Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rosemaling Journey

When I retired from the City of Sioux Falls in October 2008, I knew that I wanted to do something that was entirely outside of my comfort zone.  I have always had an interest in art but never had the time to pursue what I thought was a frivolous adventure when I needed to work to support my son and myself. 

I come from a strong background of Norwegians and Swedes.  My Father's Mother and Father both immigrated from Norway when they were in the teens. My grandfather took the name of his hometown in Norway, "Holsen", as his last name when he came through Ellis Island. My Mother's Father immigrated from Sweden and married a full blooded Norwegian from Fargo.  Although I didn't embrace my Scandinavian heritage as a youth, it became a stronger influence in my later years.  My Dad spoke often of his earlier years growing up in an immigrant family environment and at 92 years old, still can speak Norwegian very well.  My niece Shelby has fully embraced the Scandinavian heritage by opening up her own Scandinavian store called Holsen Hus in downtown Sioux Falls. She has also become our family genealogist. What better way to embrace my heritage than to take up rosemaling. 

There are many styles of rosemaling but I chose the form of rosepainting known as Telemark, which thrived from 1750 to 1850 and is perhaps the most recognizable to the casual observer.  The great thing about my new found passion is that, after two years, I am beginning to establish a little bit of individuality into my works. Make no mistake about it, I am still a beginner. 

I started my journey by signing up for a beginners class at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa in August 2009. The class was taught by a well known and recognized gold medalist who was schooled in Norway.  There were nine of us in the class and they were from Maryland, Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa.  I quickly realized that this journey was taking me where I had never been before.  When the instructor started a lesson on how to mix acrylic paints to develop your own palette, I thought I had lost my mind and that I couldn't do. I thought all you had to do what squirt paint out of a tube and be done with it.  

I have stuck with it, though.  I set up my painting studio in the basement of Shelby's store, much to her gracious support and the rest is history.  I have painted plates for family and friends as a beginning venture and have started to sell a variety of pieces in the store.  In July this year, I signed up for two more classes at the Vesterheim and spent six days in July painting non-stop for 9 hours each day.  I have learned so much and have come to enjoy the solitude of painting and creating pieces I hope others will enjoy for a lifetime and beyond.  If I could just find someone who could sand, seal and paint the background pieces and I could just focus on actually creating the patterns, I would be happy.  But, alas, that is an integral part of the rosemaling experience. 

The pictures I have posted are some examples of my works. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I have enjoyed painted them.


  1. I am the proud owner of two of your works of art.
    I am so proud of you for pursuing your art, it is
    beautiful and I know it gives you great pleasure.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I too have a beautiful piece of Jen's work. Also, I can hardly wait to put her beautiful ornaments on my Christmas tree. Jen is a wonderful friend!

  3. I just discovered Rose Maling, how wonderful, I think I've just fallen in luv!