My friend Annemor Sundbø is a constant source of interesting films. Recently she posted a TV interview from 1970 with a male damask weaver from Steinsland on Sotra, an island west of Bergen. Johs. Færø talked about his life in damask weaving. For the first two-and-a-half minutes, Johs meets with women at the local Seaman’s Church. He serves hand-baked goods, and says, “I know that the women like strong coffee.”
“Oh, you make a lot of tablecloths,” one woman says, “Won’t you show us?” He obliges. Start by watching the first two and a half minutes or so of “I, A Damask Weaver.”
Much of the 15 minute video features the interviewer and Johs sitting and talking, but there is weaving again from about 9:30-12 minutes.
“Linen is the best, esthetically,” Johs says. He weaves at one meter, sixty centimeters wide, about seven to ten centimeters per hour. The cloths are over two meters. “So then you get 2 or 3 kroner per hour?” the interviewer continues, “That doesn’t pay.”
He began weaving in 1925, and learned damask weaving in 1927 during a summer course in Sweden. Later came the war, and he was in the Norwegian Marines. He was captured by the Germans early on, but released. Soon after he became involved with the underground in Bergen. He traveled to the Shetland Islands and London for training, and then remained in London for active service. While there, he met a weaving instructor who also had come to London, and who brought a couple of looms. She asked him if he wanted to complete a coverlet begun and abandoned by an elderly weaver. It was in floss. “Ja, it was slow,” Johs commented. The interviewer joked that he must have been the only Norwegian Marine who was weaving during his active service.
Watch the final portion for more weaving images, after about 18:30. In 1945 he returned home, where he knew everyone on his daily walks. He started to teach the new generation. He was also helped by Clara, without whom it would have been difficult to accomplish so much.
There wasn’t any danger of being unemployed once the first few things came off the loom. He wove four large curtains for Storetveit Church in 1941, in doubleweave. Then he wove seating upholstery for the Oslo Rådhuset–24 chairs and 6-8 sofas, and then 24 more chairs. For the Bergen City Museum he wove a very long tablecloth, 5 meters, 65 cm, and napkins. The table was to be set as it was in 1820 for a gentleman’s dinner. He also made some mantles for Haakonsvern Church and a flag for the Sund Music School.
“And now you’ve become the leader of the Womens Organization here in Stensland,” the interviewer commented. They meet at the Seamen’s Church because so many of the women have husbands who are at sea.