Archive for the ‘MUSEUMS’ Category

Symbols

June 4, 2020

Norwegian people have used symbols to express important thoughts since ancient times. Even simple carved, painted, or stitched motifs on building or folk art often had important meanings.

Fiddling With Fate:  A Chloe Ellefson Mystery

Agnete Sivertsen, director of the Hardanger Folkemuseum in Utne, introduced me to the ritual use of symbols in old Norway while helping me identify an artifact handaplagg (hand cloth) to use as a prototype for one described in Fiddling With Fate, The 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery.

Hand cloths were traditionally worn during weddings in the Hardanger region. The geometric motifs stitched into this cloth are more than pretty designs. They have meaning.

After showing me the cloth, Agnete took me to the Hardanger fiddle gallery. The intricate designs embellishing many old fiddles are similar to the designs embroidered in the handaplagg.

Director Agnete Sivertsen, Hardanger Folk Museum.

My fictional handaplagg is introduced in 1838, when Gudrun stitches symbols into a handcloth for her granddaughter Lisbet to wear for her wedding.

Gudrun spread the cloth she’d been stitching over her lap. It was old, but she’d cared for it well. The linen was still crisp; the original black embroidery silk still dark and even. Her own grandmother had stitched her blessings and fears into this cloth. Most of the symbolism Gudrun understood, but she’d been young when her grandmother died.

The maker is unknown, but the handcloth is believed to date back to the 1700s.

Are there messages in the patterns that I’ve missed? Gudrun wondered, touching the old threads with a gnarled finger. Have I misinterpreted something I’m meant to pass on? Will coming generations understand what I’ve contributed?

When Chloe fictionally inherits a similar hand cloth, she takes it with her to Norway. She gradually discovers some of the meaning incorporated into her cloth—and many other types of folk art as well.

Squares like the one below represent agricultural fields; smaller stitches within represent seeds. Such motifs reflected hopes of a fertile marriage.

Detail of the handcloth pictured above. Hardanger Folkemuseum, Utne, Norway.
Inked design on fiddle. Hardanger Folkemuseum, Utne, Norway.

Circles and spirals were often used to symbolize male power.

Fiddle, Hardanger Folkemuseum, Utne.

Ram’s horns (the reciprocal spirals at the bottom of the mangle board shown below) were invoked to encourage male fertility.

Mangleboard, Utne Hotel, Utne.

Sun symbols summoned all that was good and warm and holy. 

Stave container, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum
Tankard, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Decorah, Iowa.

Some symbols protected the family and farm. For example, crooked designs like those below may have been intended to confuse and drive away evil spirits.

Kroting (chalk painting) done during a class at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

The stitched figures below may represent the disir, spirits who guarded women and linked their families from one generation to the next throughout time.

Embroidered cloth. Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo, Norway. (My apologies for the poor image quality.)

At the end of the book, Chloe asks an expert to share her thoughts about the symbols on her handaplagg.

Sonja smiled. “I think the women in your family wanted to protect their daughters and granddaughters from evil, and to bless their lives with love and balance and holy light.” 

Love and balance and holy light, Chloe thought. Who could ask for more? 

Do any symbols appear within your own family heirlooms or ethnic heritage? Have you included any in your own handwork? Feel free to share!

* * *

Would you like to learn more about symbolism found in Norwegian folk art—up close and personal? Join me on a special tour, Folk Art, Fjords, & Fiddles: Travel To Norway With Author Kathleen Ernst.

Travel With Me To Norway!

May 17, 2020

I write about special historic places in each of my Chloe Ellefson Mysteries, and nothing makes me happier than sharing them with readers.

Well, guess what?

I’ve teamed up with the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society to offer a trip to Southern Norway—the land of Chloe’s ancestors! Click the link below to see what we have in store.

When I decided on a Norwegian setting for Fiddling With Fate, the 10th volume in my Chloe Ellefson Mystery series, I chose the area that enchanted me most. Now, you can experience the Hardanger Region as well!

Important note:  Although we’re making plans for a stupendous trip, no one can predict the future in these challenging times.  We understand.  We also know that anticipating an adventure can relieve stress!  If the pandemic makes it necessary, the trip will be postponed for a year (with a possible adjustment in price), not canceled.

For more information contact:

Group Travel Directors
952-885-2133
800-747-2255 ext. 133
jtollund@gtd.org
www.gtd.org

We also have a Tour Norway With Kathleen website created just for the adventure! It’s your portal for trip information, blog posts, and much more.

I am incredibly excited about this trip. I hope you can join us!

Hardanger Lullaby

April 29, 2020

On my first trip to Norway, I experienced something special while visiting the Hardanger Folkemuseum’s open-air area.

Our guide, Maria Folkedal, took us into Tveismestova. I found the old farm so compelling that I used a fictionalized version in Fiddling With Fate, the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery.

Maria made it easy to imagine living in the building centuries ago.

Tveismestova, Hardanger Folkemuseum. Experts believe the structure is at least 700-800 years old.

Then she sang a lullaby that area mothers have used to soothe their babies for just as long.

It was a magical moment. Now, you can experience it too! Just follow this link to my YouTube channel.

Fiddling With Fate is about mothers and daughters, and Maria’s gift of song offered a new aspect of that theme. How could I not incorporate this experience into the book? Here’s Chloe’s take:

“I’d like to share with you a different aspect to life in the old days on the fjord,” the guide said. “Music has always been incredibly important to Hardanger people. This is a lullaby that local women have sung to their babies for hundreds of years.”

She began to sing. The lullaby, offered in a clear soprano voice, was hauntingly beautiful … and familiar. Chloe closed her eyes, taking it in. Had Amalie Sveinsdatter sung this to baby Marit? Perhaps the lullaby was somehow imprinted in Mom, Chloe thought, and got passed down to me.

Maria singing the lullaby in Tveismestova, August, 2015. (Sorry for the poor quality – it was dark!)

I’m grateful to Maria for sharing her talents, and so happy to share her song with you as well. Enjoy!

Kroting

March 12, 2020

For centuries, Norwegian farmhouses had open fireplaces. A raised hearth was built in the center of the floor, with a smoke hole in the roof above. These “smoke houses” with a central hearth and/or corner fireplace were common along the western coast.

Tveismestova, the oldest building in the Hardanger Folk Museum Collection.

Kroting was a simple way of decorating a house with smoke-stained logs and few or no windows. In Fiddling With Fate, the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Chloe senses why it was important:

Chloe imagined living through a dark, cold winter in this dark, sooty room. Firelight flickered against the walls. Wind whistled through cracks, and sleety snow beat against the lone window. The air smelled of smoke and unwashed bodies. Somehow she understood that the designs brought comfort.

Kroting at Tveismestova.

Women mixed chalk with water or sour milk, and used their fingers to paint the geometric designs on the walls. Kroting was often done in conjunction with the major housecleaning undertaken for holidays or a wedding.

Kroting at Tveismestova.

Some of the geometric designs may have been decorative, but some employed symbols invoked to ward away evil and protect the inhabitants.

Another building at the Hardanger Folk Museum, Tronestova, dates to between 1650 and 1750. The kroting here uses white and a red derived from local minerals.

Kroting at Tronestova, Hardanger Folk Museum.

Several buildings now restored at Oslo’s Norsk Folk Museum also came from the southwestern part of Norway. The example below was copied in the 1940s from a pattern in a Hardanger farm.

The chalk decorations were not permanent. Very few original examples of kroting exist today, but fortunately some of the designs were saved. The reproductions found in these historic buildings provide a glimpse of life in dark Norwegian cabins hundreds of years ago.

Exploring Your Heritage: A Writing Sampler

December 10, 2019

I’m delighted to announce that I will be teaching a writing workshop at Vesterheim in Decorah, Iowa, on April 24-26, 2020.

(photo by Rebecca Hanna)

Cherished family stories can be preserved in many ways. This workshop will introduce you to several types of writing, including poetry, memoir, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

You will enjoy a variety of short writing activities designed to help capture memories or explore what interests you most about your unique family, ethnic group, or community heritage.

(photo by Rebecca Hanna)

Inspired by Vesterheim’s rich collections and your own personal memories or heirlooms, you will leave with drafts of several poems, character sketches, essays, and short stories.

(photo by Rebecca Hanna)

Both beginning writers and those with some experience are welcome. Returning students will find some familiar activities, some new, and a chance to continue your work.

For more information, and to register, click HERE.

I hope you will consider gifting yourself a weekend of creativity and reflection. If you have any questions, let me know. I look forward to seeing you!

The Oldest House

October 10, 2019

The Hardanger Folkemuseum‘s traditional exhibits are amazing, but there is more to see at this museum in Utne, Norway! Up the hill from the museum proper is an open-air division. Two of the buildings there were original to the grounds, but most have been moved from other locations in the Hardanger area, and restored. It’s a gorgeous setting.

Eldhuset, a Cook House.

The buildings have been arranged to suggest a cluster farm, which was common in the 1800s. Several families often shared a courtyard or common area while farming their own holdings beyond.

Hardanger Folk Museum

When I was planning Fiddling With Fate, the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, I chose to feature the Hardanger Folkemuseum in part because of the open-air division. My favorite building is Tveismestova (Tveisme House), which inspired the fictional Høygård used in the novel.

Warning: Mild plot spoilers ahead!

Tveismestova is the oldest building in the museum’s collection. Scholars believe the home was constructed between the 13th and 14th centuries.

Taken from inside the entryway, this shows the front door on left and the doorway to the main room on the right.
This single space was used for everything. Note the raised hearth in the center and the kroting on the back wall. The wooden shutters in the back wall covered the hatch.

As tour guide Klara explained in the book, In the old days, people believed that a dead person’s soul would try to return to the house where it had lived, using the entrance where it last emerged.  So bodies were removed through the hatch, which was kept closed at all other times.  That way the soul wouldn’t return through the door.

A closer look at the raised fireplace, with iron kettle hanging above.
Tveismestova, Hardanger Folk Museum.
Looking up at the smoke hole. It could be covered with a greased animal bladder.

The house has only one window, which replaced the original hatch. In one of the final chapters in Fiddling With Fate, Chloe approaches the house from this side, and peeks in the only window.

Tveismestova had a turf roof, constructed on top of a layer of birchbark…

…but some the buildings in the open-air division had slate roofs. This is the type of slate tile Chloe picks up in the book.

The real Tveisme Farm was struck by more than one tragedy. An avalanche struck the farm in 1781, killing the farmwife. The house, barn, and sheep barns survived, but the farm was moved to a safer location nearby–all except the old original house. When the farm burned down five years later, only the cabin remained.

Once moved to the Hardanger Folkemuseum in 1931, it had many stories to tell.

The Hardanger Folkemuseum

September 19, 2019

If you’re traveling in southwest Norway, and appreciate folk traditions, the Hardanger Folkemuseum is a must-see.

After my first visit, I knew I had to get my protagonist Chloe Ellefson there.

Most of Fiddling With Fate, the 10th Chloe mystery, takes pace in Hardanger, and the museum is prominently featured.

The region is famous for its folk costumes and textiles. The museum’s collection is stunning.

Textile gallery, Hardanger Folk Museum.
Textile gallery, Hardanger Folkemuseum.
The Hardanger bunad, or folk costume. Bunads are folk costumes based on traditional folk costumes from rural areas. The Hardanger bunad has been widely adopted in modern Norway. Construction techniques used include elaborate beadwork, embroidery, and cutwork.
The museum recently displayed 1,000 bodice inserts. You can see how they were worn with a vest in the photo above, and see some of the oldest in the photo below.
Agnete Sivertsen, museum director, is an expert in regional textiles. When Mr. Ernst and I visited while on a group tour in 2015, she gave us a fantastic tour.

Music is another aspect of local culture. Hardanger fiddles, which have also come to represent the nation, are the region’s most famous instrument.

Another instrument, the Psalmodikon, has one string and is played with a bow. They were often used in the 1800s to accompany hymns, or to teach songs in school.

Psalmodikons, Hardanger Folk Museum

Other folk traditions are preserved and displayed at the museum as well, such as these pieces carved by Lars Trondson Kinsarvik.

The Hardanger Folkemuseum is a gem. After exploring the traditional exhibits, be sure to tour the open air division. (More on that next time.)

And if you’re like me, you may want to linger on the grounds, soaking in the landscape and thinking about people long gone…but not forgotten.

A Fiddling With Fate Celebration!

September 3, 2019

The 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Fiddling With Fate, officially launches on September 8th! That’s quite a milestone.

And the story includes a major milestone for main characters Chloe and Roelke, too.

Chloe was born and raised in the charming town of Stoughton, Wisconsin—where Fiddling With Fate begins and ends. Chloe’s backstory, everything that makes her unique, is rooted there. So what could be better than letting Chloe readers explore her heritage with people who are actively working to preserve Stoughton’s history and Norwegian cultural traditions?

To that end, I’ve partnered with the Sons of Norway-Mandt Lodge, with help from the Stoughton Historical Society, to plan a unique event.

The celebration will begin at 3:00 PM, Saturday, October 26th. Attendees will visit the Society’s museum to hear about Stoughton’s history, Norwegian settlement, and its role in reviving the folk art of rosemaling (rose painting).

The Stoughton Historical Society Museum.

At the Mandt Lodge there will be folk art demonstrations and a live performance of Hardanger fiddle music. Afterwards we’ll enjoy a traditional cod dinner and Norwegian dessert.

The Sons of Norway Lodge in Stoughton.

I’ll provide a richly illustrated program about the people, artifacts, and historic sites featured in Fiddling With Fate.

(Photo by Solveig Lund)

Event Time & Date:  Saturday, October 26, 2019, 3 PM – 7:30 PM.

Price:  $20.00 per person. Registration is limited, and pre-registration is required. Click HERE to access a registration form.

I’m enormously grateful to my friends in Stoughton who are making this event possible. I hope you can join us!

And to see all of the events scheduled for September and October, please visit my Calendar page.

The National Quilt Museum

August 30, 2019

“Phenomenal” is not a word I use lightly. The National Quilt Museum, in Paducah, Kentucky, deserves the description.

According to its website, the National Quilt Museum “works to advance the art of today’s quilters by bringing it to new and expanding audiences worldwide.” 

This is not the place to look for antique quilts. Instead, expect to see the work of extraordinary contemporary quilters. Some are inspired by traditional patterns; others develop totally original designs and techniques.

I noticed two things in particular during my recent visit. Visitors often felt compelled to speak to strangers: “Did you see such-and-such?” or “Isn’t that one amazing?”

It was also common to hear murmured exclamations of “Oh my God!” (or similar sentiments) when a visitor discovered some particularly astounding quilt.

One exhibit prompting such astonishment, aptly named “OH WOW!”, was a collection of miniature quilts. To be included, a quilt must be no more than 24″ on a side.

A sampling. Remember, these quilts are 24″ per side–or smaller.
Dollhouse quilts by Pat Kuhns.
Idlewood Rose, by June Kempston. (17″ x 17″)

To give you a sense of scale:

Idlewood Rose, by June Kempston (Detail)
Illusions, by George Siciliano (10-3/4 x 10-3/4″)
Tulip Star, by Lynne Taylor (17″ x 17″)
Tulip Star, by Lynne Taylor (Detail)

I can’t imagine working with such tiny pieces! These quilts are made the same way full-sized quilts are; only the scale is different. Phenomenal.

I’m grateful to the National Quilt Museum for permitting photography. Nothing compares, however, to seeing the quilts for real. I hope you can visit the museum yourself!

Why Norway?

July 10, 2019

Cultural identity, and the many ways people explore and express their own, is one of the recurring themes in the Chloe Ellefson Mystery series.

When readers meet Chloe in Book 1, Old World Murder, she takes her own Norwegian heritage largely for granted. Her feelings evolve over time, and by Book 10, she is eager to learn more about her ancestors.

Mr. Ernst and I were lucky enough to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary with a trip to Norway arranged by Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

We loved every minute in that beautiful country, but the place I was most reluctant to leave was Utne, in the Hardanger District of Hordaland County.

Utne, Norway.
The village of Utne marks the northern tip of the Folgefonna peninsula between the Hardangerfjord and one of its branches, the Sørfjord.

The charming village is home to the Utne Hotel. It opened in 1722, and may well be Norway’s oldest continuously operating inn.

Hotel Utne

The region is famous for its rich folk heritage, including Hardanger fiddles and exquisite textiles. Utne is home to the Hardanger Folkemuseum, which preserves and celebrates these traditions.

Tradtional folk clothing on display at the museum. The couple on the left are dressed as bride and groom.
The museum has a fine collection of Hardanger fiddles.

In addition to formal exhibits, the museum includes an open-air division. Most of the buildings have been moved from locations within the Hardanger region and restored on the museum grounds.

I wanted to get Chloe and her fiancé Roelke McKenna to Norway. When I started conceptualizing the 10th Chloe mystery, I knew what region they would explore. Quests both professional and personal send them to Utne.

Are you up for some armchair travel? I hope I captured a bit of the Hardanger area’s magic in Fiddling With Fate!

Fiddling With Fate cover

The book will be published on September 8, 2019. Stay tuned for more peeks behind the scenes.