The Friends of Finnish Handicraft – Folk and Textile Art

A Finnish long pile rug model Friends of Finnish Handicraft.

The Friends of Finnish Handicraft (Finnish: Suomen käsityön ystävät, Swedish: Finska handarbetets vänner) is a Finnish association for the promotion and creation of folk textile art and designs and to improve modern standards.

History

The Friends of Finnish Handicraft aims to document and promote typically Finnish textiles. The association was founded in 1879 by Fanny Churberg and inspired by the Swedish Friends of Handicraft association, founded five years earlier. The association has always worked closely with artists and architects and, from an early date, cooperated with, e.g. Jac Ahrenberg. The association collected and published a pattern book of traditional textile patterns in its early days. 

Today the association is known for high-quality and innovative products, which it supplies for public spaces and distributes through a shop in Helsinki. The association produces, among other things, carpets, church textiles, flags and curtains.

The Friends initially specialized in textiles but soon broadened their remit to include metalwork, furniture, and interior design. They also ran exhibitions and competitions which enticed the vanguard of Finland’s architects and artists to contribute designs, for which the society retained exclusive rights. 

The Friends of Finnish Handicraft also spearheaded the revival of ryijy rugs, the hand-knotted affairs that peasants in Finland and Sweden had used as covers in beds, boats and sleighs, but which were now recast as floor and wall adornments. These included simple, homely pieces such as Aili Tallgren’s linen tea-cosy of 1904-9 in which a solemn, button-nosed girl carries a steaming bowl of soup, and Germund Paaer’s sketch for a tapestry of c.1910, which appealed to the national psyche by depicting activities as popular as boating and sledging. Particularly striking is Jarl Eklund’s Seagull ryijy of 1905 (fig. 184), in which a halo of seagulls hovers neatly over the crest of a breaking wave.

Sources

Blakesley, R. P. (2009). The Arts & Crafts Movement. Singapore: Phaidon Press.

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

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