University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
http://www.umn.edu/
612-625-5000
School of Architecture College of Design

Jack Lenor Larsen Timeline

1920 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000

 

The Larsen Family

The Larsen Family

 

Jack Lenor Larsen and backstrap loom

Jack Lenor Larsen and backstrap loom

Jack Lenor Larsen at work

Jack Lenor Larsen teaching

 

Young Jack Lenor Larsen

Jack Lenor Larsen

1927

Born August 5th in Bremerton, Seattle, Washington to parents Elmer and Mable who were of Danish-Norwegian descent from Canada; “Lenor” means “lion-hearted” in Danish.

 

1945

Enrolls at the University of Washington’s School of Architecture program; studies furniture design. Takes a weaving course in the home economics department at the university and becomes entranced by the medium.

 

1946-47

Moves to Los Angeles to become a weaver against his parents’ wishes; teaches weaving and learns weaving techniques with Dorothea Hulse at her studio in Los Angeles, Handcraft House; one of his students is Joan Crawford who he teaches to weave; becomes a Hollywood film extra to make additional money after his parents discontinue his allowance.

 

1948

Returns to the University of Washington, Seattle, with parental agreement to change his major; his parents provide him with an allowance and a loom; becomes an assistant to Ed Rossbach in the weaving studio; studies ancient Peruvian fabrics for his thesis entitled Some Contemporary Implications of Ancient Peruvian Textiles.

 

1949

Graduates with the first BA in Textile Design from the University of Washington; opens a studio in Seattle.


 

Showroom advertisment

Early showroom
advertisement

Jack Lenor Larsen logo

Jack Lenor Larsen logo

Leverlin

Leverlin

Image from Cowtan & Tout

Win Anderson and Jack Lenor Larsen

Win Anderson and Jack Lenor Larsen

 

1950

Receives a scholarship to study for a Master’s degree at the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art; Win Anderson, who had been a student of Larsen's and Rossbach's, stays on in Seattle to finish up Jack Lenor Larsen’s commissions while he is at Cranbrook then joins him at Cranbrook to study for a MFA.

1951

Graduates in nine months instead of the usual two years with a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art (Fiber '51); his thesis is entitled Notes on Textile Designing for Mass Production. Moves to New York with his loom and opens a studio 73rd Street in New York City; purchases a bargain priced handloom factory and moves to East 22nd Street, Gramercy Park, Manhattan; soon after opens a small mill in Paterson, New Jersey, nicknamed the “Silk City” for its dominance in silk production in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

Wins a competition to create draperies for the lobby of America’s first major high-rise building following the war, Lever House, Park Avenue, in Manhattan, designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill; the sheer drapery fabric Leverlin is made of linen with gilded Lurex; the casement had to withstand glare from the floor to ceiling windows; the fabric is reissued by Cowtan & Tout in 2005.

 

1952

Obtains his first power loom and develops a technique to reproduce handwoven effects on it.

 

Invited to Haiti to help develop a handspun cotton textile industry; his production links with Haiti remain for many years.

 

1953

Jack Lenor Larson Incorporated is established; Win Anderson joins the firm as Production Manager.

 

Designs the first power woven “hand-woven” fabrics.

American Craft Museum

Original American Craft Museum building

Image from Wikipedia

Granite

Granite

Spice Garden

Spice Garden

Remoulade

Remoulade

 

1954

Opens a showroom and studio on Park Avenue in Manhattan; Bob Carr joins the firm as Production Manager and Win Anderson is promoted to Vice President.

 

Starts Larsen silk screen print collection of hand-woven and hand-spun upholsteries in Haiti and Morocco.

 

Granite (The Spice Garden Collection), a power woven upholstery in a range of colorways made of mohair, cotton, jute, and viscose; the fabric is chosen by Jackie Kennedy for the White House.

 

Spice Garden (The Spice Garden Collection), created by June Groff, a linen screenprint fabric with impressionistic flowers and leaves; it is the company’s first print fabric as prior to this Jack Lenor Larsen had only produced woven fabrics; the fabric remains popular for nearly 30 years; in 1981 a velvet print version was produced.

1956

Becomes a founding board member of the American Craft Museum, now the Museum of Arts & Design.

 

Remoulade (The Spice Garden Collection), originally produced as a handwoven fabric, Jack Lenor Larsen found a mill that could produce it much less expensively on a power loom; the weave is cotton, silk, and Lurex.

 

JLArbiter Dress

J. L. Arbiter linen dress

Image from The Metropolitan
Museum of Art

JLArbiter hat

J. L. Arbiter pillbox hat

Image from The Metropolitan
Museum of Art

Pan America's Boeing 707

Pan America's Boeing 707

 

Pan Am Stripe

Pan Am Stripe

c.1957

Creates the J. L. Arbiter ready-to-wear fashion clothing line for men and women; the line includes suits from exotic fibers in classic cuts, and hats; high-end retailers I. Magnin and Neiman Marcus take 100 sample garments; the Duke and Duchess of Windsor order suits from the range (but do not pay for them!); the range is successful but short-lived and is not produced after the early 1960s.

1958

Establishes the Larsen Design Studio with Win Anderson as President.

 

Becomes the first designer to design and manufacture fabrics for jet aircraft, Pan America’s Boeing 707 jet; the fabric is known as Pan Am Stripe, a woolen twill weave in blue and green vertical stripes.

 

Appointed as consultant on a three year contract to the U.S. State Department on grass weaving projects in Taiwan and Vietnam; in Vietnam tries to buy Honan silk, with its special anti-wrinkle qualities, but the villagers decline so they can make clothes for military uniforms.

 

As special design consultant conducts a 12 week tour of Cambodia and Taiwan; helps redesign tatami rugs, beach mats, and twisted sea grass rugs hoping to market them in the U.S. 

1959

Opens a new studio at 27 West 9th Street, Gramercy, an area in Manhattan, New York City.

 

Designs and produces the first printed velvet upholstery and drapery fabrics.

 

Designs and produces the first stretch upholsteries.

Interplay

Interplay in situ

Interplay

Interplay

Interplay detail

Interplay detail

OrionOrion

Orion, a Saran polypropylene fabric

 

1960

Interplay (Larsen II Collection), a knitted structure fabric constructed from Saran, a plastic monofilament; the fabric was the result of a competition in 1959 to design a stable, non-stretch, casement fabric for windows with a 100’ drop in a bank in Philadelphia; the fabric does not win the competition but remains popular in stock until 1986.

 

Primavera during printing

Primavera in production

Primavera during printing 2

Primavera during the printing process

Primavera in situ

Primavera in situ

Primavera 2

Primavera detail

 

1961

Primavera (Palette ‘61 Collection), a printed velvet fabric; it was designed by Don Wight and colored by Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated; the fabric was first introduced in 1959, is discontinued in the early 1980s but is reintroduced by Cowtan & Tout in 2005.

Caravan

Caravan

Swazi weavers

Swazi weavers

Swazilace

Swazilace

Teryy cloth towel

J. P. Stevens towel

 

1962

Jack Lenor Larsen and Win Anderson travel to Africa; Jack Lenor Larsen is inspired to travel there after seeing footage of Queen Elizabeth II touring British West Africa.

 

1963

Establishes Jack Lenor Larsen International in Zurich, Switzerland.

 

Caravan (The African Collection), a hand screenprint fabric on cotton velvet inspired by his trip to Africa; designed by Anita Askild and the Larsen Design Studio.

 

Swazilace (The African Collection), a 90% mohair/10% linen fabric woven in Swaziland from South African goat hair; Jack Lenor Laresn found the fabric whilst travelling with Win Anderson across Africa in the early 1960s; the fabric was produced in the studio of Englishwoman Coral Stephens who had started a handweaving business for local women in Swaziland; the fabric was later adapted for the Wolf Trap Farm theater curtains. 

1964 Creates the Winn Anderson fabric division for stores, the two “n”s in Winn for legal reasons.

 

Awarded the Triennale di Milano Gold Medal for Best Exhibit featuring stretch fabrics.

1965

Designs The Fine Arts Collection of jacquard terry cloth towels, sheets and blankets for J.P. Stevens; at the time J. P. Stevens was the second largest textile manufacturer in the world.

 

Completes his home Round House in Hand’s Creek Lane, East Hampton, Long Island, New York; the three circular buildings feature round forms and cone shaped roofs inspired by his trips to Kenya.

 

1966 Creates the Ja-eL fabrics apparel division.

 

Jack Lenor Larsen and Win Anderson travel to India.

 

Commissioned to produce the woven fabric wall panels for the First Unitarian chaurch of Rochester, New York, designed by his contmporary, architect Louis Kahn; the building was completed in 1969.


 

Momentum on chair

Momentum in
Blue Flame on
Paulin's Artifort
Ribbon chair

First Unitarian Church

First Unitarian Church of Rochester

Samarkand

Samarkand

Braniff Airways

Fabric for Braniff Airways

1967 Labyrinth (The Butterflies Collection), the wool and cotton, worsted jacquard upholstery fabric was woven in a Scottish mill.

 

Momentum (The Butterflies Collection) the first two-way stretch upholstery fabric knitted by Glen Raven Mills; the design is screen-printed on textured Caprolan nylon; the Blue Flame colorway is famously upholstered on furniture designer Pierre Paulin’s Artifort Ribbon chair.

1968

Happiness (The Pleasure Dome of Kublai Khan Collection), a handprint design inspired by embroidery from the Ming Dynasty which Jack Lenor Larsen had seen whilst at the University of Washington; the design features Chinese good omens of clouds, waves, and rainbows; the popular design is introduced as a carpet in 1975; Liz Taylor commissions one in an allover pink color.

 

Samarkand (The Pleasure Dome of Kublai Khan Collection), a hand screen-printed fabric on cotton velvet named after the golden domes of what was then the capital of Turkestan, now Uzbeck; the company literature describes the inspiration behind the fabric as “the flamboyant motifs and colorings are translated from the Spring flowering in the Asiatic Steppes”; the fabric remains in production for around 20 years.

 

Awarded a gold medal for craftsmanship from the American Institute of Architects.

1969

Designs the fabrics for Braniff Airways, Inc.’s, Boeing 747 jumbo jets; the planes are dubbed “747 Braniff Place” and “the most exclusive address in the sky”; the fabrics designed by Jack Lenor Larsen feature a herringbone pattern; the coach class features a worsted wool, jacquard weave in horizontal stripes, in “Cinnabar” color, the color progresses from front to back of the cabin seats and the seats also graduate in color.

 

Designs the fabrics for Pan Am’s Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

 

Invited to act as Co-director with Mildred Constantine for the Wall Hangings exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the first major show at MoMA dedicated to contemporary weavers.

 

Oberon (The Irish Awakening Collection), a Celtic pattern, the polyester cotton devoré fabric is produced in France; the Irish Awakening Collection was created by Larsen at the request of the Irish Export Board featuring local producers; in 1970 a roomset showcasing fabrics from the Collection was featured in Carson Pirie Scott & Co.'s Foreign Fair '70: Accent on Ireland in Chicago.


Magnum

Magnum

Magnum for Phoenix Concert Hall

Magnum in Flame for Phoenix Civic Plaza Concert Hall

Act Curtain for the Filene Center

Act Curtain for the Filene Center

Oberon

Oberon

 

1970

Magnum (A Larsen Anthology Collection), a modern graphic take on embroidered Indian mirror work fabric using man-made Mylar to emulate the mirrors; the machine embroidered fabric, produced in a variety of colors, is backed with Mylar; it becomes one of Jack Lenor Larsen’s most famous designs when it is used for the theater curtains at the Phoenix Opera House in Flame colorway.

 

Receives a commission from Mrs. Jouett Shouse to design the Act Curtain for the Filene Center, a performing arts center based at Wolf Trap Farm, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.; the fabric features handspun mohair woven in Swaziland and the vertical repeat is 20’; shades of brown, beige, and orange are chosen to harmonize with the center’s wooded setting; the King of Swaziland is present at the inauguration ceremony in 1972 to witness the biggest single export from his country.

Hills of Home

Hills of Home

Hills of Home 2

Hills of Home

Happiness

Happiness

Jezebel

Jezebel

 

1971

Happiness (The Great Colour of China Collection (sic)), a re-coloring of a favorite design; the description in the company publicity literature reads, “Mr. Larsen sees his China palette as environmental, used in large areas and in combination to create a new era of luxury and repose.”

 

Jezebel (The Great Colour of China Collection), a printed velvet on cotton, first produced in the 1960s and re-colored for this collection.

 

Hills of Home (Paradise Regained Collection), a handprinted design by artist Susan Burgess-James printed on Bengalese handwoven tussah silk from India; inspired by the tribal ikats of the Turkestan steppes; printed by Winston Prints in Pennsylvania; the fabric originally featured in the Great Colour of China Collection; it was discontinued in 1992.

 

 

Larsen in Bangkok

Larsen in Bangkok

Thai weavers

Thai weavers

Laotian Ikat

Laotian Ikat

Phoenix Opera House

Phoenix Civic Plaza Concert Hall

 

1972

Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated acquires Thaibok Fabrics Ltd., exclusive U.S. distributors for the Thai Silk Company, Bangkok, Thailand.

 

The theater curtains are installed for the Phoenix Civic Plaza Concert Hall, Arizona; the Magnum fabric, in Flame colorway, is the largest piece of machine embroidery in the world consisting of 600 yards of material; the base cloth features laminated Mylar with 12 colors of embroidery yarns in a long progression.

 

Laotian Ikat (An Homage to Jim Thompson Collection), a handwoven silk and metallic ikat from Thailand; the bold geometric design was woven into the fabric not printed on it; to convey his design to the weavers in Thailand, Jack Lenor Larsen made a collage from old Christmas cards and sent it to him; Jack Lenor Larsen was the first to weave an ikat longer than a sari length; the title of the collection refers to the founder of the Thai Silk Co., Jim Thompson, who had disappeared in mysterious circumstances some years earlier. 

 

 

Dyer's Art

The Dyer's Art
handbook

Larsen carpet

Larsen carpet

Leather Carpet

Hand-loomed leather carpet

Image from1stdibs.com

Sears Tower

Quilted hangings for the Sears Tower

1973

Establishes Larsen Carpet Division.

 

Establishes Larsen Leather Division.

1974

Receives a commission from architect Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design 28 silk and channel quilted hangings for the Sears Tower, Chicago, Illinois, the tallest building in the world at the time.  The bank area features large rooms with marble floors and walls and Jack Lenor Larsen designs the panels to absorb the sound. 

1975

Purchases 16 acres in East Hampton, New York, adjacent to his property, the Round House; he will later build LongHouse on this site.

 

Establishes Larsen Walls, a new product division for wall fabrics.

1976

Establishes Larsen Furniture Division, with Erik Norup as director.

 

1977

Ill health forces Win Anderson to leave the company.

 

Publishes book The Dyer’s Art (Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.), including ikat, plangi, and batik tie-dye techniques.

 

Seascape Sheer

Seascape Sheer

Summergarden

Summergarden

Detail of Summergarden

Detail of Summergarden

Larsen Furniture

Larsen Furniture

Image from 1stdibs.com

 

1978

Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated celebrates its 25th anniversary.

 

Designs the act curtain for the Dellora A. Norris Cultural Arts Center, in St. Charles, Illinois, opened in 1978.

 

Seascape Sheer (Fall ’78 Collection), a polyester cotton warp knit material produced in France.

 

Summergarden (The Crystal Palace Collection), a nineteenth century jacquard tapestry using weaving techniques produced in a French mill, Leclerqs; the design is so successful it is in production for over 20 years.

 

1979 Launches the Ben Baldwin Collection for Larsen Furniture; Ben Baldwin was an architect and interior designer, and a Cranbrook alumni.

 

Bamboo floral plate

Bamboo floral plate

Image from Replacements, Ltd.

Bamboo tableware

Bamboo tableware

 

 

30 Years of Creative Textiles

Exhibition catalog 30 Years of Creative Textiles

The Mother

The Mother on Cassina chaise longue

Image from http://fortnightlyreview.co.uk

 

1980

Bamboo, Jack Lenor Larsen’s first tableware collection; the range of white porcelain with gold bands was created for Dansk International at the invitation of his friend and Dansk President, Ted Nierenberg; Jack Lenor Larsen describes it as a “wardrobe” of dishes, a three-part set for breakfast, everyday and Sunday best; the tableware is produced in Nogoya, Japan.

 

1981

Retrospective exhibition Jack Lenor Larsen: 30 ans de Création Textile: 30 Years of Creative Textiles at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palais du Louvre in Paris; at the time he is only the second living American to be honored thus, the first, Mark Tobey, is also a Seattle native; the show features over 300 Jack Lenor Larsen pieces.

 

1981-89

President of the American Craft Council.

 

1982

Produces a specially commissioned group of colored geometric brocade fabrics for an upholstered furniture collection by Cassina, an innovative design company based in Italy; Cassina describes the three fabric ranges, Sonato, Suite, and Danza (The Fabric Family Collection), as “mother,” grandmother,” and “grandchildren.”

 

Designs an upholstery collection for Vescom, an international furnishings company.


Mikasa tableware

Mikasa tableware

 

Indian Paintbrush inspiration

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush detail

Riemerschmid chair

Riemerschmid chair

Image from the V&A Museum

1984

Jack Lenor Larsen obtains the rights to the 1899 Richard Riemerschmid designed armchair, the first 20th century chair created for listening to music.


1985

Indian Paintbrush (The Terra Nova Collection), a silk fabric, woven in Switzerland, but with a “sturdy feel evoking buffalo hide.”  Jack Lenor Larsen was approached by the Museum of the American Indian in New York to help raise funds for the museum, a private nonprofit trust.  The Terra Nova Collection comprised textiles, wall coverings and rugs inspired by the collections in the Museum of the American Indian; this included pre-Colombian and Eskimo art to create an all-American collection. 

 

Licenses designs from The Terra Nova Collection to several manufacturers: Mikasa for a tableware collection; Martex for table linens, sheets, towels and blankets; and P. Kaufmann Fabrics for fabrics for home and contracts.  Well-known luxury department stores, such as Neiman-Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s, carry the merchandise. 

1986

Begins to build LongHouse on the 16 acres he had purchased in North Woods, East Hampton, in the style of a Japanese Shinto shrine at Ise, Japan.  Designed by architect Charles Forberg, the house covers 13,000 sq. ft; Joe Tufariello is the building contractor; the building takes 5 years to complete.

 

1987

Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated moves into new studios and offices at IDCNY (International Design Center of New York), New York; the building ceases as a design center in 1991.

 

1988

Sells the Round House to Judy and Ennius Bergsma.

 

1989

Launches Larsen Legacy Division of cotton furnishing fabrics.



Nimbus

Nimbus

 

Solace

Solace

Detail of Solace

Detail of Solace

Swan Song

Swan Song

1990

Appointed Emeritus President of the American Craft Council.

 

1991

Establishes his home as the LongHouse Reserve, a charitable foundation, with a focus on garden landscape, garden sculpture, art, and education.

 

Nimbus, a Saran polyethylene, produced as a suitable fabric for large casement windows in new buildings; the original fabric was produced in 1959 as a custom hand-printed design for casements.

 

Launches the Galaxy Division of fabrics made with manmade fibers.

 

1992

Produces the Galaxy Collection, made from polyethylene gauze, inspired by padding for demolition workers, the fiber appeared similar to a fishing line.

 

Designs the carpet, wall coverings, window furnishings, and leather upholstery for the Trustees Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a prestigious members only restaurant with views of Central Park.

 

1993

Solace (Simply Grand Collection), an upholstery fabric in rayon, polyester, and cotton voided velvet designed by Lori Weitzner; Weitzner produced several collections for Jack Lenor Larsen as an independent designer.

 

1994

Swan Song (Rhythm & Line Collection), a woven fabric produced in linen weave with silk weft threads.

 

 

Larsen logo

Jack Lenor Larsen is rebranded as "Larsen"

Larsen Showroom

Larsen Showroom

McNeal Hall

Goldstein Museum of Design, McNeal Hall

Image from Wikipedia.org

Autobiography 'A Weaver's Memoir'

Jack Lenor Larsen's
autobiography

 

1995

Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated is rebranded as “Larsen.”

 

1997

Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated merges with Cowtan & Tout, the American subsidiary of Colefax and Fowler, a long established furnishing fabric company in London, U.K.; Jack Lenor Larsen stays on as a consultant.

 

1998

The Goldstein Museum of Design, based in McNeal Hall at the University of Minnesota, receives the Jack Lenor Larsen textile archive as a gift, together with a substantial contribution to maintain the archive and the funding of a scholarship in the Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel.

 

Publishes his autobiography Jack Lenor Larsen: A Weaver’s Memoir (Harry N. Abrams).



Jack Lenor Larsen

Jack Lenor Larsen

Exhibition Catalogue

Exhibition catalog Interplay: Perspectives on the Design Legacy of Jack Lenor Larsen

Inspirator of an Innovator Exhibition

Exhibition Inspiration of an Innovator: Jack Lenor Larsen

Exhibit from Inspiration of an Innovator

Exhibit from Inspiration of an Innovator: Jack Lenor Larsen

 

2001

The Goldstein Museum of Design stages the exhibition Inspiration of an Innovator: Jack Lenor Larsen; the accompanying catalog Interplay: Perspectives on the Design Legacy of Jack Lenor Larsen is co-authored by Dr. Stephanie Zollinger.

 

2017

The Goldstein Museum of Design is planning a September exhibition to help celebrate Jack Lenor Larsen's 90th birthday; the exhibition will be curated by Dr. Stephanie Zollinger.

 


This timeline was compiled from the many Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated archive documents donated to the University of Minnesota, from Larsen's biography on the LongHouse website, supplemented by additional online resources.


Funding for these oral histories was provided by a Craft Research Fund Grant from the University of North Carolina, Asheville Center for Craft, Creativity & Design.

 


Contact Information

Goldstein Museum of Design

364 McNeal Hall,

1985 Buford Ave, St. Paul, MN 55108

P: 612-624-7434 | gmd@umn.edu

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