On October 26, 2013, a bit of my heritage came back into my life. I bought back the Scandinavian rya rug supply business which my grandparents, Angie and Bill Lundgren, started the year I was born. I made my first rug–actually a pillow–when I was in sixth grade. When my grandparents needed help in designing, marketing, and running the daily business, I came home from Colorado to help them for several years. They taught me well. It is a handcraft rich in heritage. For some reason, everything I learned and applied, I still retain today.
When career positions in environmental education (my other passion in life) presented themselves, I left the business to my grandmother and very capable mother to continue while I got married and moved to Maryland. My mother had many other interests in life and soon realized that the rya business was not a good fit. She offered it to me, but at that time I was happily running a Nature Center and in the process of building a second one. Taking over a fiberarts business was not in the plan at that time. So Lundgren Rya was sold, and although I still made occasional purchases from the new owner, I felt that rya was becoming a distant past in my life. The yarn was no longer produced and the backings were very rare to nonexistent.
In 2011, the Carroll County Times did a feature story with an accompanying video on The Lost Art of Rya Rug Making as I designed and knotted what I thought would be my last rya rug. There. It was done. Not so fast. The video (on YouTube) has been seen by nearly 100,000 viewers around the world. A Finnish artist contacted me telling me of other resources, a Finnish traditional arts company contacted me, as well as hundreds of others (in a multitude of languages) who now want to make ryas! It seemed that half my day was spent answering emails sadly telling how difficult supplies were to come by.
Then the light bulb went off in my head. Buy back all of the remaining supplies my grandparents had. I knew them so well and now I could supplement supplies from Finland. So in about two months through email negotiations (and haggling) the business is mine. John and I drove in our truck to Ipswich, Massachusetts where we rented a Penske truck, filled both, and drove home. My studio is packed to the gills with boxes and bins, but it is GOOD. I feel great about it. I was thrilled to be reunited with many dozens of my own designs to which I had signed off the “rights.” Now I can use them along with my grandparents’ and hundreds of Swedish designs.
So what next?
- Preparing Kits
- Starting Classes
- Getting the Word out there that rya is making a comeback — And it is!
This winter will be full of these activities as well as completing the book I started writing this fall on “Designing and Making Your Own Off-Loom Rya.”
Oh, and did I mention that I will still be doing most my regular art projects in the studio as well? That is part of the deal I made with myself. Stay tuned….
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