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Helena Hernmarck papers

Identifier: N244

Scope and Content Note

Collection includes photographs and original designs for tapestries, including commissions for corporate clients like Pitney Bowes, Johnson and Johnson, and Bethlehem Steel. Also included are correspondence with clients and architects, including I.M. Pei and Partners and Skidmore Owings and Merrill, as well as clippings featuring Helena Hernmarck and her work. Office files, sample books, and files related to Hernmarck’s family members are collected under “general files.”

The bulk of the collection is in English, while some correspondence, clippings, and design materials are in Swedish.


  • 1900; 1962-2008 (bulk 1963-2005)

Language of Materials

Multiple languages

Language of Materials


Restrictions on Access

Available for use in Manuscripts Division reading room. Advance notice is requested.

Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on the use of materials in this collection. Copies can be requested if the condition of the originals warrants it.

Biographical Note

Helena Hernmarck was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1941. From an early age, she was exposed to weaving and textile art, a common occupation for artists and craftsmen in Sweden. She was surrounded by artists and architects for much of her childhood, including her uncle, Sven Markelius, a noted Swedish architect who designed the Economic and Social Council Chamber at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Her father, Carl Hernmarck, was the curator of decorative arts at the National Museum of Stockholm.

Hernmarck began weaving at age seventeen. She trained with Handarbetets vänner, the Friends of Textile Art Association, in 1958, and spent the next four years studying at the Konstfackskolan University College of Arts, Crafts, and Design in Stockholm.

Following her graduation in 1963, Hernmarck moved to Montreal, Canada at the age of 23 and began her professional career as a tapestry designer and weaver, creating wall hangings for corporations and government buildings. Influenced by the music and pop art of the 1960s she began to shift from her early abstract designs to more realistic images. She was asked to design two tapestries for the Montreal Expo in 1967, and produced a tapestry triptych for the Queen Elizabeth II cruise liner depicting the ship’s launch. Hernmarck was featured in a Time magazine article after weaving a large tapestry of Little Richard. She loaned the tapestry to the singer after a concert in Montreal so he could show it to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, but he left it in the trunk of a rental car en route. It was never returned to Hernmarck, and remains missing.

Hernmarck moved to England in 1972, where she worked primarily on large-scale commissions for American corporations. In 1975, Hernmarck moved her business to New York City, where she established a studio in the loft apartment she shared with her husband, industrial designer Niels Diffrient, to whom she was married in 1976. Most of her corporate contracts were secured through relationships with architectural firms, including I. M. Pei and Partners and Skidmore Owings and Merrill. Hernmarck’s tapestries were displayed by Bethlehem Steel, the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, MA, Pitney Bowes, Johnson and Johnson, and John Deere, among others. In 1980, Hernmarck and Diffrient moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut, where they share a studio on their property.

Since 1967, Hernmarck has woven mostly from photographs. A full-sized photo enlargement is placed under the warp threads on the loom to be used as a guide for Hernmarck and her assistants to follow as they weave hundreds of colors of yarn by hand. A single large-scale wall hanging can take six months for Hernmarck and her assistants to weave, and yarn in up to 500 colors can be used.

Hernmarck has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde Museum in Stockholm. She has also received a number of awards, including the 1973 AIA Craftsmanship Medal, the 1998 Connecticut Commission on the Arts Governor’s Art Award, and the Prins Eugen Medal in 1999.


10.25 Cubic Feet


The collection contains tapestry designs, photographs, correspondence, articles, and other materials related to the work of Helena Hernmarck, weaver.


The collection is organized into five series:

  1. Clippings
  2. Correspondence
  3. Exhibits
  4. General files
  5. Project files
  6. Oversize materials

Physical Location

High Bay


Donated to the Northwest Architectural Archives by Helena Hernmarck on August 18, 2008.


Additions to the collection will be delivered by the donor on an irregular basis.

Processing Information

The collection was processed and the finding aid written by Madeleine Vasaly and Marisa Tam, 2009-2010.

Helena Hernmarck Papers
Marisa Tam
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Northwest Architectural Archives Collecting Area