Thursday, May 12, 2022

rya rugs from Finland

Wedding ryijy from central Finland 185 x 152 cm  (6 x 5 feet) (circa 1790)
Tree of Life in the center with two male and two female figures, accompanied by hearts and crosses.  

Spot design ryijy 1825      189 x 130 cm (6'2" x 4'3") 
The initials of the owner (MIT) and the year (1825) are in the upper central field.
  The central field is filled with dots.  The bright red and green colours are typical.  

My father came to Canada from Finland at the age of 5 years with his mother, Anna.

This is a post about Finnish rugs.  First I need to say that there are two kinds of rugs made in Finland.  One type is the woven rag rug, usually quite narrow, used as an everyday rug on floors.  I've written about the Finnish rag rug before (here).   My grandmother, Anna, was locally famous for how fast she could weave a rag rug.  My art piece Not To Know But To Go On references the Finnish rag rug, but is not woven, it is stitched.  

The second type of Finnish rug is the rya or ryijy.  Although the rya is considered as art for the wall now, it originally functioned as a warm bed or horse-drawn sleigh covering.   Rya rugs were woven from wool over a linen warp and have a shaggy pile, often on both sides.  This post is about the rya rug.

I'm inspired to write this post because of my recent discovery of  Tuomas Sopanen's collection of rya rugs.   His collection includes pieces from the late 1700's right through to the 21st century.  I am especially interested in the dot grid and the tree of life designs.     

Wedding ryijy 1825  pile on both sides  206 x 148 cm  (6 '8" x 4'8")
This is a wedding rya.  It has the initials of bride and groom ( ABSD and IIS).  

All the images in this post are from Tuomas Sopanen's book,  The Ryijy Rug Lives On. 

Art historian Leena Willberg wrote the text in the book.  
Tuomas Sopanen translated it into English.

Spot design bedcover ryijy 1843  with pile on both sides 174 x 127 cm (5'7" x 4')
Another red and green rya, made for AKSD 

I use grids of dots often as design elements in my textiles and see a connection to these 18th and 19th century pieces.   

spot design bed cover ryijy mid 19th century 184 x 154 cm (6' x 5')
When the multi-coloured dots are very dense, the pattern is called 'net'. 

Spot design ryijy 1860 183 x 129 cm  (6' x 4'2")
The dots are simple and sparse.  This rya is a bedcover for one person.

I feel that I made something very similar to a rya rug in 2012 with my green and red wool quilt, Canadian Pioneer.  

What is interesting is that I did not see the connection when I made it.  I knew about rya rugs and had researched them but did not come across images of the older ones.  I am floored by the pieces in Mr Sopanen's collection. The aesthetic of the antique rya is similar to mine - or should I say, my aesthetic is similar to that of my Finnish heritage.

I wrote about Canadian Pioneer on this blog here and here.   

Wedding ryijy 1799 171 x 130 cm  (5'6" x 4'3")
An ancient net design, can you find the date 1799 among the figures?
Diamonds / bridal figures / flowering branches / tree of life symbols in eccentric sizes.  
It was woven in two parts and then joined.

Wedding ryijy 1817   184 x 135 cm
The motifs in this rya are symbols of luck and protection:  hearts, hourglasses, crosses, human figures.
It is rare to have a cow in a Finnish rya rug.  
The initials of the bridegroom are in the central heart (INS) along with the year 1817. 
The pink and green colouring is a variation of the typical red and green.   

Look at the wool art piece that I made from two old blankets in 2021.  It too has dots in an orderly grid.  It has a textural pile on the reverse side.  I made it without consciously thinking about the rya rug.  

I am excited to find the heritage wool bed rugs that have been collected by Tuomas Sopanen.   You can order his book directly from this website if you are interested.  An exhibition of Tuomas Sopanen's collection of rya rugs is at the Saari Jarvi museum until May 22, 2022.  

Saarijarvi is my father's home village in Finland.  

1 comment:

Julierose said...

It is interesting to find that something you used or had as a child could influence your present day works. These rugs you shared with us are really beautiful works...
Lovely post--thanks Julierose