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Experience the Joy of Creating by Hand at Vesterheim’s Folk Art School in 2014

Wed, Dec 11th, 2013
Posted in All Arts & Culture

DECORAH, Iowa — Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center, announces its 2014 Folk Art School class schedule. Classes include woodworking, fiber arts, rosemaling, food traditions, knifemaking, and genealogy. A full class list can be found at, or by calling 563-382-9681.

“The joy of creating something by hand is matchless, whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist,” Darlene Fossum-Martin, Vesterheim’s Education Specialist, says. At Vesterheim’s Folk Art School, students and instructors share through oral tradition and hands-on example to create a community of learning.

Classes begin in January when Darlene Fossum-Martin and Rebecca Hanna, both woodworkers from Decorah, show adults and families how to recycle Christmas trees into beautiful, functional artwork. The class “Adults and Families: Reclaim Your Christmas Tree” will be from 2:00-4:00 p.m. on two Sundays, January 5 and 12.

“Give the tree a new look and your house a Nordic look year round, inside or out, when we show you how to recycle the entire tree or make tree stands and hooks that can be used for coats, cups, hats, curtain rods, and more,” Fossum-Martin says. You will need to bring your own cut Christmas tree and the class will begin with learning the safe and proper use of knives and handsaws. The cost is $15 per person or family for museum members, and $25 per person or family for non-museum members. Family members must be 12 or older and accompanied by an adult.

On February 14-16, Vesterheim offers two classes—Roger Abrahamson, from Minnesota, will teach “Turning Wooden Bowls and Ale Bowls with a Human-Powered Spring Pole Lathe” and Harley Refsal, from Decorah, will teach “Scandinavian Style Flat Plane Figure Carving.” All levels are welcome at both classes.

Turned wooden bowls are an excellent example of functional Norwegian folk art. In this class, students will begin by splitting a fresh, green birch log. Using axes, hand-forged hook tools, knives, and a foot-powered spring pole lathe, each student will create a turned ale bowl to take home and use. Abrahamson will cover design, layout, axe work, proper cutting techniques, finishing, and tool sharpening.

The Scandinavian flat-plane figure carving technique only needs one knife to whittle away flat surfaces and create a “character” in wood. An excellent teacher, Refsal is known as the expert in this style of carving. He is a Vesterheim Gold Medalist and was awarded the 2012 Woodcarver of the Year by the magazine “Wood Carving Illustrated.” Refsal will be featured in the “Holiday” episode of “Craft in America,” which will be shown on most PBS stations on December 20. Youth ages 12-17 may register for this carving class with a participating adult.

Youth tuition is discounted 25% of the full tuition price. “We are so happy to see a number of parents and grandparents taking classes at Vesterheim with their children and grandchildren,” Fossum-Martin says. “We value the importance of nurturing inter-generational learning, as well as keeping our traditions alive,” she adds.

Also, Vesterheim is offering a 50% discount for class tuition on a space available, stand-by basis to any legal year-round resident of Winneshiek County, Iowa. Students will be notified about availability of class openings one week before the starting date of the class.

Through 24,000 artifacts and 12 historic buildings, Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center in Decorah, Iowa, shares the most comprehensive collection of Norwegian-American artifacts in the world. This treasure is also a center for folk-art education, offering a wide variety of classes in authentic Norwegian folk art every year. For more information on the museum’s exhibitions, classes, events, membership opportunities, and ways to donate, check Vesterheim’s website at, call (563) 382-9681, or write to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, 502 W. Water St., P.O. Box 379, Decorah, IA, 52101-0379.

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