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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of Paul Lahti with a rug
Photo by Mary Whalen

Photo of a rug made by Paul Lahti
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Paul Lahti
2002 awardee, L'Anse (Baraga County), rag-rug weaver

Paul Lahti learned the techniques and aesthetics of rag rug weaving from his immigrant grandmother, who learned to weave in Finland, and his Finnish American mother. Locals praise his rugs for their tight weave, careful designs, and handsome colors. According to nominator and artist Joyce Kosenmaki, they "are cherished by their owners" and "have a spirit which graces the rooms in which they lie." (1)

Paul was born in the Upper Peninsula's L'Anse/Herman area in 1938, a time when every Finnish home used rag rugs and weaving was a skill in which many took pride. As a child he assisted the weavers in his family by repairing their looms and with preparing rags, warping looms, and tying fringes. He actually began to weave at age 13. As a young man, Paul, who had always been good at carpentry, established his own construction company. Despite his busy life, he always managed to find time to weave. When he retired, he opened a coffee and craft shop, in the backroom of which he setup a weaving studio where he wove on an old, immigrant-made loom and taught others to weave. He now was able to devote himself to weaving. The shop also served as an outlet for the traditional Finnish foods he enjoyed cooking. It became a gathering place for locals where they visited as they drank coffee and ate Finnish coffee bread. On Sundays, he served a special brunch of Finnish specialties. Although the shop is now closed, Paul is still weaving and aspires to making a loom.

Paul's dedication to the preservation of Finnish history and culture extended to the restoration of the Herman Community Hall built in 1901 by Finnish immigrants and for which he donated his time and carpentry skills. His selfless enthusiasm and volunteer efforts for his community include donations of his rag rugs for raffles and various local fundraisers. Paul's devotion to old Finnish traditions endears him to his neighbors and friends.

(1) Koskenmaki, Joyce. Nomination letter. 27 November 2000.

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