Anna Maria Hoke was a textile artist and a home crafts pioneer, known above all for her full-bodied, detailed and symbolically charged language in church carpets in Kalmar County, on the Baltic island of Gotland and in Dalarna.
Anna Maria Hoke was born on 5 September 1911 in Filipstad. Her father was the newspaperman Erik Agaton Ericsson and her mother was Hulda Elisabeth née Hedman. Anna Maria Hoke was born in a creative home in which her mother had dreams of being an artist. She communicated a good dose of bucolic culture to her daughter, who was the family’s third child. Anna Maria Hoke grew up in Stockholm, to which the family had moved in 1917, and she received a thorough education. In 1930–1931 she attended the section of the Technical College set aside for girl pupils (nowadays Konstfack) and in 1932–1933 she studied at the section Högre konstindustriella skolan in Stockholm (HKS). Her studies continued with an apprenticeship at the department store Åhlén & Holms (now Åhléns) drawing office in Stockholm. Her budding career came to an abrupt stop. Anna Maria Hoke was infected in 1934 by severe tuberculosis and had to stay at Söderby Hospital until 1935. After that she had to use oxygen right up until 1938. The illness did not however affect her creativity and in 1935, when she had resumed her studies, she was rewarded with the first prize for her tapestry Den första snön.
Her long and significant career in Swedish home crafts started in 1938. She worked at home crafts in Värmland, Stockholm and on the island of Gotland. From 1952, she was the manager of Västmanland province’s home crafts, and in 1956 she moved to Kalmar where she became the manager of Kalmar County’s home crafts. She remained in that post until 1960, after which she was active as a freelance artist.
Anna Maria Hoke’s visual world was both secular and sacred. She wove everyday symbols into chancel carpets and altar carpets. In Åseda’s eighteenth-century church, built on top of a sacrificial spring, she linked the carpet Livets vatten to the spring, Olofsbrunnen. In the chancel carpet Strö palmer, bred ut kläder in 1953, in Bur Church on Gotland, her delight in story-telling is visible in the many details. In Lau Church on south-eastern Gotland, she returned to a visual language anchored in a rich vernacular. She let herself be inspired by the churche’s five doors in the great chancel carpet Kyrkans fem portar in 1949. In it can be seen the church key and number board, the chalice and wafer, grapes and ear of corn as well as heart, crown, wreath and a type of maypole.
Anna Maria Hoke has also made several large profane tapestries in which she has woven various symbols linked to the places where they are hanging. In Södra Roslag’s courthouse in Stockholm one of her largest decorations can be seen: Fyrljus, from the 1950s. In it, the lighthouse represents the law and migrating birds the jury with the judge as the leading bird. In Centralskolan in Norberg, her largest secular tapestry can be seen with a Polhem Wheel at its centre. It is a dramatic tapestry that casts cascades of colour, set against the dark paddle wheel.
Anna Maria Hoke bore the dream of being able to dedicate herself even more to visual art, but she was continually occupied with textile assignments. She was masterly in producing colour nuances and said herself that her yarn was her palette. When she was young and a member of the Saltsjöbaden group, she painted and exhibited her works in the 1940s in exhibitions at Badhotellet in Saltsjöbaden. Co-exhibitors were among others Isaac Grünewald and Sven X-et Erixon. Anna Maria Hoke was mentioned then in the press as an artist with ”a wonderful feeling for materials and colours”. She exhibited works at the gallery-owner Agnes Widlund’s Galleri Samlaren in Stockholm, and at the arts and crafts Konsthantverkarnas 40th jubilee exhibition at Liljevalch’s.
Anna Maria Hoke was also an original creator in the field of Swedish work therapy in the 1940s. As a tuberculosis patient , she had experienced the old-fashioned compulsory work therapy of the time and now received the assignment of modernising the activities at Söderby Hospital. The newly built Södersjukhuset had also asked her to introduce modern occupational therapy.
However, it was in the church that she made her greatest mark. The theologist Gunnar Hillerdal wrote in a book about Anna Maria Hoke’s life and work: Livets tråd. Anna Maria Hokes textila värld in 1996, that she ”is one of the great renewers in church textile art”. She was masterly in creating carpets that contributed something truly special to church interiors. Her point of departure was the colour scales that already existed and her aim was that when a carpet finally was in place, attention should not be drawn first and foremost to the new carpet itself but rather that visitors should think: ”what lovely colours this church has”. She saw textiles as architectonic elements. Her carpets were often richly patterned and she explained that the secret behind the fact that they were never themselves in focus but melted into the setting depended partly on the pattern but mostly on the fact that they were composed of so many different colours, often up to 150 different shades.
Anna Maria Hoke’s visual world was naïvist and often had a streak of humour. Her artistry was bold and she dared to test new motifs continually. She was once asked what one should do to get ideas. She replied: “I really can’t answer that, since ideas are gifts – the origin of which cannot be explained.” Most impressive of all is her Trosbekännelsen, a 8.6 metre high altar tapestry in Mariakyrkan in Värnamo. She worked it herself in 1978–1981 and explained that she could do between two and four centimetres per day. She used fine yarn of silk and flax and a single section could use up to 27 different shades.
When her chancel carpet designed around the words Här den ström går fram vars flöden giva glädje åt Guds stad was inaugurated in 1991 in St Gertrud’s Church in Falsterbo, she was there and explained the ideas behind its composition. She was then 80 years of age. The last chancel mat she produced lies in Dörby Church outside Kalmar.
Anna Maria Hoke took on every new assignment with the same genuine interest. A book about her life and work was published for her 85th birthday. The book release took place at the great exhibition of her textiles from all round the country that the Kalmar County Museum had put together. She enjoyed guiding groups through the exhibition up until the day when she collapsed just as she was pointing out photographs of her parents. Anna Maria Hoke, whose art was her life, ended her life in 1996 surrounded by her artworks. Nowadays, her secular carpets are sold for large sums of money at quality auctions, not only in Sweden but also abroad.
Anna Maria Hoke lies buried with her husband in Skogsö Cemetery in Kalmar.