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50 Years of Folk Art at Vesterheim

By Laurann Gilbertson

Exhibition: 50 Years of Folk Art

vesterheimVesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, is celebrating 50 years of folk art, through classes, the National Exhibitions of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition, and tours to Norway.  To mark this important anniversary, Vesterheim has created a special exhibition to share at least a few of the stories of 20 folk art tours to Norway, 90 Norwegian teachers, 145 American teachers, hundreds of class topics, and hundreds – if not thousands – of students between 1967 to 2016.

What is Folk Art?

Folk art is simply art of the people.  American folk art is often defined as the work of self-taught artists, artists who have not had formal artistic training.  It can be “outsider” art, created by artists who have had little contact with the mainstream art world and who may be expressing unconventional ideas or spiritual visions.

Folk art can also be defined as global art, fitting closely to local traditions.  At Vesterheim, Norwegian folk art typically refers to useful objects created and decorated using local materials by individuals of a particular, often rural, region of Norway between 1600 and 1900. These objects and techniques usually expressed regional aesthetic and styles and were borne of traditions developed over several hundred years. The craftspeople that made these items typically learned their trades informally or through apprenticeships. The objects they created needed to be functional and beautiful.

What is Tradition?

Tradition is a repeated pattern of behaviors, beliefs, or objects passed down from one generation to the next.  We follow traditions because they mean something to us. Traditions change through time and evolve with the availability of resources, forces of nature, personal taste, political or religious ideas, and foreign influences. All traditions change. But how far can they change?

Can an object made today be called traditional folk art? The artists of the eighteenth century didn’t have commercially-spun yarn, chemical dyes, circular knitting needles. Can an object made using these things be called traditional folk art?

Vesterheim often uses the phrase “in the tradition” to describe objects made today that are based on or inspired by historical examples. As long as there is a strong visual connection, it seems acceptable to change to the material OR technique OR medium. Too many changes, however, and the piece is no longer recognizable as having been part of the Norwegian tradition.

Folk Art and Vesterheim

Vesterheim began in 1877 as the Luther College Museum and folk art was part of the collection from the very beginning. Norwegian immigrant materials, including folk art brought from Norway, became the official focus of the collection by 1895.

In 1964, Luther College hired Marion Nelson, an art historian, to catalog the collection. He soon became director of an independent, world-class Vesterheim museum. Nelson was passionate about folk art and saw the collection’s potential to educate artists interested in Norwegian folk art. Nelson launched the Folk Art School and National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition in 1967.

Weaving was added to the National Exhibition, an annual judged exhibition of folk art in the Norwegian tradition, in 1981. A jacket woven by Marie Nodland of St. Paul, Minnesota, won a blue ribbon that year. The diamond twill reverses to rya (pile weave) and there are handknit collar and cuffs.

Weaving was added to the National Exhibition, an annual judged exhibition of folk art in the Norwegian tradition, in 1981. A jacket woven by Marie Nodland of St. Paul, Minnesota, won a blue ribbon that year. The diamond twill reverses to rya (pile weave) and there are handknit collar and cuffs.

While Nelson was interested in folk art as an academic, he did not create folk art himself. His wife, Lila Nelson, was an accomplished weaver and textile artist who would go on to teach many textile classes at Vesterheim in her capacity as textile curator.

The opportunity to study and practice of folk art is also offered through tours to Norway.  The first tours, starting in 1970, provided a folk art focus while traveling.  Since 1978, tours often included hands-on workshops with local artists as instructors.

Students learned Telemarksvev in the weaving class during Vesterheim’s first hands-on Folk Art Tour to Norway in 1978. The teacher, Elsa Bjerck, is standing in back, second from the right. Lila Nelson, the museum’s Textile Curator, is second from the left.

Students learned Telemarksvev in the weaving class during Vesterheim’s first hands-on Folk Art Tour to Norway in 1978. The teacher, Elsa Bjerck, is standing in back, second from the right. Lila Nelson, the museum’s Textile Curator, is second from the left.

Fiber Arts at Vesterheim

A wide range of fiber classes have been offered at Vesterheim, from embroidery, knitting, nålbinding (knotless netting), spinning, loom weaving, bandweaving, sheepskin printing, and basketry.

Oline Bredeli of Molde, Norway, taught weaving and working with teger, birch or spruce root, in 1982 and 1990. Canadian artist Karen Casselman’s specialty is historical plant dyes. She taught dyeing at Vesterheim in 1997, 2002, and 2005. For this placemat, she used korkje, a Norwegian dye made from fermented lichens.

Oline Bredeli of Molde, Norway, taught weaving and working with teger, birch or spruce root, in 1982 and 1990. Canadian artist Karen Casselman’s specialty is historical plant dyes. She taught dyeing at Vesterheim in 1997, 2002, and 2005. For this placemat, she used korkje, a Norwegian dye made from fermented lichens.

Fiber arts have been at the core of Vesterheim’s Folk Art School since 1967 when Carola Schmidt taught the first class in hardangersøm, a cutwork and embroidery technique from the Hardanger region of Norway.

Grace Rikansrud, a nationally recognized expert on Norwegian needlework from Decorah, began her two decade teaching career in 1970. Rug hooking was also added in 1970, along with the first weaving course taught by Lila Nelson, Vesterheim’s registrar and textile curator. Nelson gave students an overview of Norwegian weaving by focusing on traditional coverlet techniques, which continues to be a focus of weaving classes today.

Vesterheim hosted a rug hooking camp for many years and rug hooking was part of the National Exhibition from 1970 to 2005.  Now independent, the Decorah Rug School continues to meet each summer for classes.  Marianna Sausaman (West Lafayette, Ind.), Esther Miller (Decorah, Iowa), Anne Duder (Decorah, Iowa), and Dorothy Huse (Chippewa Falls, Wisc.) have directed the rug school.

The first weaving class with a Norwegian instructor was in 1978.  Elsa Eikås Bjerck, from Jølster in Sunnfjord, taught tapestry and bandweaving at Vesterheim.  An important weaver in her own right, Bjerck is known for traditional and contemporary textiles, monumental works for public buildings, and church textiles.

Elsa Eikås Bjerck was the first Norwegian instructor to teach weaving at Vesterheim. In 1978 she also taught weaving on a Vesterheim folk art tour to Norway. This piece replicates an early bed pillow from Jølster in Sogn, Norway, in plant-dyed wool on linen. The mittens were done in nålbinding, an ancient looping technique.

Elsa Eikås Bjerck was the first Norwegian instructor to teach weaving at Vesterheim. In 1978 she also taught weaving on a Vesterheim folk art tour to Norway. This piece replicates an early bed pillow from Jølster in Sogn, Norway, in plant-dyed wool on linen. The mittens were done in nålbinding, an ancient looping technique.

What has always set Vesterheim’s Folk Art School apart from other visual art and fine handcraft programs is the focus on historical objects – the collection – that can inform and inspire. Most classes at Vesterheim include a guided visit in the museum galleries or look at the depth and breadth of the collection in the museum’s storage facilities.

The Future of Folk Art

What does the future look like for Norwegian folk art in America?  Are traditions going to live another 50 years?

Some say that the future of folk art looks bleak. With each generation we are further and further from the original practice of folk art. What meaning can folk art hold for the sixth, seventh, or eighth generations?

Others say that the future looks bright. No matter how Norwegian you are (and even if you are not Norwegian at all) you can find enjoyment, fulfilment, and meaning in learning and practicing skills that are rooted in the past. The beauty and pleasure of creating is not dependent on a time period, an ethnicity, or a language.

“50 Years of Folk Art” is on view at Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa, through April 23, 2017.  The exhibition was made possible by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts; Veronna and John Capone; Ron Hovda; and additional support.

John Skare, Bricelyn, Minnesota, in the exhibition. Handwoven rya wall hanging, 1987. “Mona took this photo of the kids and me by my rya weaving that the Vesterheim purchased in 1987.  I remember Marion Nelson relating this piece to the ryas that were placed in the bottom of the long boats.  Perhaps my heritage was creeping into my artworks without my knowledge.  I hadn’t seen this piece since 1987.  A reunion for me with one of my creations.  A bit emotional.  I like this piece.  It was created with handspun wool yarns and wool blankets scraps from the Faribault Woolen Mill.  Wool carpet mill ends where used for the weft.  The weft ends have been wrapped.  I know this artwork’s DNA quite well. An old friend with a good home, the Vesterheim.”

John Skare, Bricelyn, Minnesota, in the exhibition. Handwoven rya wall hanging, 1987. “Mona took this photo of the kids and me by my rya weaving that the Vesterheim purchased in 1987.  I remember Marion Nelson relating this piece to the ryas that were placed in the bottom of the long boats.  Perhaps my heritage was creeping into my artworks without my knowledge.  I hadn’t seen this piece since 1987.  A reunion for me with one of my creations.  A bit emotional.  I like this piece.  It was created with handspun wool yarns and wool blankets scraps from the Faribault Woolen Mill.  Wool carpet mill ends where used for the weft.  The weft ends have been wrapped.  I know this artwork’s DNA quite well. An old friend with a good home, the Vesterheim.”

Laurann Gilbertson is the Chief Curator of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum and a tireless promoter of Scandinavian textiles.

November, 2016

 

 

 

 

Danskbrogd Weaving from the Krokbragd Study Group

lila-dansk1

5-harness danskbrogd by Lila Nelson (detail)

Each year the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group in Minneapolis, Minnesota, chooses a weave structure or theme.  In 1996-1997 the theme was krokbragd.  Each participant compiled a notebook with drafts and photos of the projects undertaken.  Many of the pieces included danskbragd, especially those woven by Lila Nelson.

In the days before easy digital sharing, compiling this documentation and the notebooks was a true labor of love. The only ones who saw the inspirational contents were members of the group, or people who viewed the notebook at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota or at Vesterheim. Now the inspiration is further shared.

The reproductions scanned here are not the full contents of the notebook; they include drafts and photos of weavings that included danskbragd.  To avoid making one overly large file, the pieces are found in these two files:  Danskbrogd weaving 1 (large, 14MB), and Danskbrogd Weaving 2 (8MB).

There was overlap between the Danskbrogd Study Group, which was national in membership, and the Minnesota-based Scandinavian Weavers Study Group.  In particular, Lila Nelson was the superstar of both groups and you will see many of the same pieces represented in each group’s materials.

Enjoy.

Vesterheim’s Danskbrogd Coverlet

By Jan Mostrom

1989.066.001The Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum acquired a danskbrogd coverlet from Norway in 1989. (accession # 1989.066.001) Director Marion Nelson noticed the coverlet in the window of an antique store in Oslo and recognized it “as a very rare type from Vest Agder” which his wife Lila had been researching.  After a year of negotiations with the shop and the Norwegian government, permission was granted to allow the coverlet to leave Norway and become part of Vesterheim’s collection.

1989.066.001aThis beautiful coverlet dates from 1800-1870 and is woven in bands of red, cream, green, black-brown, gray-brown and yellow. It measures 73” by 47”.  At least some of the colors could be natural dyed, especially the red.   The cream and browns appear to be natural sheep colors.  The warp of cotton seine twine is sett at about 8.5 epi.

The back side of the piece show the long floats created by the danskbrogd technique

The back side of the piece show the long floats created by the danskbrogd technique

The coverlet is woven on a plain weft face ground with danskbrogd pick up technique for the pattern bands which are separated by bands of color stripes. The designs vary in how they are combined in the danskbrogd bands.  It was likely woven on two harnesses.  Once I started charting the designs, I realized that they could all be woven on krokbragd threading with pick up on two sheds, saving a few rows of pick up.

The overcast edge

The overcast edge

One interesting technique to weavers is that the weft ends are carried up one edge of the weaving and overcast with black-brown stitching rather than working the ends into the weaving.   Another interesting thing about this coverlet are that the “spots” that make up the design are a bit elongated rather than square and all touch at the corners, creating a honeycomb look to the designs.  In most other danskbrogd coverlets, the “spots” are squared or slightly elongated and separated with background so that they do not touch at the corners.

 

Lila Nelson’s Danskbrogd

Danskbrogd/Boundweave pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.004

Danskbrogd/Boundweave pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.004

By Robbie LaFleur

Several of Lila Nelson’s pieces in danskbrogd technique are included in the retrospective of her work currently hanging in the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.  Next to this piece, hanging prominently at the beginning of the show, Curator Laurann Gilbertson wrote,

Lila felt a special connection to danskbrogd because she and Marion “discovered” the technique in a coverlet for sale in a Norwegian antique store.  The Nelsons eventually received permission from the Norwegian government in 1989 to purchase the coverlet for Vesterheim’s collection.  The coverlet inspired numerous weavings by Lila and other American weavers in several different loom threadings.

Danskbrogd, which can be translated as “Danish weave,” is known in Norway in just one area, southwest Agder County.  Old danskbrogd coverlets had a stippled look and a combination of rows of large motifs and narrow pattern bands.  The weaver picked up the designs while weaving.

This piece was also featured in the September/October, 1996, issue of Handwoven magazine.

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Collection of Aaron Swenson.

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Collection of Aaron Swenson.

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.006

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.006

For Lila, a traditional weaving technique was a language.  She could speak the language plainly and eloquently.  But then it became poetry, as she used the technique expressively and creatively.  These pieces show her moving on, making the technique her own.

Piet Mondrian would approve of this piece, completed in 1997 or 1998 as part of a study of danskbrogd and variations for Scandinavian Study Group of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. (Vesterheim collection number 2011.032.047)

lila-mondrian

Lila wove two pieces using danskbrogd to depict northern lights. (Vesterheim collection number 2007.404.009)

lila-houses

Which came first — the chicken or the egg?  (Vesterheim collection mumber 2011.032.046)

hen-with-chicks

“Neighborhood” dates from 1996-1998.  From the Vesterheim description: “For many years, Lila and Marion Nelson lived in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood in Minneapolis.  Neighbors included downtown Minneapolis (top row), I-35W and the Mississippi River (second row), blocks of Craftsman-style apartments (third row), and the University of Minnesota (fourth row). One of several works created as part of the Danskbrogd Study Group, Lila used danskbrogd on two harnesses here.  She worked some wefts separately with a needle to give a raised effect.”

(Vesterheim collection number 2007.404.003)

city

neighborhood-backThe danskbrogd technique creates long floats on the reverse side of the textile.  From the back of “Neighborhood,” you can see that Lila was not afraid of floats!

If you look carefully at the Mississippi River portion, you can see that the white water flecks are almost, but not quite, the typical diamond designs found in traditional danskbrogd coverlets.  It’s almost like an inside joke for weavers.

 

A Common Thread: Weaving Traditions of Norway and Sweden

Editor’s Note:  This article by Katherine Larson was originally published in Vesterheim, a publication of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, volume 3, number 2, 2005, and is reprinted with permission.  Read the full article in pdf version HERE.   (Note: This is a large file with photos, and may load slowly.) In addition, Vesterheim Curator Laurann Gilbertson provided photographs and information below from the labels used in the exhibit.

Monk’s Belt  (Norwegian: Tavlebragd, Swedish: Munkebälte)
The small and large squares characteristic of both Norwegian and Swedish monk’s belt coverlets were often arranged to form either cross patterns (hanging) or square grids (trunk, left). Occasionally horizontal stripes of colored wool weft were used to separate the bands of monk’s belt patterns (trunk, right). The weavers in Skåne, Sweden, frequently wove their coverlets on a dark ground (hanging), a departure from the neutral linen or cotton ground that was more common elsewhere in Sweden and in Norway.

Common Thread 030

(Hanging: Table cover from Skåne, Sweden, Nordic Heritage Museum; Trunk left: Coverlet from Sogn, Norway, Vesterheim; Trunk right: coverlet from Nordfjord, Noway, Nordic Heritage Museum)

Tapestry (Norwegian: Billedvev)
Norwegian tapestry coverlets commonly depicted Biblical themes, such as the Adoration of the Magi. Tapestries were woven on their side to reduce the number of vertical dovetail joins required. A tapestry of this size and complexity was probably woven by a specialist that worked on a loom as broad as the finished weaving was high. (Adoration of the Magi, Norway, Vesterheim Museum)

1984.123.001asm(Swedish: Flamskväv)
The weavers in northeast Skåne were noted for coverlets that contained eight-petaled roses and the figures of men, women, birds, and horse. These coverlets, woven in the geometric tapestry technique, were executed in such fine detail that they included buttons on the men’s jackets and tiny candles. In contrast to Norwegian tapestry coverlets, which were woven while turned sideways on wide looms, these coverlet were made in two narrow sections on the smaller looms typical of home weaving. The two pieces were then sewn together to create a coverlet. The inscription at the top reads, “In the name of God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Initials and date, 1857, also personalize the coverlet. (Left, below: Geometric tapestry coverlet, Skåne, Sweden, private collection)

Common Thread 034

Three Holy King billedvev match with a Swedish weaving. Right: Geometric tapestry coverlet, Skåne, Sweden, private collection

Tapestry (Norwegian: Billedvev, Swedish: Flamskväv)
The Red Lion, a popular motif in Swedish tapestry cushion covers, was probably a simplification of earlier tapestries depicting Samson and the Lion. Norwegian and Swedish tapestry weavers often drew on Biblical these for their subject matter. The Wedding in Canaan is believed to be the inspiration for the banquet scene in this cushion cover.

Common Thread 026

Left: cushion cover from Skåne, Sweden, private collection; Right: cushion cover, Vesterheim

Thanks to Laurann Gilbertson, Curator of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, for arranging permission to post the original article, and for providing extra information and photos from the exhibit labels.

 

Setesdal Pleating

By Sue Mansfield

Editors Note:  Sue’s article originally appeared in the newsletter of the “Collapse Pleat Bump Study Group,” part of the Complex Weavers Group, in November 2011. We reprint her article here with permission (and gratitude).

In June 2011 I took a vadmel workshop in Norway. Afterward I met my Norwegian relatives. One of the guests at a family christening wore a bunad, or folk costume, from the Setesdal region. I took photos of her and the back of her skirt. Several days later at the Norsk Folkmuseum in Oslo I saw the same bunad and a display of making the pleated black skirt fabric. Immediately I thought of woven shibori, except this pleating was done by hand sewing. The process takes two years. Laurann Gilbertson, the Vesterheim Museum Curator, lent me a VHS tape on the pleating process based on research by Aagot Noss and answered questions for me because the language on the tape was Norwegian. (Viewing a tape without understandable narration doesn’t indicate elapsing time between processing steps and repeated processes.) Black and white photos come from Stakkeklede I Setesdal by Aagot Noss with permission from Novus forlag.

Fabric

The warp is wool single ply Z twist at 16 threads per cm and the weft wool single ply S twist at 8 threads per cm and is woven as a two-two twill. Initial size is 181.5 cm x 65 cm. The sheep breeds for wool for textile work in general in the Setesdal Valley are Spælsau and Dalasau. Spælsau is an old Norwegian short tailed breed with a two layer coat which dates back to the Vikings. Dalasau is a cross between Spælsau and English breeds (Cheviot, Leicester, Sutherland). (7)

Pleating

SEM-page 171

Stakkeklede I Setesdal by Aagot Noss, p. 171

A length of white fabric, with or without colored weft as spacing indicators at intervals, is stitched four rows at a time with linen or bast fiber thread. Each of the parallel stitching lines has a separate needle. When the entire width is stitched the sewer tightly pulls up the four threads and ties a knot using pairs of two threads. She continues with the next four rows. When the entire length is pleated, it is stretched out flat and then rolled around a rolling pin and pinned closed. It is rolled on a board to flatten out the pleats. It is stored for a year on the rolling pin before fulling and dyeing.

Fulling

After the storage time it is unrolled (still pleated) and put in an iron pot filled with water which is then brought to a boil. The steaming hot fabric is removed and rubbed on both sides with lye or “green” soap using a wooden washboard. (The lye soap is made with hemp oil.) The fabric is rubbed and rolled on the felting board and put in the pot again and boiled. This process is repeated several times. Finally the fabric is rinsed in a bucket of water.

Mordanting and dyeing

SEM-page 173, lower R

Stakkeklede I Setesdal by Aagot Noss, p. 173

Five tablets of copper sulphate or blue vitriol are put in the iron pot filled with water, allowed to dissolve, and then the fabric is added.  The fabric with the mordant is boiled for an hour, then cooled in the pot with a rock placed on sticks to weight down the fabric. In the morning it is pulled out. Now the fabric is a bit green. The dyer empties the pot and refills it with water and adds 100 grams of iron per 8 hectograms (800 grams) of fabric. 750 grams of logwood chips are also added to the pot. This is cooked for the dye to develop, then the fabric is added and boiled for an hour. (The logwood chips are still in the dye bath.) (Photos p174, p175 top left–dyeing) The tape shows the dyer checking the density of the dye by pulling apart the pleats. When there is complete black dyeing –no white streaks or dots, she lets the fabric cool for five or six hours with sticks and rock weighting on top of it. The logwood chips below and the rock above help to keep the heat in longer.

dyeing

Stakkeklede I Setesdal by Aagot Noss, p. 174 and 175

The fabric is stretched out flat on the ground and cold ash from birch trees, bjørkeoske, is sprinkled on both sides. It is rolled up with the ash; the next morning it is rinsed in the lake and hung up on a clothesline to dry.

Garment yardage

SEM-page 175, top R

Stakkeklede I Setesdal by Aagot Noss, p. 175

The dried dyed and pleated fabric is rolled on a rolling pin and fastened closed with pins. No pleating threads are removed while it is stored.  Laurann Gilbertson says, “The fabric is left for at least one year before it can be sewn into a garment. Noss says that her informant, Jorann T. Rysstad (the one in the film), said her mother had left the fabric both eight and ten years. I can’t tell if that was for better colorfastness and pleating or if that’s just how long it took her to use some of her prepared fabric.

SEM-page 176

Stakkeklede I Setesdal by Aagot Noss, p. 176

Stakkeklede I Setesdal by Aagot Noss, p. 173

Stakkeklede I Setesdal by Aagot Noss, p. 173

The holes in the fabric indicate that the pleating process was authentic. I asked whether the tape showed the traditional method. Laurann says, “ This is the historic/traditional process. The only modernization might be the stripes woven into the fabric that make it easier to sew straight lines. The old samples (strip page 172 and detail page 173) (Detail photo of grey gathered fabric p 173.) do not have the dark strip woven in. It is possible to make the fine pleats with a machine and it’s also possible to use synthetic dye instead of logwood.” Noss says, “Pleated garments were worn in Norway back to the Middle Ages, though some of those garments haven’t remained in use (like men’s balloon-shaped knee pants) in the 19th or 20th centuries. Other regions in addition to Setesdal in Aust-Agder in Norway use pleated fabrics.”

The Setesdal bunad has a black skirt with green and red bands at the hem which is stiffened with a triple layered strip of fulled white wool. The videotape also included sewing details.

Setesdal bunadAnother weaver, Patrice George from New York City, was inspired by the Setesdal process to make a pleated pillow using woven shibori technique with waxed cotton upholstery thread for the gathering at desired intervals. She, however, didn’t use the traditional fulling and dyeing process. She washed the fabric in lukewarm water and steamed the pleats. Her pleating wouldn’t necessarily survive cleaning processes; the warp and weft were already dyed.

For those of us in the study group the traditional process described above could be modified to full the pleats, i.e. use caustic solution of lye soap or hot soapy water, and boil with agitation or  use a washing machine.

Resources:

  1. Stakkeklede i Setesdal by Aagot Noss, Institutet for sammenligende kulturrfoskning, Novus forlag, Oslo Norway 2008
  2. VCR tape –Stakkefeddung og farging og Bunadssying I Setesdal (I: Norsk filminstitutt)
  3. Laurann Gilbertson, textile curator Vesterheim Museum, Decorah, Iowa
  4. Sue MansfieldPatrice George, FIT New York, personal notes and article in Veyer I Vev, pages 48-49
  5. Vyer I Vev, by Tove Gulsvik and Ingebjørg Vaagen, Norges Husflidslag
  6. Advice from Carol Colburn, professor of history and costume design at University of Northern, Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa
  7. Thesis reference provided by Laurann Gilbertson for possible identification of sheep breed: Svensøy, Kari Grethe. “Det va inkje hobby; det va arbeid:” Tekstilarbeid i Bykle ca. 1900-1935. [It was not a hobby; it was work: Textile work in Bykle] Masters thesis, University of Oslo, 1987. p. 178.
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sp%C3%A6lsau_%28sheep%29 Information on spelsau sheep
Sue Mansfield is a member of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota and an avid weaver who is undaunted by the prospect of complex processes.  (Note her beautiful handwoven and pleated shirt in the photo.)

Krokbragd and More at the Summer Exhibit

The collection of weavings in the 2015 National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition was rich in color and techniques, but especially strong in krokbragd and bound rosepath.  The header photo shows a unique pair of mittens with band-woven cuffs by Kathryn Evans of Lena, Illinois.  In addition to the ribbon-winning entries, these pieces were on display.

Gay Dudley Allan. Iowa City, IA. “Raspberry Pie,” Wall Hanging in Krokbragd Technique.

Gay Dudley Allan. Iowa City, IA. “Raspberry Pie,” Wall Hanging in Krokbragd Technique.

Jan Mostrom

Jan Mostrom, Gold Medalist. Chanhassen, MN. “Dancing Skies,” Wall Hanging in Rya Technique

Rosemary Roehl

Rosemary Roehl, Gold Medalist. St. Cloud, MN.
“Playing with Red,” Wall Hanging in Krokbragd and Rosebragd Techniques.

Rosemary Roehl

Rosemary Roehl, Gold Medalist. St. Cloud, MN. “Northern Lights,” Wall Hanging in Krokbragd and Rosebragd Techniques.

Robbie LaFleur

Robbie LaFleur, Gold Medalist. Minneapolis, MN.
“Bands of Summer,” Rug in Bound Rosepath Technique.

Connie Rubsamen

Connie Rubsamen. Long Beach, CA. Guitar Strap in Bandweave Pick-up Technique.

Sandra Moe

Sandra Moe. La Crosse, WI.
Wall Hanging in Vestfoldsmett Technique.

Melba Granlund

Melba Granlund. Minneapolis, MN.
“Julefest” Wall Hanging in Krokbragd Technique.

Mary Glock

Mary Glock. Decorah, IA.
“Apple Tree All Year,” Wall Hanging in Krokbragd Technique.

Melissa Brown, Guttenberg, IA. “Ode to Betty Nelson, ” Table Runner in Overshot Technique.

Melissa Brown, Guttenberg, IA. “Ode to Betty Nelson, ” Table Runner in Overshot Technique.

Kathryn Evans, Lena, IL. Mittens with Tablet-woven Cuffs.

Kathryn Evans, Lena, IL. Mittens with Tablet-woven Cuffs.

Laurann Gilbertson is the Chief Curator of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum and a tireless promoter of Scandinavian textiles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition – 2015

colorsWeavings were well represented at Vesterheim this summer in the National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition, beautifully displayed with painted and carved pieces. For example, Melba Granlund’s krokbragd piece was displayed next to a deep-toned rosemaled piece in the Os technique by Peter Stromme.  Beside one another on the brick wall, the colors glowed.

Well-deserved awards included:

Blue Ribbon:
Sandra Somdahl, Decorah, IA, “Loki’s Rainbow.” Wall Hanging in Rutevev Technique

207Red Ribbon:
Marilyn Moore, Cedar, MN, Rosepath Rug

205 smWhite Ribbon:
Kathryn Evans, Lena, IL, Tablet-woven Pillow with Setesdal Embroidery

197 sm
White Ribbon:
Virginia Wekseth, Onalaska, WI, “Whimsy” Wall Hanging or Throw in Boundweave Technique

208 smHonorable Mentions:
#200 Corwyn Knutson, Roseville, MN, “Hardanger Cherry Tree” Wall Hanging in Rya Technique

200 sm
Honorable Mention:
Donna Laken, Rockford, IL, “Sunnfjord Dusk” Wall Hanging in Krokbragd Technique

201 sm
Honorable Mention:
Karin Anderson Maahs, Blaine, MN, “Anderson Berry Farm, Bay City, Wisconsin” Tapestry

203Best of Show Weaving and People’s Choice:
#210 Judy Ann Ness, Gold Medalist, Eugene, OR, “Playa Summer Lake, Spring 2014” Wall
Hanging in Krokbragd Technique (See separate article)

People’s Choice:
#210 Judy Ann Ness, Gold Medalist, Eugene, OR, “Playa Summer Lake, Spring 2014” Wall Hanging in Krokbragd Technique

The staff of Vesterheim are grateful for the help of two expert judges:  Ingebjørg Monsen, Weaving Instructor from Morvik, Norway; and Jan Mostrom, Gold Medal weaver from Chanhassen, Minnesota.

Laurann Gilbertson is the Chief Curator of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum and a tireless promoter of Scandinavian textiles.

 

 

Editor’s Note

When the celebration of Lila Nelson’s life was held at the Textile Center on June 26, I was amazed at the varied and interesting reminiscences of Lila’s life.  It was as if the speakers arranged ahead of time to present a perfectly balanced view of Lila’s life and accomplishments.  We did not!

For those of you in the wide-flung network of Lila fans who were not able to join us, I hope you enjoy these stories. I can’t capture the other aspects of the event that were meaningful – the true sense of fellowship in Lila, the delight in being together.  There was great food, too, and lovely flowers donated by the Textile Center, the Norwegian Consulate, and Francie Iverson. The speakers were introduced by Francie, a good friend of Lila’s, who started with these anecdotes.

francieWelcome to a celebration of Lila Nelson’s incredible life. During the evening we will touch on some of the things that made Lila an inspiration to so many people and such an amazing friend. Not only was Lila a talented artist with a natural affinity for color, she was also a lover of words.

When Lila was still living in her beautiful home she started to become unsteady on her feet so a group of her weaving friends, myself, Katherine Buenger, Sue Fairchild, Mary Skoy & Phyllis Wagoner decided she needed help getting her laundry up to the second floor from the basement laundry room. We met for lunch to discuss a weekly schedule; one of us said we can call ourselves the washer women. Lila sat there a moment and said, no that wasn’t a good enough name for us. She decided we would be the winsome wenches.

When we were planning this event there were two things we knew we had to serve, the first was red wine. Lila loved enjoying a good glass of wine with friends and even after moving into Lyngblomsten she made sure to have a box of red wine on the shelf behind her books to have when friends would stop by for a visit. She said it was ok to have it in her room as long as it was concealed.

The second was black coffee. The first time my husband met Lila we took her to dinner. After the meal she ordered her coffee black and bitter. She then entertained us with the following story which she loved to tell. One time while ordering her coffee black and bitter her tall black waitress looked down at her and said, “Honey that’s how I like my men”.

Two obituaries appeared in the Minneapolis newspaper, the Star Tribune: a staff written one, http://www.startribune.com/obituary-lila-nelson-educator-and-artist-of-norwegian-textiles-dies-at-93/305757741/, and one written by Claire Selkurt, http://www.startribune.com/obituaries/detail/83134/?fullname=lila-nelson.

In addition to the celebration of Lila’s life, this issue also includes three articles about aspects of the most recent Vesterheim tour to Norway.  Those stories are yet another celebration of Lila’s legacy, as she was instrumental in starting the tours many years ago.

Lucky Vesterheim Textile Tour Participants

Lucky Vesterheim Textile Tour Participants

 

Lila Nelson’s Celebration: Carol Colburn and Norwegian Friends

I have some words remembering Lila that I have been asked to share with you, sent to me from two Norwegian friends and colleagues, and from my daughter. The first is from Kari-Anne Pedersen, Curator of Textiles at Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo. She refers at first to our recent loss of two great women of textiles, as the former and long-time curator at Norsk Folkemuseum, Aagot Noss, died in Oslo in April of this year at age 90. Lila knew Aagot Noss well, and they were in many ways kindred spirits in their textile interests and world view –

Yes, it is very sad that two such wonderful women have passed away. I remember Lila as such a positive warm person from my visit at Vesterheim. The work she has done has been so important, keeping weaving skills alive is intangible heritage in practice. You must send on my greetings when you meet on the 25th.

Ingebjørg Vaagen is a Norwegian master weaver, tapestry artist, teacher and an ambassador to Norway’s heritage in fine craft. Many American weavers have met Ingebjørg through Vesterheim programs both in the U.S. and Norway. I wrote to her in the first days after Lila died. This is what she said so concisely –

What sad news to receive. She was one of those persons that should have gone on forever, she was so much for so many! I am very happy to have had the great pleasure to have met her and have shared her spirit and her great knowledge as well as her humor as well as her high morals for political matters.

It is good to hear that she had attended the book launch event and at that time was fit enough for that, and really lived her life and interests to the end. Thank you for the attached Textile Newsletter; good to see her tapestries.

I am a lucky owner of one that she gave to me when she came the last time. I am most thankful that I met her, worked with her, laughed with her, and smiled with her when I got her political newsletters. She made me believe in healthy American visions and politics…SHE WAS A GREAT LADY!!!!

My own memories span about 40 years and are first closely tied to her work at Vesterheim:

I first met Lila in the mid-1970s at Vesterheim museum. I was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota in art history and was a new convert to studying folk arts in Marion Nelson’s Scandinavian Folk Arts class, which to my surprise included the area of textiles. At the end of an exam, he asked the question – “What do you want to do with your life?” Having recently stumbled upon the field of historic textiles and textile conservation, I wrote on the bottom of the page, “I want to save the world’s textiles.” He immediately sent me to Lila so that we could team up on this formidable task – and we did; by first tackling the washing of some of the largest textiles in the collection: the coverlets and the large room-sized sail of the Tradewinds ship owned by Vesterheim.

As an intern living close to the museum and working long days with Lila, those months were my most memorable exposure to the dedication, professional inquiry, stimulating curiosity and joyful delight that we probably all experienced when in the presence of Lila. After that initial internship, I kept returning to Vesterheim. I explored the collection, benefiting from Lila’s insight into both flat textiles and the collection of Norwegian-American clothing – which became my area of special interest.

Throughout her years of curatorial work, research, and hands-on textile work, Lila stayed involved and current with questions of Norwegian and Norwegian-American immigrant textiles and dress. Researchers sought her out from local, regional, national, and international perspectives. Throughout about 40 years she continued to inspire my work on research projects – exploring questions posed by the collection at Vesterheim and the greater world. She was always so generous and helpful in suggesting resources, insightfully reading research drafts, and pointing out new avenues of research to further this fascinating field of study. Because of all of her care of the collection and its documentation, her deep understanding and insight has been an inspiration to textile historians and researchers, as well as to her colleagues who are artists and artisans.

In the museum Lila’s legacy, handed over to and built upon by Laurann Gilbertson as current textile curator, will continue to be a tremendous resource for generations into the future. It has been the philosophy at the museum to make the collection available for everyone to use for inspiration and to study.

Another great time when Lila became very much a part of my life was the first Vadmel weaving workshop at Vesaas Farm in Telemark. It was 2002 when I had lunch with her at the MIA and told her of this crazy idea of weaving meters of vadmel and making garments in the same two week workshop. She signed on immediately at age 80 and of course it was a joy to have her in our group, along with her roommate that year Janet Meany; sharing the pioneering spirit needed to complete such a daunting task. This was also when Ingebjørg Vaagen really got to know Lila and her many interests, through long discussions of textiles, art and politics in Norway and America.

And finally, my daughter Mae, who recently completed graduate studies in textiles, spent time with Lila on a number of occasions in her life.  Mae wrote to remind us that her generation also remembers Lila, and that her work will be there for those in the future who find their way to a strong textile interest.

Lila weaving at an historic loom that belongs to Eli Vesaas; at Vesaas Farm weaving studio, Vinje, Telemark, Norway, 2002.

Lila weaving at an historic loom that belongs to Eli Vesaas; at Vesaas Farm weaving studio, Vinje, Telemark, Norway, 2002.