U.S., but have lost our textile industry. Thanks to all the weavers who are bringing it home.

  • hawthornehill

    hawthornehill said 9 years ago

    Just beautiful. I love the Swedish style.....especially coming from MN.

  • soranagallery

    soranagallery said 9 years ago

    I love history. That is what my degree is in. I love that I wasn't the only one fired for being creative. I almost LOL.Thanks, etsy.

  • wiosnachamow

    wiosnachamow said 9 years ago

    She was amazing, so concious about the geometry and colour, but those contemporary works aren't as good as hers, they are not following this geometrical-colorful tradition, that's sad.

  • doingitherself

    doingitherself said 9 years ago

    Thank you for this! I typed "WOVEN" into Etsy Vintage yesterday and spent a solid hour and a half marveling at all the amazing artistry that lives on Etsy. This article was lovely. Thank you!

  • melodine

    melodine said 9 years ago

    I too believe that the state-supported art programs would enhance the economy of America at this point in time. The older generations who have some of their homeland (European) traditions and craftsmanship are quickly dying out and not being passed on. It's a sad state when we can't (or for some reason wont) put Americans back to work when there's so much to be done. We, as Etsyans, know how much vibrancy comes to our lives when we're doing what we love....creating!!

  • HawaiianEye

    HawaiianEye said 9 years ago

    The study of textiles is rich with the history of a particular culture's way of life - the division of labor between men, women and children. Who tends the sheep? Who shears the sheep, cards the wool and dyes the fibers? Children with tiny fingers were generally used in the weaving of rugs and the tyoing of threads. They worked endless hours and everyone was involved in the economic pursuit of the village. Seldom was a loafer rewarded or encouraged. Everyone had a job to do and to not be a part of the welfare of the whole was to warrant admonishment and ostracism. Everyone in a village benefitted by the toiling of all those involved, including children. Rug making history is quite extraordinary.

  • kararane

    kararane said 9 years ago

    yes Linzee - funding for artists is crucial. there are many good examples to be learned by Sweden's support of a good lifestyle for all people. balance harmony respect

  • kararane

    kararane said 9 years ago

    the world is a better place for these beautiful designs, the inspiration of her story, and the legacy that continues.

  • lkmccray

    lkmccray said 9 years ago

    Love all this respect for textiles! So often they're treated as unimportant because traditionally they show up on beds and tables, rather than walls of museums. And personally I think they're viewed with some disdain because weaving, sewing, embroidering, etc. are seen as "women's work." So glad to know so many of us hold textiles in high regard, whether we make them or simply use them every day. (And to TheScarfTree re: the spelling of my name- thanks! It was my great gramother's maiden name.)

  • Carlottasart

    Carlottasart said 9 years ago

    Loved the article-- thanks for posting it

  • tinybabylady

    tinybabylady said 9 years ago

    Just goes to show that you should stock to your guns when you believe in something and no matter what, don't ever give up!

  • scandivintage

    scandivintage said 9 years ago

    So much hard work, so much creativity - hats off to these inspirational women!

  • lauraprill

    lauraprill said 9 years ago

    beautiful article!

  • GladRaggz

    GladRaggz said 9 years ago

    Wonderful inspiration. I love Kim Hostler's quote the moset - “Because of socialism, people didn’t have to worry about whether they could afford good schools or health care. If they loved a craft, they could afford to pursue it and still have a decent quality of life.”

  • SweetwaterGifts

    SweetwaterGifts said 9 years ago

    Interesting article!

  • Swedmade

    Swedmade said 9 years ago

    One of our greatest Swedish textile artists! I actually have one of her "rya" carpets on my floor. So pleased she is still remembered.

  • freshpikd4u

    freshpikd4u said 9 years ago

    Beautiful designs!

  • BirdsNestCompany

    BirdsNestCompany said 9 years ago

    Awesome article!

  • roska

    roska said 9 years ago

    aaaaaaamazing, so beautiful. love everything about this. i'd never heard of marta before but i'll be searching out more info on her now.

  • kylie67

    kylie67 said 9 years ago

    What a wonderful article! Thank you so much - it's so inspiring. Loving these textiles too. Kx

  • ArcSquare

    ArcSquare said 9 years ago

    Amazing, I'm impressed.

  • AnneliT

    AnneliT said 9 years ago

    Being based in Stockholm, Sweden myself I loved this article about one of my much loved Swedish idols! I am passionate about textiles myself and I like what Märta Måås- Fjetterström did, blend tradition and innovation. Art is constantly evolving but we should never forget our roots since they can give us so much inspiration! www.annelit.se

  • vargasvalleyvintage

    vargasvalleyvintage said 9 years ago

    I've been collecting vintage fabrics and linens for over 10 years. Also creating items with them. Items from sweden are some of my favorite items. I've seen beautiful woven runners, huck weave embroidery and stunning embroidery. Now I know why there is so much history and availability of these items. I would love for a government sponsored program that subsidizes some type of pay, health care and education. Being a young breast cancer survivor in America forces me to have a desk job so I can have health insurance. Before my illness I was able to devote more time to my sewing and designing and only work part-time.

  • BeaumontStudio

    BeaumontStudio said 9 years ago

    Amazing, I wish there were more handmade wall textiles to be found on etsy.

  • craftychris

    craftychris said 9 years ago

    Beautiful work, but IMHO I would rather not have bureaucrats messing in my creativity, especially the way the country is going economically.

  • SoapDragon

    SoapDragon said 9 years ago

    These are really lovely designs. I think they are every bit as important as other art forms.

  • MixeDesigns

    MixeDesigns said 9 years ago

    Great work, good inspiration!

  • juhdesignjewelry

    juhdesignjewelry said 9 years ago

    Great article! Crafts and design growing in a sustainable way! That's what we need!!! Thanks Etsy!

  • takingshape

    takingshape said 9 years ago

    Well, its a great article, but the reason she was fired from the Govt. funded program was because she didn't want to follow the rules and wanted innovation. So she started her own studio, was it funded by the Govt?? Would the govt. entity dictate what was to be designed, studied, etc? I would rather not be too comfortable in the rest of my life for fear that it might do the opposite and squash my creativity. Of course, a 'patron' wouldn't be too bad...

  • OseArt

    OseArt said 9 years ago

    Thaks Etsy! Ineresting article! We really need support

  • Scorpionvantruc

    Scorpionvantruc said 9 years ago

    Wonderful article! I love it. I wish i can create beautiful textiles.

  • Zalavintage

    Zalavintage said 9 years ago

    Timeless, thanks for introducing to Martas' work.

  • QuiltFinger

    QuiltFinger said 9 years ago

    Great feature. MMF was incredibly influential.

  • theroyal

    theroyal said 9 years ago

    WOW

  • packmatthews

    packmatthews said 9 years ago

    When the state is a patron of the arts, instead of patron of weapons systems and financial ponzi schemes life is so much the better for everyone isn't it? And such a rich legacy is left for future generations to mine rather than superfund sights left over by the remnants of military patronage.

  • gopalastexstyle

    Durgesh Maheshwari from Rajsthanart said 6 years ago

    Nice blog and shop

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