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UC Davis hosting hand-made Scandinavian design exhibit

Wall tapestries by Birgitta Olsen will be on display at the ‘Weaving and Woodwork: A Scandinavian Design Partnership’ exhibit at the UC Davis Design Museum.
Wall tapestries by Birgitta Olsen will be on display at the ‘Weaving and Woodwork: A Scandinavian Design Partnership’ exhibit at the UC Davis Design Museum. UC Davis Regents

UC Davis is paying homage to a former professor and his wife with a newly-opened exhibit, “Weaving and Woodwork: A Scandinavian Design Partnership.”

The exhibit is housed in the university’s Design Museum and focuses on Scandinavian-style art with pieces designed by emeritus faculty member Helge Olsen and his wife, Birgitta.

The duo had a hand in each work featured in the gallery: Helge designed sleek furniture and Birgitta created tapestries based on California landscapes in a Scandinavian style. The pieces “reflect their Scandinavian upbringing, training and design aesthetic,” according to UC Davis spokesman Michael French.

In addition to being a professor, Hilge focused many of his commercial designs to create play environments for children with disabilities, and was once commissioned to create a recreational facility for the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

UC Davis student Zoe Martin worked with the university’s Design Museum to make portions of the exhibit accessible for visitors who may be visually impaired or blind. Martin decided to work on the project after being inspired by Hilge’s work, French said.

“Their work typifies Scandinavian resourcefulness and themes. What today we would call sustainability was historically a matter of practicality and economy,” said Tim McNeil, UC Davis design professor and director of the university’s Design Museum.

Both professors use sustainable resources to create their pieces and often incorporate recycled materials in their work, McNiel said.

“Birgitta’s tapestries use woven cotton strips that traditionally would have come from discarded clothes and other household fabrics. Helge’s furniture maximizes material with very little waste, and many of his pieces have more than one function such as the step stool that turns into a high chair for toddlers,” McNiel said.

UC Davis’ Design Museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 2 to 4 p.m. on Sundays and is free to the public. The exhibit runs through April 21st.

This story was updated at 11:56 a.m. on Feb. 7 to clarify that Birgitta Olsen was not a professor at UC Davis.

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