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Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom and a Solo Trip to Sweden

The article in WSJ Magazine was called “Dream Weavers”.  I’m not a subscriber but they sent me a magazine anyway. And I’ve never received another one and in a way I’m glad because who knows for where I would have next booked a ticket. I tore out the article but it has no date on the two pages so I can’t even tell you when. I read it and in rapid succession developed an inexplicable covetous urge to own a weaving from the Swedish textile atelier of Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom, then booked a flight to Sweden. Let me tell you no one was more surprised than me. 

I’ve always loved fabrics and rugs and linens. I’m a tactile human, always reaching for things in no touch places, but until recently I couldn’t have told you it was TEXTILES in which I have immense interest in and appreciation for and a few regrets about not having pursued this passion before now.  I’ve brought back a textile from every country I’ve traveled but I was unknowing of the broad, beautiful term, textiles until this purchase and the research I did as a result. 

On various travels to Paris I discovered Aubusson rugs and Gobelin tapestries.  I bought a small, sweet red fox needlepoint kit from Bucherie of which I’ve not begun, but it’s here next to me, always calling for someday.  I’ll eventually get to it.  My grandmother taught me to sew.  Home Economics honed the skill.  4-H brought it all home because there were blue ribbons involved and wearable clothing (beyond my Mom’s pretty feed sack shorts and matching tanks).  I taught myself to do cross stitch embroidery and laboured for months on a crewel pillow that I gave my Mom. She still has it and I’m amazed every time I see it.

But it was the choosing of the fabric for the sewing projects that I most enjoyed.  I recall shopping for fabric for a prom dress and telling Mom I wanted something to stun. It was for my 1st husband’s senior prom and since I was a year older, I had graduated and would be returning on his arm and wanted to make sure all the girls knew who was in charge.  Mom and I found a gauzy pale pink fabric with raised dots of darker pinks and pale tans that had enough body to stand up to the dress pattern we had chosen (I hope it was Vogue but it may have been McCall’s). The fabric was zephyr thin, requiring a lining in the body and the entire project was decadent and gloriously tactile and I was so happy to wear that dress.  A few years later a friend wanted to borrow it for a wedding and they never returned it.  It slipped my memory at the time, but once I (much) later recalled the favor and the absence and loss of the dress, I’ve never gotten over it.  That dress and its fabric was the beginning.  

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom 1873-1941 was a Swedish textiles pioneer.  She opened her weaving shop in 1919 in Båstad Sweden at the age of 46. Already a Swedish design icon, she’s been likened to a composer, her weavers the musicians.  Her rugs and tapestries hang in museums, grace the floors of palaces all over the world, and occasionally the smallest ones find their way into homes of new converts. Works of art in linen and wool, I can’t imagine having one underfoot.  It would be like constantly looking at the new pair of shoes bought for the new school year. I’d never want to look up again.  She left behind over 700 designs – a legacy of an extent the textiles world may never see an equal. 

I don’t know why I travel, I really don’t. I had such an intensely passionate desire for one of those weavings in the article that I created an overseas itinerary to procure one despite the fact I hardly knew what a loom was. If I can be moved to book a trip abroad to a country I’ve never been spurred on by an article in a magazine I don’t subscribe to about woven wall hangings and rugs by a Swedish textiles design icon of which I’d never heard, there is no rhyme or reason.  I like that idea.  To be driven to go see something on as slight a whim as this is as good a cause for exploration and discovery, as any I think.

 

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom Atelier, Båstad Sweden

 

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom

Full tour. Antique looms.

 

Marta Maas-Fjettersrom

glorious, intricate, intoxicating textiles

 

MMF International Executive

Win Win. Martin Chard International Executive MMF.

 

Swedish Flat Weave by Kaisa Melanton for AB MMF

 

Kaisa Melanton

Woven 1974. Kaisa Melanton design. Linen warp, wool weft

 

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom

Hello Marta I Love You

 

Workshop at Agardhsgatan 9, Bastad Sweden

 

Kaisa Melanton

Kaisa Melanton 1920 – 2012, Swedish Textile Designer and director of Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom studio in 1970

 

MMF Studio & Shop

MMF design in progress

 

Post purchase wind-down

 

Mom's crewel pillow

The Crewel Pillow, circa 1999

 

I posted all these pics so my son will someday know what he’s inheriting.

 

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Båstad Sweden

You don’t set out solo for Båstad Sweden because of a glossy travel brochure. 

“She was standing with the sun glowing round her head, the North Sea behind her. Dark glasses. It was the last photo of her. They looked for hints in the reflection of glass but there were none. She disappeared in that place. And really, who could blame her?” This was the only thing I wrote in the stumbled upon place of Båstad Sweden. Unless you’re a California transplant, in Oklahoma we don’t often use the term “existential crisis”.  But the one I’ve been experiencing crescendoed on that coast. 

Flying Lufthansa to Germany I knew of two things I planned to take from Båstad – inspiration from a writer’s workshop, and a weaving. I knew these things before I embarked on this first trip to Scandinavia.  But that first evening as the North Sea lapped at my toes in the dark while the bathhouse lights rose as if by queued stage production, strange tears came as my self came to an abrupt halt, so quiet and still I was aware of my held breath; a surprising and unexpected standstill as my senses locked onto the place.  

Two days later I’m enjoying a massage when Charlotte asks what I think about Båstad. She specifically uses the word energy. Charlotte is quiet and unobtrusive in her query but internally I’m disturbed.  Disturbed at her perceptiveness, disturbed at the notion of energy so pronounced that someone else has noticed, disturbed at my recollection of the evening when I collided with that energy, disturbed at my truthful response. I tell her it’s dark.  She chuckles and suggests “it’s strong”.  And then recommends I take a dip in the North Sea the next morning and spend the day at the bathhouse. So I did. 

A nude plunge into the open, frigid sea, a large warm outdoor caldron-I-mean-tub with steam fighting for air space with the glorious February sun, a plush white robe covering me inside near a fireplace with nothing but glass separating the indoor refinement from the prodigious contrasts on the other side… repeat.  The existential crisis didn’t end, but I learned a lot that day about dark energy vs strong energy.  Thank you Lotta. 

People travel for a lot of reasons.  Yes I go to see, but mostly I pursue a discovery of place that leaves a mark as indelible as the tattoo I continually threaten. I want a place to unexpectedly hurt. In all the best ways. 

North Sea bathhouse

Energy

North Sea bathhouse in the morning

Bathhouse på morgonen

 
a map of Båstad Sweden

Båstad Sweden, Earth

Swedish flag flying over coast of North Sea

Swedish Coast of North Sea

Black and White photo of Båstad Sweden after dark

First night walk about town

 
Båstad and the North Sea from a restaurant window at the blue hour

Båstad and the North Sea from a restaurant window

 

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A Yellow, Rubber Duck

It’s a yellow, rubber duck.  A simple toy with hopefully fond memories from a happy childhood. But like a daisy chain necklace, a rubber duck isn’t as simple as first it appears.  

A friend’s partner recently passed away and while the friend and I haven’t been close since high school, we’re both somewhat aware of the path of each other’s life.  Her’s has been difficult, and my heart aches for what she’s now going through.  As I laid in bed last night thinking about her, a memory of innocent times popped in for a visit.  We made daisy chain necklaces.  It was a favorite adornment of ours and it bugs the hell out of me because I can’t recall how to connect the last stem to the first stem to make it hold together round our necks for an afternoon of play (I wonder if she does?).

I lost sleep thinking about it and the problem of that crucial last step became tangled in the heartache I feel for her loss. I cried for her.  And part of me cried because I couldn’t remember how to connect the ends of those stupid necklaces – those things around our necks that looked like shit the next day but bound together our youthful years. The memory of the joyous simplicity of those daisy chain necklaces suddenly became one of pathos. And complexity.  

My friend and I spent a lot of time together, but as farm kids, we spent a lot of time on our own as well.  My favorite toys were used for imagined travel.  A Viewmaster.  A fortune teller of folded paper with crayon dreams. A Magic 8 Ball, of which one has always, and will always, sit on my desk. These simple toys were magnificent travel tools in the hands of my imagination.  And so it was from this perspective of appreciation for simple toys that I approached the yellow, rubber duck during a recent solo journey. 

I don’t recall playing with a rubber duck in the bathtub.  Too young I guess. But this rubber duck, while possibly and superficially at home in a small body of water, is for grown ups — grown ups who day dream a lot about travel. From the first time I read about this thing, this travel trophy, this simple, rubber duck that has nothing to do with bathtub playtime, I wanted one.  My Magic 8 Ball and the paper fortune teller and the Viewmaster needed a new, deceptively naive, travel toy.  

They say the journey is all that matters. As I think about my friend, mostly I say that’s a BS lie.   But this time, on this journey, they were right.  

 

The yellow, rubber duck given to Lufthansa's First Class Passengers at their First Class Terminal/Lounge in Frankfurt, Germany

Not-so-simple, yellow, rubber duck

First class rose and early refreshments

On the way for the rubber duck

a reflection in the plane window

Everything At Once

caviar with all the accruements, and no skimping either

the rubber duck better be worth this

Lufthansa's first class cheese course

no words left

Lufthansa's first class breakfast course

Breakfast

the Porsche that provided transfer

The Transfer

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What I Brought Back – China

To eat Nan bread,  palm the bagel-like perfection and with a quick twist of the wrist, turn the bread over to expose its underside.  Inspect for fragments of the oven wall that adhered during the baking process.  With a finger nail, rapidly fleck off this debris. From the initial palming of the bread to the last bite, the entire process is gloriously tactile indulgent.

 

What I Brought Back

A teapot purchased from a Silk Road flea market in Kashgar, China.

I brought the above teapot back from the 5 week backpacking trip with my son to China. The interior is flaking with the tea-rust built up from many a Chinese tea party; the exterior rubbed smooth by the hands serving it.  My son and I were browsing and eating our way through a bazaar in Kashgar when I spotted it.  My son bargained for it with not many words being said, but a lot of scribbling back and forth between me and the shop owner.  Only regret, we didn’t save the piece of paper. 

And here’s something from the China trip that could not be physically contained — John skipping rocks on Karakul Lake. 

My Son Skipping Rocks on Karakul Lake

Skipping Rocks on Karakul Lake. Xinjiang Province.

 

The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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