The Story Continues

Selnes, Eidsfjorden in Vesterålen

Selnes, Eidsfjorden in Vesterålen my mother’s birthplace

This is the second installment of How The Book Came To Be, started on July 29, 2014. Please note that there are no excepts from the book itself.

During the summer of 2005 a collector found me on the internet and contacted me. She informed me that a 45cm doll in a Heddal, East Telemark costume, a doll with glass eyes, was being offered on eBay. The bidding was going through the roof, she said, could I take a look, and what did I think of it? Suffice it to say I was astounded. Later that summer another call came from a different collector, this time in Norway, who wanted extensive and detailed information about my mother’s life and career. I realized there was a real interest in my mother’s life and work and I knew the time had come for me to tackle a book or someone else would beat me to it.  My mother had been a very private person, never talking much about herself or her life. She was sparing with information in interviews, sometime driving interviewers to distraction by retaining veto rights to view and strike information in the articles they wrote as a condition for publishing an interview. “You can trust nothing” was her view. As a result information would sometimes be assumed and written to fill in the gaps in various threads of stories that were written. When my mother read these, partially accurate writings, she would often roll her eyes and shake her head, perhaps even huff a little.

So the task of sorting the content of the boxes; letters, articles photos, etc. began. Everything had been stuffed into boxes as they were found some in the Atelier store rooms on the top floor of the worker apartments in the back of Professor Dahl’s gate 22. These apartments had long been abandoned as unlivable, but were still useful for storage. I had helped clean out these rooms in 1975 when the Atelier was closed, and had taken with me to the States all doll related materials. Some of boxes came from the Atelier itself others had been brought from the old apartment in Professor Dahl’s gate 18, some decades earlier. One of the amazing things I found were 22 original drawings of costume pieces that had been used as a base for the doll costumes. The task of sorting was enormous, taking hours, even weeks, but in the end they came into order and created a timeline and focus, which together with what I remembered myself became a great place to start. It was a way to come to know my mother and also myself.

During the summer of 2006, I finally made a visit to Norway again after 18 years. My wonderful aunt Gyda, my mother’s older sister died in 1987, the last of that generation, at 94. In 1989 I found myself separated with an impending divorce from my American husband and travel became financially difficult. It was therefore extraordinary for me to return to visit my birth city, old haunts, smell the smells and see family and friends. Of course some of the old landmarks were gone. I especially I missed Professor Dahl’s gate 22 which had succumbed to development. I am very lucky that my birth family on my mother’s and my father’s sides have all been blessed with extraordinarily good memory way into the deep senior years and this now became a real blessing as I tried to confirm and bridge bits and pieces of my mother’s story. The older generation was gone, but I had cousins. Also younger friends of my mother still lived to shed light on my mother as a private person during the years after I left in 1965. I had made an appointment to talk to the Head Curator of Textiles at the Norwegian Folk Museum, because I wanted to talk about possible support for the project and also wanted to confirm what the Museum still had of what my mother had given them to store in 1975. The curator was extraordinarily accommodating.  I had lunch with Aagot Noss, former Head Curator at the Museum as well. She had been instrumental in gaining my mother international recognition during the 1970 and later agreed to write the foreword to the book.