Saarinen, Loja (1879–1968)

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Saarinen, Loja (1879–1968)

Finnish-born weaver and textile designer. Name variations: Loja Gesellius; Loja Gesellius Saarinen; Louise Gesellius; Louise Saarinen. Born Louise Gesellius on March 15, 1879, in Finland; died in April 1968; sister of architect Herman Gesellius; studied art in Finland and Paris; married (Gottlieb) Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950, an architect), on March 6, 1903; mother-in-law of Aline Saarinen (1914–1972); children: Eero Saarinen (1910–1961, an architect); Eva Lisa Saarinen Swanson (1905–1979), a designer known as Pipsan Saarinen Swanson.

Loja Saarinen was born Louise Gesellius on March 15, 1879, in Finland. A significant influence on the design aspects of modern textile production, she studied art in Finland and Paris before marrying noted Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, who was at the time in partnership with her brother Herman Gesellius. The Saarinens immigrated to the United States in 1923, and settled near Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Eliel took a teaching position at the University of Michigan. He later was commissioned to design several art schools at Cranbrook, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, one of which, Cranbrook Academy of Art, he also headed for many years. Loja also joined the creative community at Cranbrook, becoming director of the weaving shops in 1930, and serving as department head until her retirement in 1942. From 1928 on, Loja also headed her own textile studio.

Her carpet and textile designs, many of which were developed for her husband's buildings, were widely exhibited and won numerous awards. Her style combined Modernist design with traditional Scandinavian weaving and Art Deco techniques of the 1920s and 1930s. In addition to practicing her craft, Saarinen also taught many of the distinguished textile designers and weavers who have perpetuated her style and technique. Her designer daughter Pipsan Saarinen Swanson also taught at Cranbrook.


Block, Maxine, ed. Current Biography 1942. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1942.

Pile, John. Dictionary of 20th-Century Design. NY: Roundtable Press, 1990.