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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo by Yvonne Lockwood




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Laina Marie Lampi
2003 awardee, Clawson (Macomb County), rag rug weaver

Laina (Kehus) Lampi (b.1914) is an exceptional rag rug weaver in the Finnish American tradition. As a child growing up in Tapiola, she learned about weaving from her mother, who had learned in Finland; however, it would be many years before Laina began to weave on a regular basis. Like many young females of her generation who left home to seek work in big cities in the 1930s, Laina went to Detroit, where she found employment. Eventually she married and raised a family. Upon her mother's death, she received her mother's precious loom, large, old and immigrant-made, which Laina values highly and on which she has been weaving for forty years. She credits her loom for her ability to make pleasing rugs. "A good rug," she declared, "requires a good loom." (1)

Laina's technical perfection and expert use of colors are also the result of decades of weaving. Like all Finnish American weavers, she is a consummate recycler. Her rags come from old clothing, blankets, sheets, and towels people give her or she finds at flea markets, rummage sales, and resale shops. Recycling these discards into beautiful rugs is her special art. It also is her way "to save the earth." Color is one of the standards she looks for in rugs and her own sense of color is exceptional. Doris Allen, weaver and fellow member of FinnWeavers (Farmington Hills, Michigan), lauds Laina's artistry, "The technical construction [of Laina's rugs] can be achieved by others, if they work at it, but the colors and designs are from an artistic soul . . .Laina has managed to raise the production of rag rugs, conventionally thought of as a utilitarian form, to an art form." (2)

As a preservationist and proud Finnish American, Laina has consciously taught her skills and knowledge perfected over the years with others in her family who share her enthusiasm. She also has mentored many beginning rag rug weavers. She has displayed her rugs at FinnFest and in the traveling exhibition "A Living Legacy: Finnish American Rag Rugs." She has demonstrated rag weaving and has made presentations about rag rug weaving to other weavers' guilds. "My weaving life," Laina said, "has been very fulfilling." (3)

The Michigan Heritage Award recognizes Laina Lampi's lifelong dedication to and masterful execution of rag rug weaving.

(1) Personal communication, Yvonne Lockwood, 1991.

(2) Letter of nomination, 2002.

(3) Personal communication, Yvonne Lockwood, 1991.


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