A look inside Jens Risom's textile mill
One of the most exciting discoveries in Camiras exploration of Jens Risom’s mid-century fabrics, are the images taken by Sven Risom inside his father’s Massachusetts textile mill provide a rare insight into this often-forgotten part of the Risom design legacy.
Camira spoke with Sven to find out why a furniture designer whose skills lay firmly in that most traditional of materials, wood, was drawn to the fluidity of textiles…
Tell us, why did Jens decide to set up his own textile mill?
He started making furniture and the company was doing very well, but he was becoming more and more frustrated by the lack of good textiles. He was getting them from a couple of different sources, but they weren’t well woven, they couldn’t get the colours right, they couldn’t get complex colours and, given his Danish and Scandinavian background, he knew what he wanted.
A textile company wasn’t doing very well at the time, and he decided, along with a few others, to purchase that company. It was never fully integrated within Jens Risom Design, and was managed by a gentleman named Win Stutter – but it meant that Jens was able to get the textiles he wanted and, as you know very well, however beautiful the piece of furniture or product is, the wrong textiles can change everything or, more importantly, the right textiles can make it perfect. And that was very exciting for him.
What are your memories of visiting the textile mill?
When I was about the age of 10, we would go and visit and, you know how it is, you are a little kid and it feels like the world’s your oyster and it was just fun to see people working at the plant and hear all these loud machines. But, you know, these plants were in areas that were not economically well off – these were jobs that people counted on and Jens wanted to support his employees, he did much more around education programmes than he did about anything else; helping staff to finish high school and their college courses.
Even now, there are reunions of 75-100 employees that come back 70 years later just to have lunch together and sort of reminisce on those times because it was a very exciting and fun and great time.
What did Jens enjoy about textiles?
I will never forget the days when Jens would come back with these boxes of swatches and we would play with them, using them in different things. And it was always about what does it feel like? How is it open? What’s the woven structure like? And colours – if you look at some of his furniture, and this is very typical, Jens would put a bright orange along with a nice piece of walnut or a bright blue against a maple - he found colour exciting; how it brings furniture alive, so you almost use the wood in the base and the furniture itself as the background.
In the same breath, he loved texture, and the complexity you can get with a deep weave is really, really interesting. He loved the fact you can get different hues, you can get different tonalities, different colour depths and temperatures. We can see this with Zap and Armadillo, none of the shades are a flat, straight colour. They’re all a bit more complex, a little bit more unique and that makes it interesting right? I mean we can all make blue and we can all make red but to make it where there’s depth and texture to it, both visually and tactically, that’s important.
How do you and the family feel about Jens’ textiles being recreated for the first time?
We are thrilled, really excited about this for many reasons. Jens’ had a passion for colours, for the balance between textures and the textiles and the wood or the materials, and he loved the fact that in architecture it was the total complete package, you know, the fabric, the furniture, the surfaces, the leather, the wood, whatever it may be, he liked that package. So, we as a family couldn’t be happier with Camira’s reimagining, the interpretations are fantastic, and we are very excited.