Cranbrook Archives is pleased to announce the preservation and digitization of eight Institute of Science early education films. Made possible through generous funding by the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF), these silent films were sent to a professional film lab where they were inspected and expertly cleaned, repaired, copied onto archival safe film stock, and scanned. Previously inaccessible to users due to their fragility, a combined ninety-four minutes (2,450 feet) of footage can now be viewed digitally.
In a post exactly one year ago, I first mentioned the Institute’s early forays into the burgeoning educational film market of the 1930s. Using 16mm film technology (the amateur version of Hollywood motion picture film), Institute staff documented scientific field research, captured the work of exhibition preparators, and recorded educational programs. Many of these films were shown regularly to museum patrons and were often accompanied by lectures.
With the exception of one 1955 film, the NFPF grant films were all created between 1935 and 1938. Six of the films collectively display a range of astronomical, botanical, zoological, ornithological, and marine ecological research efforts. In addition to Emergence of the Periodical Cicada at Cranbrook, finished titles include Solar Prominences, featuring telescopic footage of solar flares, and Birds in Summer, which tells the story of newly born birds. Untitled films show the behavior of adult birds, deer, and coral reef life.
While these snapshots in time may no longer be useful as originally intended – to educate the public on their present natural world – they do have the potential to inform current and future research on conservation or climate change. For example, a film on coral reef life, with its unique early underwater footage, offers the opportunity for comparing current conditions with those documented by Institute scientists three generations ago.
The remaining two films demonstrate curatorial and membership activities. In one, staff are seen in the Institute library; painting scenes for exhibit backdrops and gathering botanical specimens in a forested setting; and making plaster molds of specimens in an Institute workroom. In another, Institute Junior Members and staff take a field trip to a local quarry to collect rocks and minerals.
The Institute of Science film project marks the beginning of a concerted effort to digitize the Archives’ audiovisual collections. Due to their age, complex chemical/mechanical makeup, and obsolescent playback equipment (who still owns a VCR?), audio and video recordings capturing the sights and sounds of Cranbrook’s past are some of our most at-risk materials. I hope to share more stories of success in the near future!
—Deborah Rice, Head Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
When I was asked to gather archival materials related to Cranbrook in Kent, England, a short series of correspondence in the Henry Scripps and Carolyn Farr Booth Papers particularly caught my notice. Written to Henry Scripps Booth, the letters discuss a stone from St. Dunstan’s Church in Cranbrook, Kent, and its overseas delivery to Christ Church Cranbrook. I became quite curious about it.
One handwritten letter in the correspondence was rather difficult to decipher, but once I got the pattern of it, it helped me begin to comprehend the story.
In July 1930, St. Dunstan’s Vicar, Rev. Swingler, acknowledged a request from Booth for a fragment of the church which could be placed in the chapel of the same name at Christ Church Cranbrook.
It was July 1931 before Rev. Swingler wrote again to inform Booth that the stone was ready for dispatch. He explained that the Church Council had welcomed the idea and directed the Fabric Committee to select a stone, which they had, but that the Secretary had forgotten to inform Booth until then, a year later, and it was already on its way!
The forgetfulness of the Secretary and finding appropriate shipping arrangements for such an unusual commodity had caused quite a delay, to which Rev. Swingler writes,
“I am sorry that the matter has not been dealt with more speedily but old Cranbrook has hardly yet learned modern methods of business, as perhaps you know.”
He goes on to describe the provenance of the stone, at least as far as he could tell. A fifteenth century carved coign (an architectural term for a “projected corner”), it once formed part of the string course (a projected band of stone) which runs at the base of the battlements of the church nave. The course includes a series of grotesque heads, some of which were pierced for waterspouts. A grotesque, common in medieval church architecture, is a decoratively carved stone used to ward off evil spirits and to signify the sanctuary and safety of the church. On inspecting an historic photograph of the church, I could identify similar stones at the top of the drainpipes and around the tower battlements.
Rev. Swingler had first seen it laying in the churchyard and surmised that it had not been replaced during past repairs. He doesn’t mention why they selected that particular stone, but one could conjecture that it was because it was no longer part of the fabric of the church building and hence was available to be gifted to Christ Church. He notes that it is probably of Hartley stone, which was quarried in the Parish.
Henry Scripps Booth contributed great efforts to building relationships between the old and new Cranbrooks by establishing and maintaining connections between the two churches. The grotesque that arrived at Christ Church more than 90 years ago is an artifact that tells just one story of his efforts. From St. Dunstan’s of old Cranbrook, known as the “Cathedral of the Weald,” to St. Dunstan’s of Christ Church Cranbrook, the carved coign continues to herald sanctuary and give confidence to those who enter.
–Laura MacNewman Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
Cranbrook Archives was saddened at the passing of design icon Ruth Adler Schnee last month. As proud custodians of the Edward and Ruth Adler Schnee Papers we know that her legacy lives on in the many documents, photographs, drawings, and textile samples available to researchers. With a long and varied career in textile design and interior design, there are a plethora of materials to inform and admire, adding nuance and context to her catalog of accomplishments seen in current textile production, museum collections worldwide, and public, commercial, and residential buildings throughout the Detroit area.
Her personal and professional story is inspiring in so many ways, not the least of which were the interior design projects completed for Schnee & Schnee Consultants, a company that Ruth owned with her husband Edward Schnee from 1977-1985. She designed, and he ran the business, much like their other design consulting partnerships, the earlier Adler-Schnee Associates, and the later Schnee and Schnee Inc.
One of their major commissions, and particularly well-documented in their papers, was the Jewish Community Center’s Edward and Freda Fleischman Residence/Blumberg Plaza in West Bloomfield, a three-year project spanning 1982-1985. One does not automatically think of innovative design when considering assisted living facilities, so it is particularly a delight to view Ruth’s colorful palette at work in her project sketches and product choices, both of which evoke her affinity for vibrant textiles.
The Schnees’ thoughtful work in addressing the needs of the residents is evident in the detailed project records and numerous oversized room design presentation boards. In comments about the project Ruth stated, “every design decision became an important element in providing a warm and protective environment.” The residence quickly became a model for similar projects across the country as the modern idea of assisted living facilities, versus the institutional nursing home model, grew in popularity.
Immediately following their success with the Fleischman Residence, Schnee & Schnee consulted on a similar project just north of Cranbrook Educational Community, St. Elizabeth Briarbank. Collaborating with the architectural firm John Stevens Associates Inc. (Ruth was their Director of Interior Design from 1977-1979), Ruth designed the interiors for an addition to the Catholic assisted living community for women, drawing on her research and application at the Fleischman Residence. From the red and orange beauty parlor, featuring the same John Yellen chairs, to the softer wall murals in common rooms, to the light-hearted wallpaper in the communal kitchen, Ruth’s touch is irrefutable.
The Fleischman and Briarbank projects are just two of the eight senior residential complexes (four with architect John Stevens) that Ruth “transformed” with her sensitivity and playfulness, demonstrating yet another intriguing facet of Ruth Adler Schnee’s career.
—Deborah Rice, Head Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
Cranbrook Archives is pleased to announce that the Carl and Annetta Wonnberger Papers are open for research. The collection contains biographical materials documenting their early life and education, a large series of personal correspondence between Carl and Annetta during their courtship, materials relating to Carl’s tenure as teacher and administrator at Cranbrook School, their involvement in establishing and directing the Cranbrook Theater School, as well as Carl’s involvement in outside organizations.
Carl and Annetta Wonnberger were fixtures at Cranbrook for well over half a century, raising two daughters on campus (Jo Anne and Nancy, Kingswood ’48 and ’53 respectively) and making significant contributions to Cranbrook School (Carl even wrote their fight song!) and community theater arts. They both received Cranbrook’s highest honor, the Founders’ Award, and Annetta had a day (July 17) named after her by the City of Bloomfield Hills.
They arrived at Cranbrook in September 1929 when Carl took the position of English teacher at Cranbrook School. The following year, Carl became the Head of the English Department, a position which he held until 1967 when he retired from Cranbrook and became Professor of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University.
Annetta helped Carl start Ergasterion (Cranbrook School’s drama club) in 1931. She created costumes, built and painted sets, applied make up, and played female roles in all boys’ productions. Annetta was also one of the founders, with Henry Scripps Booth and Brookside Schools Headmistress Jessie Winter, of St. Dunstan’s Theatre in 1932.
Together they founded Cranbrook Theatre School (CTS) in 1942 with the first season held in the Greek Theater. The mission of the school was to provide a full liberal education through theater training including voice and diction, phonetics and language, development and control of the body, literature, history, philosophy, design, and technical science. Carl and Annetta taught theatrical training so as to provide experience in teamwork, good sportsmanship, and dialog. They celebrated theatrical training as a wonderful developer of personality.
The bulk of the Wonnberger Papers relates to their involvement with Cranbrook Theatre School, comprising administrative materials as well as many scripts, announcements, and performance programs.
Theater performances, themselves, are well documented by audio-visual formats including photographs, slides, and motion picture film. This collection provides a rich study of a fascinating facet of Cranbrook’s performing arts legacy, and a theater program that is still going strong today.
–Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
I have mentioned in the blog before that I am working with Center Director Gregory Wittkopp and Center Curator Kevin Adkisson on reviewing all fourteen of our cultural properties collections (over 9,000 objects), reviewing the data already on file and adding as much additional information about each object as we can.
The most recent collection I have been working on is Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School – Cranbrook Campus (f.k.a. Cranbrook School for Boys). The current campus buildings, classrooms, and staff offices, all had the potential to contain cultural properties (historic objects). And many that we visited did!
When I researched the Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School – Kingswood Campus (f.k.a. Kingswood School for Girls), I was fortunate to have the “Kingswood School Cranbrook Inventory of Equipment and Supplies.” It recorded the purchases and payments made from 1930-1938 for the outfitting of the school. It proved invaluable in locating quantities and makers of objects.
There had to be an equivalent for Cranbrook Campus?! Unfortunately, not that I had yet seen.
I only had a 1952 Inventory which listed fixed items, like light fixtures; and “movable” furniture and fixtures, like chairs, tables, desks, artwork. This was a great resource, but it did not always give me the makers or artists. Undeterred, I started searching in Cranbrook Archives, the “little gem” at Cranbrook, to borrow a phrase from Frank Lloyd Wright.
In Box 43, Folder 11 of the Cranbrook Foundation Office Records were the “Building Costs for Cranbrook School from 1926-1946.” And then, I saw it. A small black book labeled “Cranbrook School Book.” Could it be what I was looking for?
Inside were listed payments made to the builder Wermuth & Son and to the W. J. Sloane Company for furniture. It listed the artists who painted, carved, and outfitted the school, as well as contractors who installed various materials in the buildings.
These entries were great, but what else would it lead to? The answer: the “Cranbrook Schools” series in the Cranbrook Architectural Office Records.
Many of the folders were labeled “Cranbrook School correspondence, Wermuth & Son” with dates. The “Cranbrook School Book” had given me an idea of what to look for. Who Wermuth and the Cranbrook Architectural office (and sometimes George G. Booth himself) were corresponding with was the key. Inside were letters from vendors of tiles, furniture, stained glass, stonework, mirrors, mattresses, windows, everything needed to build a well-appointed school.
Here are just a few examples:
Copies of blueprints for furniture made by W. J. Sloane Company’s “Company of Master Craftsmen,” many of which were selected for Cranbrook.
A letter from L.A. Sielaff & Co. indicating it was contracted to carve the wood ornaments on the Geza Maroti-designed doorcases outside the Library
Next up, Cranbrook Campus’ custom light fixtures! I can already hear Kevin’s words in my head . . .
. . . Cranbrook light fixtures are all around campus. There are multiple types of the light fixtures. These were designed by architect and former Head of the Architecture Department Dan Hoffman. He was the architect-in-residence who probably did more to revive the tradition at Cranbrook that was so such a passion project of George Booth and Eliel Saarinen . . .
– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
p.s. For more on Cranbrook Campus, check out these videos by Center Curator Kevin Adkisson:
Stepping into the Smith House on a grim and wintry day, one is instantly enveloped in warmth. The warm tones of brick and tidewater cypress walls, and the soft, textured furnishings help to create a cozy atmosphere, but the real effect is felt through radiant heat rising from the pigmented concrete floors.
Underfloor heating was a frequent feature of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses. Concerned with elegant and efficient use of space, these modest buildings for middle-income families utilized radiant heating set into the concrete slab flooring. Warm floors prevented heat transfer from bodies to cold buildings and allowed the air to be kept at a cooler temperature than conventional radiator-heated homes.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas about underfloor heating were adapted from the principles of the Korean heating system called ondol, literally ‘warm stone,’ that he encountered during his time in Japan. While working on the Imperial Hotel project, Wright was invited to visit the Tokyo residence of Baron Okura Kihachiro. After dinner in a freezing cold dining room, the party was invited for coffee in the Baron’s heated “Korean Room.” In his 1943 autobiography, Wright described the shift in temperature in rapturous terms:
The climate seemed to have changed. No, it wasn’t the coffee; it was Spring. We were soon warm and happy again – kneeling there on the floor, an indescribable warmth. No heating was visible nor was it felt directly as such. It was really a matter of not heating at all but an affair of climate.
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1943
Wright was instantly taken with this “indescribable warmth” and immediately specified electric heating in the Imperial Hotel bathrooms. On returning to the United States, he continued to explore the use of heating systems in both residential and commercial projects.
His first private home to incorporate underfloor heating was the Herbert Jacobs House, in Madison, Wisconsin, completed in 1937. The Jacobs House would become a model for Wright’s Usonian houses and an inspiration to architects and homeowners worldwide. By the time that Melvyn and Sara Smith began construction of Smith House in 1949, developers like William Levitt were popularizing the use of radiant heating in tract housing developments across the United States.
The Smiths employed engineer Clarence Toonder to help implement the heating plan designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s office. Blueprints show the copper tubing as it snakes through the L-shaped floor plan of Smith House, ensuring that every room would be warm and comfortable.
Ken Isaacs was a veteran designer and educator, and it feels good to have his work back at Cranbrook again.
Researchers have been contacting Cranbrook Archives about Isaacs’ papers almost since they were donated in December 2020, and now there’s an easy way to see what we have: the Finding Aid to the Kenneth Dale Isaacs Papers is now online, along with a hearty online portfolio of more than 300 images and documents. These are two excellent entryways to a rich collection that includes drawings and sketches, journals, personal, business and press photographs, teaching and administrative documents, audiovisual materials, reference files, and correspondence of all types, from collaborations to fan mail.
Isaacs received his bachelor’s degree at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, then completed his MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1954. (We’ve returned Isaacs’ 1954 master’s thesis back to the Cranbrook Academy of Art Library, where it lives in good company with other Academy theses. The Archives still has a typescript copy, with Isaacs’ equation, “Thought + Action = Design.”)
After his graduation, he established a design office in New York, but commuted back to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan to run the Academy’s Design program from the fall of 1956 until 1958. Freelance design work, short-term teaching gigs, and a significant grant from Chicago’s Graham Foundation kept him afloat financially (and physically on-the-move!) throughout the 1960s.
In 1970 he joined the faculty of the University of Illinois, Chicago architecture program, where he eventually rose to head the graduate program until his retirement in 2000. Of course, there were many projects, publications and collaborations during those years.
Isaacs was known for his portable, adjustable furniture systems called Living Structures and for the simple housing called Microhouses. The Living Structure offered his first break into national press coverage, in 1954, when Life magazine sent a photographer to shoot he and his first wife, Jo, assembling and the entertaining inside of a 6×6′ structure inside a Cranbrook studio. It was a forerunner of his Superbed.
He was also known for his experimental audiovisual structures, including the design that would come to be known as the Knowledge Box. These structures, equipped with multiple slide projectors and speakers, show Isaacs’ interest in learning by experience.
As I was processing the Isaacs papers for the Archives, his often collaborative approach made the description of unsigned papers tricky: Does a series of photographs show structures designed by Isaacs, but built by students? Who made this maquette? Were Isaacs and the independent study student working collaboratively on the same project about vehicles, or were they working on separate, concurrent projects but sharing resources? I tried to answer these questions using the facts and files in the collection, but future scholars are sure to find even more information in the vast treasures of the Isaacs papers.
The Kenneth Dale Isaacs Papers: By the Numbers
-46.1 linear feet
-6.09 GB born-digital material
-Covering the years 1900-2018
-Donated: December 2020
-Digitized images: 379
-Current physical storage locations: 3
These papers document a career and body of work that defies easy categorization. Researchers will find Isaacs’ unique combination of philosophy and Midwestern pragmatism. Ken Isaacs’ work, his interests, and his relationships are reflected in his papers over the decades. It’s time for me to move on to the next collection that needs processing, but for those who visit our reading room and our inboxes, the fun has just begun. We’re so excited to see how our in-person and online visitors will engage with this splendid collection!
Welcome back! After a hiatus, the Center for Collections and Research team is excited to return to weekly blog posts here at Cranbrook Kitchen Sink. Look forward to more stories from Cranbrook’s rich past every Friday! As always, we appreciate your comments and suggestions here or via email, email@example.com. We return with a special guest essay from Dr. Jeffrey Welch, Retired Faculty Member, Cranbrook Schools (1977 – 2015)
-Kevin Adkisson, Curator and Editor
Readers of this issue of the Cranbrook Kitchen Sink, please settle in for an excursion to Ann Arbor.
The architect of the original Cranbrook institutions, Eliel Saarinen, came to America from Finland in 1923, first to Chicago, then to Ann Arbor, and finally to Cranbrook. He had won $20,000 in an architectural competition to design “the most beautiful office building in the world.” Anyone who might want to compare the winning design with Saarinen’s striking drawing of a skyscraper for the Chicago Tribune newspaper competition would see instantly that Eliel Saarinen’s idea was the better idea.
He brought his family over in April 1923 after being invited to teach a short course in architectural design at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. At Michigan Saarinen discovered that he was an exceptional teacher. He moved from Evanston to Ann Arbor in 1924, settling in at 8 Geddes Heights, and he continued as a professor in the architecture program.
At just this time, the University opened an experimental school, called University High School (UHS), accommodating grades 7-10. Eero entered at grade level 8. His sister, Eva Lisa “Pipsan” Saarinen, could not join him, as she had been born in 1905, five years before him.
By February 1925, University High School students began publishing a periodical they called The Broadcaster: UHS Station. That “UHS Station” tag indicated the idea that these students saw their school as a station point in the big, wide world. Between February and June, UHS student staff members published six editions of The Broadcaster. In this group, Eero was the Art Editor, and it was the case that more 8th and 9th graders were on the newspaper staff than 10th grade students.
A quick riffle through the pages of The Broadcaster would reveal immediately the fact that Eero Saarinen, even at fourteen, was already a gifted artist. His drawings, whether carved from a linoleum block or a line drawing, expressed energy, psychological insight, and movement. They conveyed a clear narrative action, and they revealed a profound sensitivity to human endeavor, to creative engagement with the natural world, and to competitive behavior. Another insight into the youthful Eero can be found in the last issue for school year 1925, where all the students gave their favorite saying, their best subject and their hobby. Eero’s answers: “‘Oh, Yeah!’ Math. Swimming (but not in a bathtub).”
In May, the University alumni magazine, The Michigan Alumnus, published a story about The Broadcaster, singling out Eero for his artist’s contributions. The title of the article complimented the school and its ambitious young journalists: “The Youngest Adventurers in Campus Journalism: ‘The Broadcaster’ Published by Students of the University High School,” all of whom certainly deserved the recognition: “The keynote of the paper is originality.” But there were two indicators as to Eero’s impact on the editors of The Michigan Alumnus.
First, Eero’s portrait of President Marion LeRoy Burton was used as the centerpiece in a story about the recently deceased president. The article printed parts of President Burton’s last report on the State of the University: “President Burton’s Last Survey of the University: The President’s Report for 1923-1924 Covering the Final Year of his Active Administration.”
It is not widely known that President Burton conferred with George Booth, the founder of Cranbrook, about Cranbrook as a location for a world class art academy. The fact is, Dr. Burton and George Booth were very close friends. It is well known that Eliel Saarinen produced a design for the Burton Memorial Campanile (Bell Tower) at the request of the alumni who attended the University during the Burton years: 1920-1925. Eero’s linoleum cut portrait of President Burton closely resembled the official portrait of the man, but there is a subtle quality of emotion in what Eero has done. It is no wonder that the editors at The Michigan Alumnus used Eero’s portrait to illustrate their article on President Burton.
Secondly, Cranbrook Kingswood students and alumni/ae will see immediately the probable source of the Motto for Cranbrook School: Aim High. Eero brought this idea with him to Cranbrook, and during those fruitful years when his father was planning the Boys’ School, Eero’s enthusiasm and interest in the planning no doubt brought forward the suggestion of this inspiring phrase: Aim High, as a possible motto for the school. Furthermore, Eero studied with Géza Maróti, the Hungarian designer-architect of many cherished elements of the Cranbrook School architectural ambience, including the figure of Galileo, the door to the (then) Middle School science wing below it, the overmantel in the Cranbrook Library and wood carvings on the Library doors, the brilliantly windowed exterior at the Marquis entrance to the Cranbrook Dining Hall, and the design of the Gateway of Friendship.
Eero, who at the time was thinking of becoming a sculptor, was put to work designing the crane insert in the dining hall chairs, the animal forms in the gates between Marquis Hall and the Infirmary and at the Lone Pine Road entrance to the Infirmary, the grotesque faces on Page Hall and the abstract forms on the columns at the quadrangle entrance to Page Hall. Eero also designed the brown terra-cotta tiles, showing athletes in their poses, for the fireplace in the South Lobby of Hoey Hall. One of his South Lobby tiles, “The Wrestlers,” was included in the Second International Exhibition of Ceramic Art in New York in October 1928. The Pewabic Pottery in Detroit fired these tiles, and it included this one among representative objects for this American Federation of the Arts show, which also traveled to Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit, Newark and Pittsburgh, closing on September 29, 1929.
Later, Eero designed furniture for his parents’ bedroom in Saarinen House, and, for Kingswood, he was given the contract to design all the furniture for the girls’ school, including for the public spaces, the dining hall, the auditorium, the classrooms and the dormitory. Mr. Booth included a special clause giving Eero rights to any income derived from the mass production of any of the pieces he had designed. Essentially, George Booth was turning Eero (at the age of 19) into an industrial designer. However, as it happened, the contract lapsed at the end of 1930, and soon after Eero was on his way to Yale.
The years of his extraordinary success as a designer-architect were in the future; now, looking back at his career, one can easily make the claim that he was the most important designer-architect of the 20th century. It is wonderful to see that his promise was already evident at the age of fourteen, through proven performance, and that those around him fostered and promoted the development of his talent with every instrument at their disposal.
Ms. Rice warned me that the first week of my Senior May Project would be hectic and slightly crazy, and it definitely was, but in the best possible way! Being a lifer at Cranbrook, I have learned a lot about our amazing campus over the years, but nothing could have prepared me for the intensely interesting and extremely entertaining Senior May opportunity I have encountered at the Center for Collections and Research.
I joined the department in the week prior to A House Party, the Center’s annual fundraiser, this year honoring Loja Saarinen. Within minutes I was fully immersed into the event preparation. From unboxing the beautifully printed mugs to sitting in on engaging interviews, I was able to experience and assist in a variety of tasks that made me feel like I was actually contributing, even though my contribution was likely quite small in the grand scheme of things.
One moment I will never forget was driving Susan Saarinen back to her hotel, after her interview for the film, and seeing an actual dress created by her cherished grandmother Loja. Where else in the world would I ever get to experience something like this?
Does your family have a certain pose that they always do for a family picture? My cousins and I always had to stand or sit by the same log at our cottage each summer to get a group picture. Even when the log had disintegrated, and we were all adults, we still stood in the same spot to take the picture.
The Swedish weavers of Studio Loja Saarinen were the same way. After every rug was completed, they would unroll it behind the studio, lay it on the lawn, and pose at the end. This not only documented their work, but also served as a record of who worked on each piece. In Cranbrook Archives, we have a few examples of these images.
Cranbrook Academy of Art Rug No. 14
This rug lay in the center of the Studio Loja Saarinen Weaving Room. A flatwoven rug with stylized meanders in the border, and an elegant color scheme of dark browns, blues, and beiges, in form, structure, color, and design it shows the contemporary style of Swedish weaving that would become the foundation of Studio Loja Saarinen’s work.
This was one of the first rugs executed under the “Design and Supervision” of Maja Andersson Wirde, who was Loja’s right-hand-woman from 1930 to 1933. The rug is actually a variation of a design Wirde made for the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris (the “Art Deco” World’s Fair).
When Wirde wrote to Cranbrook’s secretary from Sweden before immigrating, she said she would bring along prepared designs and wool and linen yarns to be able to get started right away. She certainly did! Below, you can see Wirde and possibly Lillian Holm and Ruth Ingvarsson holding up the rug behind Studio Loja Saarinen just months after their arrival to Cranbrook.