Otti Berger (1898–1944) was a Bauhaus designer, weaver, teacher, and, for a short time, head of the Bauhaus Weaving Workshop. She was born in Zmajavac, Croatia. She was professionally active in Dessau, Berlin, England, Prague, and Croatia.
Between 1921 and 1926, she studied at the art academy in Zagreb. Between 1927 and 1930, she studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau, under Gunta Stélzl and, in 1929, in Sweden.
Otti Berger started a six-month trial semester in the weaving workshop at the Bauhaus in October 1927. In the winter semester of 1928, she took weaving classes with Gunta Stolzl, who had been a student at the Bauhaus since 1919. In 1924, Stölzl was appointed a journeywoman in the Bauhaus weaving workshop, of which she became the master and the first female member among the tutors in January 1927. In the new school, the experimentation of the Weimar years gave way to Dessau’s functionalism. (Halén, 2019)
In 1929, she took a summer course at the Practical Weaving School in Stockholm. There, she became interested in old Scandinavian craft textiles. The tapestry-style rodlakan, rya, and rag-rug weavings had a particular influence on her designs. She also researched the textile collections at the Museums of Decorative Arts in Oslo and Bergen, both run by relatives.
She produced mass-marketable textiles with factories in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Britain. She also sold her products to a large market. She also fully embraced the notion that both hand-weaving and machine-weaving should be used in beneficial ways. Berger, perhaps except Annie Albers, was the only textile artist at the Bauhaus who was well-known internationally as a designer.
As a result of Berger’s highly inventive research into various blends of strong and suitable for standardised production of natural and synthetic fibres, three of her inventions were granted patents. Berger established her own company in Berlin after the Dessau Bauhaus shut down in September 1932. With an emphasis on the physical characteristics of textiles, such as structure, elasticity, and durability, she created fabrics using incredibly creative combinations of synthetic and natural fibres.
She worked with Gunta Stélzl and for many businesses in Germany, England, the Netherlands, and Czechoslovakia. In 1933, she joined the Wohnbedarf department store in Zürich as a design consultant. In 1934, she was commissioned to create the textiles and wallcoverings for the Corso cinema and restaurant, which opened in Zurich. Wohnbedarf displayed and offered for sale her textiles and Alvarés’ wooden furniture in 1934.
She created fabrics for curtains for De Ploeg in Bergeyk, the Netherlands, in 1935; after relocating to England, she created textiles for Helios in Bolton; after being denied a visa for the United States, she travelled to Prague and then to Croatia; she was then imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, where she passed away in 1944 or 1945.
She was one of the first women designers to use a designer label, and the fabrics made in her studio were the first to reflect light and block out sound. Her avant-garde designs were shown at international shows and in publications, and she often wrote and published her own articles. Otto Berger died tragically in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944 or 1945, but no one knows the exact date.
Halén. (2019). The Bauhaus Weaver and Textile Designer Otti Berger (1898–1944/45). The Journal of the Decorative Arts Society 1850 – the Present, 115–149.
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