Norsk Folkekunst: Kvinnearbeid

I have smart friends who haunt online auction sites and snap up rare Scandinavian weaving books and beautiful weavings. I’ve often been envious of their success, but not willing to put in the time myself to get great deals. But recently I bought a book inexpensively due to a heads-up from Carla Kozak, my friend since library school days, who thought that a copy of Norsk Folkekunst: Kvinnearbeid (Norwegian Folk Art: Woman’s Work) would be right up my alley.

Halfdan Arneberg was a noted Norwegian artist and cultural historian. This 1949 book is a companion to Norsk Folkekunst: Mannarbeid (Norwegian Folk Art: Man’s Work, 1951)

The book consists primarily of plates, most in color, of weaving, embroidery and lace. The images are not photos of the objects, but paintings or sketches. There are a few pages of explanation at the front. The weaving section is only a three-page overview–mostly information I knew, but with one notable new fact. Perhaps other Norwegian weaving fans already knew this, but Arneberg writes that “lightning weave” doesn’t refer to lightning at all.

Plate Number 8 shows a rather unusual geometric-weave motif from Sogn, the so-called “dyrskjona,” which depicts swans swimming towards each other, with their reflections in the water. The colors–sharp red, gold, black and white–are typical for Western Norway. The so-called “lynildborden” (lightning border) we see at the top has nothing to do with lightning; it is stylized running water–an ancient motif.

Norsk Folkekunst: Kvinnearbeid, p. 11

It took me a while to discern the swans in that weaving… Here’s another beautiful weaving image.

I wish the book included more weavings, and more color images of the ones the author chose. The book includes more embroidery than weaving, but I certainly appreciate embroidery, too. Check out the lion in this embroidered sledge cushion.

I am very happy with my $25 find. Not only is the book a gem, it came from the collection of the J.J. Hill Library in St. Paul. The Hill Library opened as a general reference library for the citizens of St. Paul in 1921, and in the 1970s changed its mission and the focus of its collection to business reference. I used the collection for research in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and was thrilled each time I needed resources unique to their collection. It’s no longer a library, but hopefully the magnificent space will live on.

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