Danish artisan’s quilts draw attention at exhibition
By just about anyone’s definition, Gerda Bengtsson is the world’s best-ever artisan specializing in embroidery, knitting and hand-printed textiles.
Danish by birth, but trained in Paris, Gerda Bengtsson had a very special flair for transforming flora and other still life into gorgeous patterns of art. She specialized in wild flowers, done in cross-stitch, and on linen using matt cotton thread carefully dyed with vegetable dyes. She was born at the turn of the century, 1900, and spent 95 years educating the world on how to create art, while at the same time creating literally hundreds of masterpieces.
Many of those are to be displayed at a Gerda Bengtsson Exhibition at the Naha Civic Gallery on the 6th floor of Palette Kumoji Building in Naha beginning next Wednesday. The daily 10 a.m. ~ 7 p.m. exhibition runs through December 23rd. Embroidery was the very fabric of the young Dane’s life. From a very young age she aspired to be a landscape painter, and to develop her talents, she enrolled at the Danish Academy of Art to study drawing and painting. There, she happened by the tapestry-weavers’ workshop, where she met Astrid Holm and volunteered to be an apprentice weaver. One of her first works was of a rabbit frolicking in the grass; she expanded her interests, but the rabbit remains one of the perpetually popular.
Fascinated, her interest in weaving took her to Paris to spend eight months studying medieval tapestries. She mixed her time between watercolor paintings and embroidery, devoting herself for more than 70 years as a designer with the Danish Handicraft Guild. Cross-stitch embroidery was her specialty, and her eye for color and botanical detail brought her works pulsating with life. So good was she that thousands of Danish embroidery kits were produced from her original designs.
She died in December 1995, but her works live on through the books she’s written, and through exhibitions such as this.