What Inspires You?

     I've just returned home from a 7 day trip with April and the kids.

     We were hoping to travel east this summer. We have friends in Vermont, New York, and a few other states over there in the North East. But after looking at budgets and our aging Honda Odyssey we decided to stay closer to home.

     Life is full of compromises, but they don't have to fall short of your hopes or expectations. Keeping open to the possibilities is always a good thing.

     Our adventure began with a few days demonstrating at a Museum on Madeline Island. Madeline Island was the site of a Ojibwe village and later a fur trade post. The Ojbwe's lived here for a good few hundred years before the fur trade post was set up in the early 1600's. The museum has a really nice collection of artifacts.

     After Madeline Island we decided to go to Nordicfest. It's a Scandinavian celebration in Decorah Iowa. It attracts folks from all over the Midwest and beyond. There are all kids of things going at this event too much to list. You can buy Krumkake, one of my favorite desserts today and growing up, at a street vendor! Decorah is also the home of Vesterheim, THE.... Norwegian-American Museum.

     Vesterheim has probably one of the best and biggest collection of Nordic craft object in the US. That's not a joke. I made an appointment and arranged 2 days (not enough) to study in the archives. I got to handle (with gloves) ale bowls, wooden spoons, coopered ale tankards, and other misc wooden objects. This was really a pivotal moment in my life's work as a handcraftsman and traditional handcraft advocate. After handling the bowls turned on a pole lathe a few hundred years ago, looking at the tool marks, handling the form, feeling the thickness and curves, looking at the axe marks left by the maker, I can't help but retreat into introspection of my work, reflecting on craft and the handmade. Some the the objects I'm attracted to were there...the bulbous ale bowls as well as beautiful kolrosed spoons....birch bark and bent wood boxes. It's hard to really write about how I feel. I'm still sorting it all out. I do know that I'm really inspired to get some bowls spinning on my lathe again and later this week carve some more spoons. Thanks to Alison in the archives for all the help!

This was a great intro into this world...museum and their archives. I've been to museums plenty, but it seems that my intent is different, more intense. Later this summer I'll be traveling to Sweden to participate in a Skedfest or spoonfest. After the event I've arranged with the help of some very great and helpful craft consultants to visit a few museums over there and I'll have a chance to visit the archives there too. Fun stuff. Super geeked out stuff. All worth it the effort. I'll have a hundreds and hundreds of photos by them.

No matter what the perceived monetary, time or energy cost, follow your dreams. Do what you love. Take those chances and go.....visit another country, take a trip 100 miles or 1000, you only live once, do what inspires you!

birch bark canoe builder in the 1800's

woodland floral beadwork


nice example of a Ojibwe spoon

look at the workmanship on the tip of the hook! The whole thing was about 3' long!

I bought a nice little birch bark snuff box along the way.

some of the many shelves at Vesterheim

A few painted ale bowls


detail of the kolrosing

really nice ale bowl with repairs or brass and copper

We stayed with some new friends. They grow and weave willow baskets.

More baskets

Ale bowl painting detail

Kolrosing detail

Sweet little ale hen

pole lathe turned box with hand cut threaded lid! Insane!

sweet painted and coopered vessel

the mother load...I could have spent at least a whole day looking at this display of antiques!

jarrod6 Comments