Handmade textiles follow an almost 300-year tradition
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American
Rørosmeieriet has the cows, Røros Tweed has the sheep.
When you live in one of the coldest places in Norway, with winter temperatures reaching as low as -12˚F, with skies overcast and snow plentiful, the Norwegian adage “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” is put to the test.
Since 1940, Røros Tweed has produced handmade textiles and become renown for curtains, furniture, fabric, throws, tweeds, warm blankets, and seating pads. There are 56 categories and 31 designers, including teams, some of the most respected craftspeople in Scandinavia. Products are available at 18 outlets in the United States, including the National Nordic Museum store, Stock and Pantry in Seattle, and Kunau Collections in Minneapolis.
The origins go much further back in the history of the old mining town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to a unique will. Copper was unearthed in the 17th century, splitting the town into those who became wealthy and those who did not. Peder Hiort, as director of the mine, was one of the wealthy ones. When he died in 1789, he had no children. He did not like the disparity in income of the residents of the town.
The will allocated all his finances to establish a foundation to teach textile production to the poor as well as for the purchase of raw materials. The foundation purchased the clothes the workers made, so the workers would earn income from their work.
A year later, the foundation would return the items, so often, the workers received income for their work and then got the same clothes back. Thus, the Røros handcraft and textile production tradition was born. This education continued. Just over a century and a half later, Røros Tweed opened its doors.
“Røros Tweed … experimented with the use of Norwegian wool and development of textile products of high quality and design…cooperating with leading Norwegian textile artists…” it says on the company’s website.
With new issues confronting the modern textile industry, Røros Tweed has refocused to producing high quality throws made with 100% pure wool and “design inspired by the esthetic and cultural heritage of Røros, and the fascinating mountainous nature surrounding it.”
There are five new products, three of which, Mikkel Mini, Stemor (Stepmother) and Mikkel Baby, are made by Oslo-based Kristine Five Melvær, and two, Isak and Fri Mini, by the duo of Anderssen & Voll.
Mikkel, Mikkel Mini, and Mikkel Baby debuted at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York in 2015, where it received best textile from ICFF editors. As the website states, “The motifs combine a geometric pattern inspired by the Bauhaus movement and Norwegian weaving traditions with a modern and contemporary use of colors. The series includes large throws, half size throws, baby throws, cushions and seating pads.” They come in six colors: dark, pastel, green, red, orange, and gray.
Stemor “is a stylish and monochrome series consisting of cushions and seating pads, which has been updated with new and modern colors in 2021.” Gray, rust, wine, misty green, sunshine yellow, dusty pink, and deep blue are your color choices.
Melvær, 37, concentrates on tableware, lighting, furniture, textile objects, and graphic design. “She explores the subject of object communication, bridging the disciplines of product design and graphic design. She focuses on the communicative potentials of objects…to create emotional bonds between object and user. By searching for the sensual essence of phenomena, she translates these qualities into sensuous objects with a Scandinavian simplicity.” She has 25 of her pieces at Røros Tweed.
The Fri Mini is part of the FRI line, influenced “by the Norwegian tradition of smaller rectangular tablecloths called løpere (runners). You’ll find variations of these textiles in nearly every mountain cabin all over Norway. In this new interpretation, the typical repetitive rhythm of color is somewhat dissolved, and the colors shift in a randomized, soft, and meandering zigzag.” The colors are called: late fall, by the fire, harvest, summer red, November view, and gray day.
Anderssen & Voll explain their ISAK design: “In 2016, we were part of an international design research project called ‘Furnishing Utopia.’ The initial stage was organized as a workshop at the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts. The ISAK throw was first sketched out during this visit. The classic Shaker chairs are often braided from colorful, woven cotton tape. The ISAK throw is inspired by this, but translated into a light, soft and decorative throw.” Colors include green meadow, chestnut, red sumac, and far away blue.
Torbjørn Anderssen, 45, and Espen Voll, 56, are among Norway’s most recognized designers, focusing on domestic objects: furniture, lighting, electronics, textiles, and tableware. They opened their design studio in Oslo in 2009 and have won Norwegian and Scandinavian designers of the year in Norway, the Wallpaper Award, Red Dot Award and Honorary Award for Best Design in Norway.
The pair are noted for their “attention to cultural and market influences and their commitment to applying what they learn to fresh designs with practical appeal to consumers. They believe that good design both builds on and breaks with tradition.”
They have a manufacturing brand, Nedre Foss, named for an 11th-century farm, Nedre Foss Gård in Central Oslo, which was transformed into a restaurant and brewery. The pair did the interiors.
All in all, Andersen & Voll have done 17 designs for Røros Tweed.
Over the years, Røros Tweed has become synonymous with quality, beauty, comfort, and warmth. It represents Norwegian design at its very best.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.