Maja Lundbäck was a textile artist during the first half of the twentieth century. She was one of the driving forces behind the campaign to improve the quality of handicrafts products and sought to narrow the gap between artistic training and the handicrafts movement.
Maja Lundbäck was born in Jättesta, Gudmundrå in Ångermanland in 1906. Her father, Johan Petter Vestin, was the local pastor there. On completing her schooling Maja Lundbäck moved to Stockholm to attend Högre konstindustriella skolan, Tekniska skolan (now Konstfack, college of arts, crafts and design). Upon graduating in 1927 she immediately found employment at Östergötlands Läns Hemslöjdsförening. As their first textile artist or pattern-designer she was very important to the future developments of the association. Maja Lundbäck’s technical skills combined with her great interest and deep engagement with high-quality consumer goods were perfectly on trend with the ongoing discussions within the handicrafts movement on the subject of pattern and product innovations. In 1931 Maja Lundbäck was recruited to work for Svensk Hemslöjd in Stockholm and she remained there until 1937. During that period she married Vilhelm Julinder, a ballad-singer and actor, alternately adopting his surname or sometimes double-barrelling her name to Vestin-Julinder. They had a daughter named Birgitta, born in 1935. However, that marriage ended and in 1941 Maja Lundbäck remarried. Her second husband was Sven Lundbäck, with whom she had another two children.
Whilst employed by Svensk Hemslöjd Maja Lundbäck undertook further training as a weaving instructor at Johanna Brunsson’s school of weaving in 1935. She had already gained a lot of attention for the knotted pile or ‘röllakan’ rugs she made during her time at Östergötlands Läns Hemslöjdsförening. She was also responsible for modern rya rugs created using knotted rya bases. This became a very popular type of handicraft and the current king, Gustav V, increased its popularity by taking a personal interest in it and ordering materials so that he himself could create a rya rug, designed by Maja Lundbäck.
In 1937 Maja Lundbäck was appointed director of Svenska Hemslöjdsföreningars Riksförbund (SHR, national handicrafts association of Sweden). One of her first tasks was to serve as commissioner for the association’s quarter-century jubilee and hold a major exhibition of Scandinavian handicrafts at Liljevalchs’ gallery. She was also responsible for the association’s submission to the World’s Fair held in New York in 1939.
Part of her campaign to make handicraft products up-to-date and suited to the actual needs of the market was the setting up of a sample-weaving studio in Stockholm. She believed that textile handicraft goods turned out best when they were produced using wool on a loom and that the best results were achieved by making samples, not using paints on paper. At the same time she, along with the clothing and textile historian Gunnel Hazelius-Berg, was busy at Nordiska Museet creating a Swedish traditional costume and entering competitions to create new tourist souvenirs. Further, in attempts to create good role models to help stop the tide of mediocre handicrafts, she gave talks, produced handbooks, and published pattern templates. These pattern templates garnered a lot of praise and around 15 folders of patterns for such things as embroideries, weavings, and rya rugs were published.
Maja Lundbäck was one of the leading figures within the handicraft movement who championed the silkscreen print method for large-scale printing of handicrafts. She also contributed to the introduction of new textile materials, such as cell wool, during the crisis years of the 1940s.
Maja Lundbäck taught at Konstfackskolan from 1947 until her retirement in 1969 and her responsibilities included weaving- and pattern instruction. As a technical teacher she was able to combine handicrafting goals with improving both the technical and aesthetic qualities of the products by working together with individuals who were artistically trained. She introduced business financing to the timetable and emphasised the importance of artistic training in the development of handicrafts. She also helped her students to find apprenticeships or positions within Swedish handicrafts associations.
Maja Lundbäck also produced several official textile decorations, including at the churces Engelbrektskyrkan and Hjorthagens kyrka in Stockholm.
Maja Lundbäck passed away in 1980.