JOHAN THEODOR BJÖRNSTRÖM
THE DESIGNER OF THE SMITH & WEAVER STAMPS

(Summary of an article by Elmar Ojaste in Eesti Filatelist #24-25, 1979)

For the competition of designs for a new stamp issue, arranged by the Estonian Postal Administration in 1921, an entry of six designs with a code-name "Eesti Post", showing various occupations and farming activities was received. After consideration by the jury, the design showing a blacksmith was awarded the first prize. The mentioned code-name belonged to the Finnish artist J. T. Björnström. He worked at this time for Printing Works Ltd in Helsinki. Earlier he had met there, in connection of printing and design of Estonian paper currency, an Estonian artist Theodor Ussisoo. The latter had suggested him to participate in the mentioned competition. From the proposed entries - blacksmith and weaver became the motifs for the final long-running Estonian definitive stamps issue (1922 - 1928).

Björnström was born May 21, 1890, in Jorois, district Mikkeli in Finland. His parents soon moved to Viipuri, where his father worked as a blacksmith in the local railway depot. Young Johan started his artistic studies in Viipurięs school of Drawing "Friend of Art". He won scholarship and studied 1913 - 1914 in the Munich Academy of Art in Germany and later in "The Athenaeum" - Academy of Art in Helsinki. In 1927 Björnström became advertising manager for the Finnish Co-op Consumers Association and worked with them until his retirement in 1957. He died in Helsinki on June 10, 1959.

Björnström was known and recognized mainly as graphic and applied artist, but he also had a reputation as a painter. He exhibited in Viipuri 1909 and in Helsinki 1916. His most preferred motifs of landscapes were from Koli and Pielisjärvi of Hämeemas district.