Text by Robbie LaFleur
If you visit Oslo, Norway, be sure to visit the Rådhus (City Hall). Enormous rooms hold monumental frescoes and tapestries, including Lilletorget (1950), designed by Kåre Jonsborg. When it was woven by Else Halling and assistants, it was the largest tapestry woven in Norway to date, at 12’ x 24.5’.
Image: tapestry cushions in the main hall of Oslo City Hall. Image above: Kåre Jonsborg Lilletorget. Tapestry in Oslo City Hall. Some colours have been enhanced in the photo to give a better impression of its original appearance. © Frode Inge Helland.
In the main hall there is tapestry of a practical nature. A long marble bench flanks one wall, lined with 60(!) tapestry-woven cushions. The covers were designed by Else Poulsson (1909-2002) and made by several weavers with Husflid (the Norwegian Handicraft Association) in 1949-1950.
The bench cushions received seventy years of heavy use; they were worn, stained, and faded. You could see areas with old repairs, and the warp was visible in places. The city administration decided to fund a reconstruction of the cushions, as close as possible to the originals. They contracted with Kristin Sæterdal to outline the scope of the project. She specified the warp and weft, identified the tapestry techniques to be used, and gave instructions for sewing the cushions.
Image: The Oslo City Hall cushion cover replacement project is at the halfway point. © Signe Lanke.
Based on Sæterdal’s estimates, 80 kilos of thick yarn for the weft were ordered and dyed. The colours were based on samples from the existing cushion covers. The yarn was spun from the fleece of Norwegian spelsau sheep.
It is commendable that Oslo city officials understand the importance of reconstructing the original tapestry cushions. Dorthe Herup is heading the team of four tapestry weavers who are weaving the covers, and they recently reached the halfway point. It won’t be long before you can visit Oslo City Hall to admire the beautiful tapestries and frescos and then rest on the historical, beautiful cushions. But don’t spill your coffee!
Read more about the cushion cover project in the Norwegian Textile Letter article, “Reconstructing Tapestry Cushions for the Oslo City Hall.”