“One lifetime isn’t long enough for all the things I’d like to do.”
~ Hilma Berglund
This quote stopped me in my tracks during a visit to the American Swedish Institute. This woman had so succinctly articulated my own sentiments, but who was Hilma Berglund?
As is the case with many historic women, Hilma Berglund was the daughter of poor immigrants who came to America in the pursuit of a better life. Born to Swedish parents in the 1880s, she spent her childhood in Stillwater, Minnesota. Debilitating migraines led to her withdrawal from school and instead, she practiced handicraft artforms like pottery, embroidery, and china painting. When her family moved to Minneapolis, Hilma’s pursuit of the arts grew and she took more classes through the YWCA, Handicraft Guild, and St. Paul Institute of Art. It was a trip to Stockholm in 1914 that introduced her to weaving.
“Just sit down and weave.”
In response to concerns about the looming World War, Hilma’s weaving instructor told the class, “Just sit down and weave.” This advice calmed the students and their lessons continued. Returning home just as war the war began, Hilma would not return to Sweden until 1922 to continue her weaving education.
In 1930, Hilma received her Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Minnesota, her Masters in Fine Arts followed in 1939. These accreditations would finally enable her to acquire high-level teaching jobs and she secured a role in art education with the Universtiy of Minnesota faculty that would span 24 years.
Hilma co-founded the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, took a woodworking class so she could develop a student loom with interchangeable parts (the Minnesota Multi-Use Loom) and experimented with natural dyes. She did all this while also hand making Christmas cards to send the nearly 200 people on her Christmas card list. Her cards were made and sent for 65 years, the message in her final card read, “Day by day and year by year the life pattern grows. How interesting it would be if we could see the completed design on the life-span loom.”
Hilma Berglund passed away in 1972 at the age of 86.
For more information on Hilma Berglund and to see photos of her work, visit Hilma Berglund: A Brief Biography Co-written by Phyllis Waggoner and Becky Franklin which was the primary source used for this blog post.