Kaisa Melanton was a textile artist and one of the pioneers of free textiles in Sweden.
Kaisa Melanton was born Kaisa Björklund in Stockholm in 1920. Music, dance and theatre were important elements of her existence during her childhood and youth in the middle-class Stockholm suburb of Täby. Her mother Britta, who had been educated as an economist at Påhlmans Handelsinstitut, sang in the opera chorus in Stockholm. Her father Erik Einar was an engineer. Her early contact with the visual arts came via her maternal grandmother who did weaving — even though her activity was considered by the family as more of an everyday activity than an artistic creativity.
As an 18 year old, Kaisa Melanton started training as an art teacher at Konstfack in Stockholm, but changed over after one year to the school’s courses in textiles, in which she qualified after four years in 1943. Her teacher in textiles, Barbro Nilsson, was significant as a role model and source of inspiration.
During her education, she met her husband-to-be, Erland Melanton, who during those years shared his time between his Konstfack education and periods of military service. They married on 6 June 1943, immediately after they had both completed their educations. Erland Melanton was employed as a drawing teacher in Örnsköldsvik, and the couple moved there for several years. Immediately afterwards they moved back to Stockholm and lived for 25 years in Viggbyholm, north of the city. During the 1940s, their children Lotta, Stina and Jörgen were born there and in 1961 their son Johan.
When Edna Martin succeeded Greta Gahn in 1951 as the leader of the handicrafts society Handarbetets Vänner in Stockholm, she got Kaisa Melanton to join the enterprise. Several of her great works were therefore realised by needlewomen and weavers at Handarbetets Vänner, among others the tapestry Blå eld, in 1963 for the Eskilstuna city theatre and library, woven in the double technique known as Russian weave, and the 90 square metre tapestry Vandring i Solnaskogen from 1965, for the session hall in the Solna city hall. In Västerås, an artistic competition was announced in 1964 to acquire art for the new city hall, designed by Sven Ahlbom and built in 1953. Kaisa Melanton’s suggestion Det fria ordet won in competition with 151 other candidates. This work was also made at Handarbetets Vänner in Russian weave, with elements of Soumak that create a relief effect. The work is a triptych measuring 60 square metres, the abstract form language of which was inspired by a summer sojourn on the Baltic island of Öland. The content deals with the everyday routines of democracy as well as its decisive existential significance. Many of the works of the 1960s had also been inspired by the exhibition of Hannah Ryggen’s textile art that Kaisa Melanton saw in Stockholm in 1962.
Kaisa Melanton succeeded Edna Martin in 1969 as the head teacher in textiles at Konstfack, a post she was to hold for ten years until 1979. Parallel to this, she was the artistic leader in 1970—1975 of Märta Måås-Fjetterström AB in Båstad (named after the artist with that name), where she succeeded her teacher from Konstfack, Barbro Nilsson. During the period 1979—1990, Kaisa Melanton was the adviser in artistic matters to Handarbetets Vänner.
During her entire life, she worked now and then on art for public space, with clients like authorities, churches, municipalities and counties. One of her greatest assignments came however from the national art council, Statens Konstråd, for art for the Swedish Enforcement Authority in Stockholm. Between 1976 and 1980, she worked on the project that resulted in a large number of works, now to be seen at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. She carried them out herself with her assistant Mai Wellner in a number of different techniques: application, embroidery, and weaving. The works give the impression of being collage, in which everyday articles glide past: a coin, a window out on blue sky, architectonic elements and a small bicycle, and not least a Mona Lisa-face hovering among the clouds. In these and other works from the 1970s and onwards, Kaisa Melanton embraced an expression that can be described as postmodernist; a fragmented visual world in which the works themselves are also parts by being diptychs or triptychs.
Kaisa Melanton was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in 1974. She continued to be professionally active even after her eightieth birthday, with among other things a number of textile works created for the Konserthuset in Stockholm in 2002. Her art is not only to be seen, as mentioned, in the collections of the Nationalmuseum but also in the collections at Moderna Museet in Stockholm.
Kaisa Melanton died in Stockholm in 2012.