Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
In 1925 the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen (1873¨-1950) was commissioned to design the campus for Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (USA). The patrons were the newspaper magnate George Gough Booth and his wife Ellen Scripps Booth, by then also well known patrons of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Eliel Saarinen moved to Cranbrook and all of his family was deeply commited to this project. Educated originally in sculpture, Loja Saarinen (1879-1968), the wife of Eliel, founded in 1928 the Studio Loja Saarinen to produce textiles for Cranbrook buildings. This weaving studio soon merged its activities into the programme of the Cranbrook Academy of Art (est. 1932) and Loja Saarinen headed the weaving department until 1942. Loja Saarinen has later been acknowledged as pioneering American textile artist. Her role in the Cranbrook project, however, remains ambiguous. This paper will look at her work as entrepreneurship and examine the Cranbrook community in a wider economic and social historical context. The concept of bourgeois modernity has been used to describe the complex networks of industrialists and artists that produced the framework for emerging modern architecture and design in Europe in the early 20th century. Using this concept, I will examine Loja Saarinen as an economic actor and discuss the meanings of her studio in the Cranbrook project. This paper relates to my current research project on hand weaving as medium for woman designers. My academic framework is in art history, design history, economic and social history and gender studies.