Barbro Nilsson

Barbro Nilsson was the studio’s artistic director for nearly three decades. Starting in 1943, Nilsson was integral in managing Märta Måås’s legacy and developing the studio for a new era.


Barbro Nilsson had a solid education in textiles and art. At the age of 14, she enrolled at a weaving school and received training in colouring with both vegetable and synthetic dyes. A very talented colourist, she began to teach while still a student at the School of Industrial Arts in Stockholm, where she later became departmental head of textiles. Full of energy, she directed her own studio and transformed several artists’ cartoons into monumental gobeläng flat weaves, the first one as early as 1928 for M/S Kungsholm. In collaboration with Sven Erixon she produced 13 gobeläng flat weaves, the largest of which was the almost 60-square-metre Melodier vid torget, for the Gothenburg Concert Hall. In collaboration with her husband, sculptor Robert Nilsson, she created a great number of gobeläng flat weaves from 1936 to 1961. Barbro Nilsson had a superb command of weaving techniques and colours. In 1942, at the age of 43, she became a member of the board of the new limited company MMF AB and its artistic director, tasked with managing Märta Måås-Fjetterström’s sketches, working drawings and yarn samples as well as the expertise of the weavers of the Båstad studio. Barbro Nilsson was also tasked with creating new compositions and further developing the studio. As departmental head at Konstfack, Stockholm, she invited many of her best students to work as artists in the studio, including Marianne Richter and Ann-Mari (Lindbom) Forsberg. The company grew and soon new facilities were needed. In 1947, a new studio, designed by Ivar and Anders Tengbom, was inaugurated. Barbro Nilsson supervised the design in order to ensure that the facilities were perfectly suited for the logistics of the yarn storage and the weaving, and fitted with comfortable site-built looms on five floors.

One of Barbro Nilsson’s first rug compositions was the 1943 Snäckorna, which constituted a new departure, a rug in gobeläng flat weave. With her profound knowledge of the art of gobeläng flat weaving she adapted the gobeläng flat weave technique to the correct materials and created designs for hardwearing floor rugs. Snäckorna was the first in an impressive line of compositions for gobeläng flat weaves in the history of the studio. For the exhibition H55, Barbro Nilsson produced the gobeläng flat weave Tånga original, in a colour that captured the tufts of seaweed and piles of sea mussels. The sea and the beach were Barbro Nilsson’s main sources of inspiration. She conveyed the colours masterly and constantly invented new colour combinations for her rug compositions. Some patterns can be woven in more than 20 different colorations. The studio received major commissions from the public sector, hotels, commercial enterprises and churches. More art weavers were needed to execute the commissions. In the beginning of the 1960s, more than 60 art weavers were working in the studio and a further 30 worked from home on smaller fabrics. In the apprentice room, young weavers were trained to weave Märta Måås-Fjetterström’s patterns and the increasing number of new patterns by new artists. An apprentice worked next to an experienced art weaver for some years before being given the responsibility to produce a weave of their own. In addition to her post as artistic director for MMF AB, Barbro Nilsson continued teaching at Konstfack. In a smaller studio in Stockholm shared by Barbro Nilsson and MMF AB, many new rugs were tested and some of the gobeläng flat weaves were woven by Barbro Nilsson’s former students who collaborated with experienced in-house art weavers. In 1970, after almost 30 years as MMF AB’s artistic director, Barbro Nilsson handed over the baton to a new generation. Kaisa Melanton took over as artistic director.