Friday, October 16, 2015

Norwegian Wood

We finally made a trip to the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, IA. Wow! What a treat for woodworkers.

I've long known about the museum, and even dropped in on an acanthus carving class some 20 years ago, but have not returned since. The museum is the dedicated to the Norwegian immigrant experience, and as one of the museum staff told us, Norwegian culture is about wood, wood, and wood.

The range of woodwork was impressive, from simple carved spoons and ale bowls, all the way to elaborately carved high-style furniture. What stood out however was the quality and refinement of the carving. What we saw was simply stunning in design and technical execution.

One particularly impressive piece was a life-size carving by Fred Cogelow. The mix of superbly refined surfaces (the delicate eyelids) with retained gouge marks was perfectly executed.

The basement was full of chests, simple, carved, and painted.

This chair struck me. Looks like something out of the mid 20th century. It was made in 1800.

Then I turned the corner and saw this ensemble. Exquisite carving.

Even the entry to the gift shop was fully carved.

If you're in the area, we highly recommend a stop in Decorah. The museum is not too huge, a good 2 hours and you can see the whole thing leisurely. There are also several outdoor buildings on site that you can access on a guided tour (we didn't have time for this.) Other things to do in Decorah are Dunning Springs Park, the Ice Cave, plus your typical antiquing and outdoor activities. Decorah is in the heart of the Driftless region, so there is also beautiful landscapes, sightseeing, and some good trout fishing if you're into that.

For the full set of pics, click here.


  1. Great pics of awesome carving. Need to go there soon!

  2. Lost a fuel pump among those beautiful bluffs up there not too long ago. All the canoe'ers camping on those little islands along the the Upper Iowa and it's tributaries...hard to beat. Have to hit the museum next time. Thanks for the heads up.


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