Johana Lundquist, Anna Sophia Eliason, Linnea Eliason, and Bill Schaffer – “Weaving is Wonderful!”
The Iron Range is known for its blending of many cultures and nationalities. Customs and knowledge of weaving migrated with immigrants. Women knew how to weave and men knew how to make looms before they arrived. A pair of long rugs and a small tapestry weaving in the Standing on Tradition, Rag Rug Techniques exhibit carry the story of the Lundquist family as they pass knowledge and passion for weaving from generation to generation.
Anna Sophia Eliason (1889 - 1977) learned to weave from her mother, Johana Lundquist, who supported her family by peeling logs and weaving in Finland. It was Anna’s brother, William Lindquist who emigrated and became a carpenter in Hibbing, Minnesota. As was typical of many Iron Range immigrants, he sent money home for family members to travel to America, which is how Anna and family members arrived in Hibbing.
Anna purchased a used loom which was originally made as a “traveling loom”, a way for immigrants to share resources.
Anna wove a pair of rugs in 1945 and they were in constant use in the farm house until 2009. Made of wool rag weft, they have a wonderful sense of proportion and color. They also show the technical skill needed to weave two rugs virtually the same. After 32 years of constant use, they remain in wonderful shape. These rugs were never washed with water but were cleaned in the “old way” with snow.
Anna taught her daughter Linnea Eliason how to weave. Like her mother and grandmother before her, Linnea is an important link in the Lundquist family tradition of weaving. Throughout her life, Linnea has worked as a dairy farmer, seamstress, and weaver, and as Linnea says, weaving is the most wonderful work that you can learn to do.
The continuation of the tradition of weaving came to Bill Schaffer when Linnea was teaching his daughters how to weave and he saw what his daughters were making. When he acquired a loom, Linnea helped him warp the loom and has been a strong influence in his weaving career, but Bill took a different route. Even though he began with rag rug weaving, he realized that his interest was elsewhere. The technique that he uses incorporates tapestry and rya weaving and is done with wool yarn. Rya, a technique which uses rya knots, is commonly done in Finland and tapestry weave, which is found throughout the world are ancient weave structures that Bill has used to developed his own style.
Bill Schaffer, Tapestry with Rya
It is interesting to note that he then taught Linnea how to do tapestry, or pictorial weaving, when she was 80 years old. The Sail Boat Rug in the Standing On Tradition, Rag Rug Techniques exhibit was her first attempt at pictorial weaving and woven with rags, so the influence and sharing went both ways.
Linnea Eliason, Sail Boat rug detail
Bill Schaffer continues with the joy of creativity that weaving can give, but his main reason for weaving today, unlike the generations before him, is not to make a living from it or to make a functional object. He has come to a point where the artistic process is more important and he enjoys the surprise of creating. Bill, like each generation before him, has used knowledge from the past and made it relevant for today. Each generation has a link with the past and the future which is why “Transforming the old to the new” is “tying it all together”.