Judith Johansson (1916-1983) created over 400 designs for carpets and other fabrics during her life time. Together with her husband, she ran JJ Vävateljén in Knäred for 55 years.
Judith was born in Trollhättan in 1916, daughter to builder Per Johan Bengtsson and his wife Olga, who was a seamstress. She learned to weave already as a school girl, taught by her much loved grandmother, Olivia Eliasson. Working with yarn and being able to card, spin, twist, dye, weave, sew and crochet was an obvious necessity in her schooling. In her childhood home, the hand’s work was highly valued. Judith’s mother encouraged her to discover the values of colors and find her own ways.
Judith Johansson met her future husband John Johansson at the age of 19. He ran a handicraft shop in Trollhättan, and in his home in Hishult he had hired weavers for the manufacture of rugs and smaller fabrics.
The couple started a weaving studio in Knäred in 1938. Judith created designs and weaved together with employees, while her husband set up the weave, warped, solved and sometimes knit the fringes on the finished items. John took care of the administrative and supported his wife in her artistic creation; they were spouses but also workmates.
At the end of the 1940s, Judith Johansson studied at the Textile Institute in Borås (now the School of Textiles). She took inspiration from nature and began making the beautiful pattern compositions for which she is still known today.
Judith Johansson was offered work as the artistic leader at the craft school Capellagården, founded in 1958 by Carl Malmsten. She declined, choosing to continue her work with church textiles that had gained a prominent place in the studio’s work. Knäred’s congregation was the first to order a mat to the church. After that, other churches, shipping companies, department stores and embassies ordered her rugs. Judith’s textiles can be found in some seventy churches around Sweden.
One of Judith’s most famous undertakings came from the Swedish king Gustaf VI Adolf. Judith was asked to adorn Prince Eugene’s room in the dormitory at Vadstena Monastery with a new carpet. She took inspiration from “a dewdrop in midsummer time” and created the carpet “Blomsterkrans” (flower wreath).
She also made furniture fabrics for Carl Malmsten’s furniture, called “Eugen”. The studio policy was to give furniture fabrics were given men’s names, while the curtain fabrics were given women’s names.
Judith was inspired by nature. Her patterns often bear the name of their source of inspiration. A characteristic of her rugs is the lack of “dead” space. The background colour is always mottled to reflect the natural shifts of colour and shades.
- Riddarsporrar (Delphinium)
- Meditation, inspired by snow melting in the gravel outside the studio
- Timmerstockar (Logs), from Judith’s travels to the north of Sweden. The grey colours represent fir trees and the colourful parts represent pine trees. These rugs are often signed with the letter M in the right hand corner as they were often woven by the weaver Märtha.
- Vädd (Scabious), designed in the 1970s
- Sommarblomster (Summer flowers), designed in the 1960s
- Lupiner (Lupines), one of the last rugs, designed in the mid 1980s
- Myosotis, Latin for Forget-me-not
- Rosenhäck (Rose hedge), is an overflowered rose hedge
All Judith’s rugs have an oriental border and her fringes are always square braided, usually röllakan rugs have simpler fringes.
The weaving mill in Knäred was very productive, however never marketed. Judith believed in the mouth to mouth method and that nothing would sell that could not market itself thanks to good design and quality. All rugs were made in Sweden and the weaving mill had 13 employees at peak time. Some of these are Märtha, who signed with an M, Birgitta, who usually did not sign her rugs with her own initials and Elsa Ekholm who signed with a thin E sans serif. The most interesting co-signing is a third J in the left hand corner, separated from the other two with a blank space. These rugs have been woven by Judith’s daughter Britt-Mari Glyssbo, who is also called Judith and therefore signs with her mother’s name. Britt-Mari also makes her own rugs and textiles under the signature BG.
Judith was awarded many prizes for her inspiring works and artistic contributions to Swedish textile artmanship. In 1983 she was named Halland County Council’s cultural fellow. In 1988, she was awarded the Royal Patriotic Society’s gold medal for her deeds in the Swedish business community. She received the Laholm Cultural Prize in 1989.
Judith suffered from severe asthma, but kept working all her life. Her last church rug in Arbrå in Hälsingland was inaugurated just one week before she died.
Judith marked her creations JJ in the lower left hand corner.