Swedish loom, textile samples and archive, timber / fabric / paper, maker unknown, Sweden, 1950, used by Solvig Baas Becking, Holland / Australia, 1950-2011
Solvig Baas Becking (1928-2011) emigrated to Australia from Holland in 1963, bringing the 4 shaft - shaft-switching loom with her. She quickly earned a reputation as a weaver, teacher and promoter of the craft of weaving.
The Museum has three examples of her work in its collection. This loom was used to make these samples, and all of her rug weaving was done on this loom. The loom demonstrates the techniques of shaft switching and compensated inlay, techniques for which Baas Becking is renowned throughout the weaving community in Australia. Attached to and part of the loom is a continuous warp mechanism, a technical innovation designed by Solvig with her husband Hendrik Gerhard (Dick) Baas Becking.
The textile samples show the diverse range of colour, techniques (e.g. shaft-switching, compensated inlay, kilim, soumak, block weave, double weave etc) and themes, such as nature and colours (gum leaves, tree bark), as well as (for her miniatures) Turkish designs and Iranian motifs.
The archive details Baas Becking's life and work as a weaver, teacher, designer, and involvement in the arts and craft community.
Baas Becking was an innovative weaver and adapted her loom to pursue difficult technical operations in order to achieve her rug designs, whose themes were inspired by the rich natural environment, ecosystems and wildlife that were constantly present and changing on her property at Mongarlowe, New South Wales.
From1968 Solvig Baas Becking exhibited throughout Australia, and her collections are held in Australian universities, major public galleries, regional galleries, the New South Wales State Parliament, and in the United States of America, as well as in many private collections.
The acquisition of this loom, miniature textile samples, and design archive will ensure that the Museum holds the most diverse collection of Baas Becking's work in Australia.
Curator (Science and Industry), April 2011.
The typical Swedish loom is tall, sturdy and mostly constructed from timber, with no (or few) metal parts. The vertical frame consists of a rectangular framework, an upper and lower beam between which the warp is stretched and two side pieces. The vertical frame loom is used for weaving knotted rugs.
This particular loom is constructed from and comprises many standard features, for example, treadles, beater, heddle horses, small warp beams, continuous warp mechanism, and a seat.
The donor has confirmed that the loom was made in Sweden during the 1950s and was transported (the loom can be disassembled) by Solvig Baas Becking to Australia in 1963 and used by her for about the next 45 years.
A detailed biographical study on the life and work of Solvig Baas Becking may be found in a 1994 exhibition catalogue by Jennifer Lamb entitled: Solvig Baas Becking: A Retrospective. Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, 15 October - 12 November, 1994. A copy of this catalogue is included in the documents submitted for acquisition of the loom, textile samples, and archive of Solvig's work. In this section, I will mention some of the major points in the life and work of Solvig Baas Becking. I have relied on the information contained in Lamb's exhibition catalogue, discussions with Solvig's children and Sandra Von Sneidern, Solvig's long-term neighbour at Mongarlowe, New South Wales, Grace Cochrane, retired Powerhouse Museum curator who introduced me to the work of Solvig Baas Becking, and other referenced sources provided at the end of this section.
Solvig was born in Indonesia in 1928. Her father was Dutch and her mother Swedish. She studied languages at the University of Leiden, Holland, which is the oldest university in the Netherlands, being established in 1575. Solvig did not finish her degree and in 1947 she went to Dals-Langed in south-west Sweden to study weaving. Sweden has a rich tradition in weaving and it was at Dals-Langed that she learned the basics techniques of weaving.
After her initial weaving training in Sweden, Solvig returned to Holland and enrolled in the School of Applied Arts. At this institution, she gained experience in the design of looms and found that she was designing a weaving loom in her first job in Holland.
Solvig, her husband and three children moved to Australia in 1963, where they settled in Canberra. She spent the next eleven years there, and during this time she became involved in the local art and craft groups, was a founding member of the Canberra Spinner and Weavers, Crafts Council of the ACT, and eventually spent a three-year term as a member of the Crafts Board of the Australia Council.
In 1975, Solvig Baas Becking moved to Half Moon Flat, Mongarlowe, New South Wales. She built her house (completed 1976) on the property known as 'Mithem'. One her neighbours was the Australian poet Judith Wright (1915-2000), who lived on an adjoing property, 'Edge', until a few years before her death. Solvig and Judith became friends and shared a mutual concern for the local environment and its flora and fauna. Initially, her weaving studio consisted of one room, and it was here that she set up the loom to pursue fully her weaving work, especially on floor rugs.
The move to Mongarlowe inspired Solvig Baas Becking with a deep love of the Australian landscape and its flora. In an interview with Jennifer Lamb (1994, 8), Baas Becking stated that her move to Mongarlowe: "changed the basis of my [weaving] designs: being in the bush here has created a different colour awareness and a different imagery awareness", and "I am first and foremost a weaver and whilst the colours and free organic forms of the bush are the source of my inspiration, I attempt to express and translate them within the inherent design limitations and potential of a given weave". In this regard, the three textile examples currently held in the Museum's collection: fabric length (87/390); floor rug 'Bleeding Gums' (87/687) and floor rug (87/711), exemplify her innovative techniques of compensated inlay and 4 shaft-shaft switching, as well as the influence of the local landscape upon her work.
The loom was used for producing work by both these techniques, which were adapted and refined by Solvig. Compensated inlay is where in inlay weft is an extra element added to certain parts of the cloth. This creates an increased thickness in the weft. In a weft-face technique, there has to be equal thickness of weft throughout, so it is only possible to inlay a weft if some method is found of compensating for its added thickness.
Baas Becking used compensated inlay techniques extensively. For her, compensated inlay was a functional technique to manage the ridges created in weaving when adding or moving colours, adapted to a pure design technique, by using ridges as three-dimensional spines to accentuate the design features in rugs.
The other innovative weaving technique was 4 shaft-shaft switching. This allows a warp end on any of the four shafts to be activated through the flip of a lever, and not having to cut and re-thread that end in the process.
The miniature textile samples were, according to Lamb (1994, 12) "inspired by her love of Asian rugs". The motivation for the miniature sample was that the miniature(s) could lead to the creation of a full-sized rug that was composed of a series of miniatures. Miniatures provided a small-scaled design for a larger finished rug.
Anderson, N. (1988). 'Crossing the Mainstream'. Craft Arts. September/November, pp. 61-64.
Cochrane, G. (1994). 'Solvig Baas Becking': Exhibition opening speech, Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, 15 October 1994.
Collingwood, P. (1969). The Techniques of Rug Weaving. Watson-Guptill Publications, New York.
Lamb, J. (1994). Solvig Baas Becking: A Retrospective. Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, 15 October - 12 November, 1994. Argyle Press, Goulburn.
The curator acknowledges the assistance provided by Francesca, Ingrid, and Matthew Baas Becking during the preparation period of this acquisition.