Friday, December 10, 2010

SNO-CRUSH: Irene Johnson

Irene is a skilled and excellent weaver, with an intuitive sense of color and design that reflects her Finnish ethnicity.  Born on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota during the Great Depression, her
family only spoke Finnish.  She learned English when she went to school, and her name changed from Airi to Irene.

She has had a life long love of textiles, and taught herself to sew, knit, and weave.  She attended dress design courses at the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1960's.

The daughter of Minnesota Farmer Labor Party democrats, feminist, and atheist, she has had a profound influence on her daughter (me!).  Just for the record, I wove a rug before she did.

She loves to use wool rag, and has a huge collection of deconstructed, washed and dried woolen pieces to work with.  She piles wool on her table, adding or subtracting pieces, until she feels she has the right mix.  She has a thing for men's overcoats, like men used to wear.  She loves old wool coats because the  wool fabric was a better quality, and she particularly likes combining checks,  twills, and tweeds together in a collage of textures. Wool rag rugs are long wearing, and seldom need cleaning.  One tip: to clean a wool rug, bury it in dry, cold snow for a few hours, then broom it off.  It's dry cleaned!

The black and white and blue rug, above, is made mainly of  men's  English wool overcoats.  White and black are for birch woods, and  blue is lake, sky, or blueberries in  Ely, Minnesota, where she and my dad live.
"A rug should lay flat on the floor," my mother says.

1 comment:

lovethenewkidney said...

Hi. I have a beautiful painting of an old native american man done by an Irene Johnson. Did your mother paint at all?

email me at

-chris in albuquerque new mexico