Anja Notini was a versatile journalist, photographer and editor. She also designed clothes, and was a potter and painter.
Anja Notini was born in 1940 in Stockholm. She grew up in a creative family in which her mother, Inger Notini née Ekström, was an artist and her father Gösta Ekström was a professor of zoology. She had two siblings. After completing her schooling, Anja Notini studied at an art academy in Florence at the age of nineteen. Back at home in Sweden, she trained as an illustrator at Berghs Reklamskola (now Bergh’s School of Communication). After that, she worked in a bookshop and used almost all her pay to buy books. In 1964, she was employed by the weekly magazine Femina where she eventually became a fashion editor who both wrote and photographed. She remained there until 1980. Anja Notini was married to the musician and composer Bengt-Arne Wallin in 1967–1977, and they had a son, Nicolas. She later remarried, to the musician Pétur ”Island” Östlund and they also had a son, Sebastian.
Anja Notini was a skilful photographer, which she demonstrated when she started published her books. The first, Dräktfolket: möte med tradition came out in 1980 and in it she depicted in text and photos her meetings with people who worked with the traditional handicraft of making costumes. Her next book came out five years later and built on her study visits to potters in twelve different countries: Krukmakare: möte med tradition. She was awarded scholarships by the art committee Konstnärsnämnden, the state Statens kulturråd and UNESCO. She was careful in her work and also showed her photos from her work on exhibitions and lectures. Made in Sweden: konst, hantverk, form came out in 1987 and Madeleine Pyk: ”jag leker att jag lever” in 1990. Parallel to her book production, Anja Notini worked as a freelance journalist, held lectures at art schools and universities and held courses. She collaborated in and produced cultural and music programmes for TV. She also collaborated with the World Crafts Council in 1987 and Unesco International Fund for the Promotion of Culture (IFPC) in 1985–1994.
With Hans Alfredson, she gave out the book Skansen: skattkammare and with Ewa Klingspor she published Tack för maten. Some of her books were also published in other countries. From 1990 and five years onwards, she visited 26 different Swedish artists and sculptors from her own generation and acquired the information for the book Konstnärens rum that came out in 1995. Among the artists were Peter Dahl, Maj Arnell, Eva Hallström, Lena Cronqvist and Eva Zettervall. The exhibition with the same name was shown at Galleri Doktor Glas where examples of the artists’ works were also shown.
Anja Notini dedicated herself more and more to working as an active artist as time went on. Since she had written about potters, she started working with ceramics. She dug up the clay herself in her large garden at Villa Solvik in Saltsjö-Boo in Nacka. There she had her workshop where she created her special ceramics. She worked mainly on a potter’s wheel and glazed her clay goods or used iron-age firing techniques in her ceramic kiln. She made large, robust clay dishes and bowls with a thick, twined clay rim. She also created round pots with lids in earth colours and various patterns. She often arranged her works, that stimulated the imagination, among the greenery of the garden or in limpid water, and took amazing photos of them. Some green-glazed vases, dishes and pots were laid out on a white linen tablecloth decorated with fern leaves. Anja Notini created reliefs, sculptures and other artistic goods and sometimes worked in cement and bronze. She showed her ceramics at galleries in Stockholm and other places.
Anja Notini also painted non-figuratively in bright colours. She expressed her feelings on her canvases and was amazed at how enjoyable she found it. She considered that a painting was finished “when it makes me happy” and that the search for beauty, light and wildness was her driving force in everything she undertook. With her painting, Anja Notini had a number of solo exhibitions, among others at the Galleri Claes Moser and the Grünewaldvillan.
The climax came for her in 2017. Then she showed a selection of her works, canvases, ceramics and sculptures in the exhibition Rum med gravitation at Prins Eugen’s Waldemarsudde. The appreciative public poured in but the exhibition was met by “silence from the so-called established art world”, as the art historian Olle Granath wrote in an obituary on Anja Notini, and he added: “It is one of the paradoxes of the worlds of art that anyone who restlessly and without prejudice crosses into these worlds risks not being taken in all seriousness”. Anja Notini is represented at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.
Anja Notini died after a period of illness on 21 June 2018 at 78 years of age. She lies buried in Boo Cemetery in Saltsjö-Boo.