This article was written for Chrsitopher Farr's exhibition of Stölzl remakes.
How pleased I was, at the vernissage of my 1966 exhibition at Zurich, to find a coterie of pre-war artists and designers including Max Bill, but especially Gunta Stölzl, then still active in her Zurich studio. As the Larsen international headquarters were in Zurich and I there often, the two of us
had time to share the experience common to two custom handweavers.
As most of Gunta's Zurich commissions had been for functional, muted upholstery cloths, I was able to select from their remnants a collection of samples for New York's Museum of Modern Art. Our greatest joy, however, was in feasting our eyes on her compositions painted in glowing tempera for woven hangings and rugs. In spite of their small format these were complexly asymmetrical works. Almost always the colourings were mouthwatering, and as sunny, as softly sophisticated Mughal miniatures. Here were tensions between dominant and secondary shades, with other introductions and refrains, with the extremes and bridges - all entirely in keeping with her high-keyed tonalities and soft edged geometry.
Still, it was not until - decades later - when her daughter brought me her original folios that I realised their present day importance. For here, momentarily dormant, was an early 20th century art form both personal and appropriate. We spoke of possibilities for exhibition, for publication, and - most of all - woven realisation. But the rug weavers I knew were too large or too commercial. Still later, when I was commissioned by Larsen Carpet to realise with Tibetan weavers Anni Albers' Bauhaus designs, it came to me that Gunta's compositions would be best realised by Asian handweavers. Still, no solution came until I found Christopher Farr's London galleries full of modern kilims and handknotted rugs woven in Anatolia. Their glistening, wiry fibre from sheep bred for millennia to produce the best carpet wools added to their quality. So did kettle dyeing streaky yarns handspun from ungraded fleeces.
All the organic richness was here, offset by the meticulous craftsmanship found in antique rugs. And here, it seemed, were the entrepreneurs one could trust with Stölzl's repertoire.
Right on! For here we have a design bank begun in the early 20th century, now timely and timeless for the 21st.
Jack Lenor Larsen
New York, October 7, 1999
The article is also available on the Christopher Farr web site: http://www.cfarr.co.uk/past_exhibitions2.htm