The Wonderful Serendipity Of Things

Ready for colder weather

Ready for colder weather

I am continuously amazed at how kind people really are. All through the gathering of information for the book from the beginning right up till the book went to press, people miraculously popped up seemingly out of nowhere, people who I had never met, but who had been collecting my mother’s dolls and had information to share. Just collating the information I already had myself was an enormous task, but trying to gather additional sources from scratch was really daunting. But as is often the case, just asking the question out loud is a good place to start. If one can also frame that question properly, especially when one deals with the internet, it can yield spectacular results.  Many of these same wonderful people are now helping me spread the word about the book and the book signing party on November 15th and I am again so grateful. If you want to read what they have said about the book check it out here.

Heddal girl ca 1950, restored

Heddal girl ca 1950,  warmely dressed

I have to confess I have been playing with my dolls lately. I don’t often do that, even though I have a cabinet full of them.  I realized I wanted to change the photo in the banner of the blog site and thought I would use slightly different dolls for it. With winter approaching and the doll I wanted to use not being dressed warmly enough I decided I needed to make a hat to go with the coat I already had, a coat my mother had made for one of my dolls when I was a very little girl. The fabric I chose is the same vintage as what was used in the coat, part of the leftover materials that I took with me after my mother died. Good quality fabrics don’ fall apart. As a child my mother made all kinds of clothing for my dolls to go with any season of the year, but most of these are long gone now, only the coat and a woolen jacket is left. One doesn’t have to worry nearly as much about cold weather when one wears a Norwegian national costume. Made of good heavy wool they are often more than warm enough with a cape or a jacket to keep one warm.

meleney_artist&herDolls LIGHT_300dpi widgetIf you are interested in checking the book out click on the book cover.

Here is what one buyer said: “Finally there is a book about the great Norwegian doll artist. An interesting story told by her daughter.I especially liked all the photos of the artist’s work” A.H., Norway

If you would like a signed copy, go to the contact page and send me an email with a request.

 

 

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Happy Halloween, Next The Book Signing Party

funny-carved-pumpkin-facesHalloween  is a relatively recent addition to celebrations in Norway. According to sources this day of dressing up in costumes and carving pumpkins was relatively unknown in Norway ten years ago. Actually pumpkins are hard to come by, but one can carve large turnips and gourds in a pinch. Today it has many celebrants and it is a big business for whose who provide the goods needed to dress up and have a party. In my day many Celebrated All Saints Day, but it was a day when people might go and visit the graves of loved ones to light candles for them. It is a far more serious day than Halloween.

Julebukk , by John Bauer

Julebukk , by John Bauer

What we did have that was great fun and a little reminiscent of Halloween was going “Julebukk“. It is a festivity celebrated during “RomJulen” between Christmas and New Year and children would go to a few houses, knock on their doors and then get a present, a cookie or a piece of candy. It was strictly confined to one’s immediate neighborhood. As children we looked greatly forward to it.

Now on to another great event coming up on November 15. A wonderful home goods store, Trohv, in Takoma Park has offered to host this year’s Takoma Park Book Festival. It is an opportunity to meet and chat with the authors, have books signed and perhaps get a head start on the gift giving. It will be held between 2 and 5 pm, so come and help us celebrate and meet old friends and perhaps new ones as well and have something to nosh on, provided by Takoma Park restaurants.  Follow Takoma Park Book Fair on FaceBook for more information on the books and he authors where .

The witch  in the woods

The witch in the woods

you will find all the books that will be presented and read a little more about the authors. I will of course be there with a smile, my pen sharpened and  a stack of books. Further information can also be had at Mainstreet Takoma. I hope to see you there. Please feel free to spread the word to anyone you think would be interested.

meleney_artist&herDolls LIGHT_300dpi widgetIf you were planning to get my book, but haven’t done so yet, click on the image. If you wanted it signed, contact me and I can send you one directly, inscribed with whatever you might wish.

 

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Book Signing Party

meleney_artist&herDolls LIGHT_300dpi widgetTo Buy the book click on the image.

I just got the word today that I and my book will be part of the Takoma Park Annual Book Fair which will take place for  the sixth year on November 15 from 2 -5 PM, at Trohve, a home good and gifts store in Takoma Park. Light refreshments will be served. Trohve does a lot of community events and we are lucky to have such a nice and accommodating venue to be in. The store is located on Carroll Avenue one block north/east of the Metro station. More details to come soon.  But mark your calendars, I would so love to see you there.  Besides there are many great restaurants to have you dinner if you stay late. Do come and check Takoma Park out if you haven’t been here before or in a while.

Samisk barn

Sami girl courtesy Sandy Smith

I also received word today that a Norwegian antique doll fair took place last weekend at the Viking Ship House a historic cultural art museum in Oslo, not far from the Norwegian Folk Museum. The attendance was great, the selection of dolls wonderful and the book was a great hit. Some of the collectors there who had bought the book were using it as a guide to find new treasures. It will please me greatly if it will increase peoples understanding of what they own, what they may buy and what they  may sell. I hear the same from collectors who have attended doll fairs here in the US as well.

Then there is the issue of those outfits who offer author’s books recently released in the same internet stores as the author, in direct competition with the author. I understand reselling such book, in this case at a doll or antique fair, but on Ebay and Amazon I don’t understand. Goes against my sense of fair play.  Just having my say and all. But I guess this too is a form of flattery.

Next week I will talk a little more about identifying, especially the early souvenir dolls.

As one collector told me: “Your book really helped me see the doll in clearer detail…such as face fabric, painting and stitching of features.Th  wedding couple I own have the stitches (for the facial features) but I never noticed them before.”

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Interesting History Unfolding

Ronnaug Petterssen – the Artist and Her Dolls available at Amazon.com

The Halling girl a cousin received

The Halling girl a cousin received

Just the other day I was talking to a third cousin in Norway. He tells me that his mother and her twin sister, my cousins. had been the first little girls in the family to be able to chose a doll for themselves from the very first dolls my mother made.  The surviving twin, his mother, is now 90 years old. Three other cousins some five years younger than her were also in the group of cousins to chose for themselves a special doll, made by their aunt.  I know the dolls two of the younger girls received, I now own them and it makes me happy to know that my all my cousins had such beautiful dolls to play with just like I did.

I had been wondering if interesting bits and pieces of information about the dolls would surface once the book was published. I would love to know. Well so far only the above has surfaced, but no doubt more will, so just wait for updates.  I did hear this morning that the book is travelling to the largest yearly antiques fair in Norway with a collector and contributor to the book where she, another contributor an two other doll enthusiasts will have a booth. I also found out that the Antique Doll Collector Magazine’s October issue started hitting the mail boxes yesterday. I know this not only from reports, but also from the number of copies sold since the mail carriers started their deliveries. Another interesting update also came that an additional review was published in Bladet Vesterålen today, supposedly a full page spread.  I have yet to see a copy, but I am waiting as we speak for a copy in PDF format to share with you as soon as I have it in my hands. All of this is fascinating and immensely gratifying to me, a complete novice to the world of publishing.

New review from a Norwegian newspaper is also available. Check it out.

Setesdal couple, 18cm

Setesdal couple, 18cm

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Book Party

To buy: Rønnaug Petterssen – The Artist and Her dolls 

meleney_artist&herDolls LIGHT_300dpiYou may be interested to know that we are planning a book party which will take place here in DC.  When one is the captain, cook and bottle washer things have their own pace. I will of course keep you posted as the plans firm up and hope to see you there. The somewhat vexing issue with self publishing is that there is no pre-planned launch date that can be used as a specific date to plan a “hot off the press” book signing party around. When the book is ready, it is ready and rolls automatically off the press which ever day that happens to be. So while this book party may see a bit after the fact, it should still be a lot of fun.

I have learned a lot in my quest for marketing tips and edge. Never ending effort it is. In the process I have discovered a Welsh artist and author Jackie Morris through my artist daughter Karen Green and have enjoyed following Jackie’s blogs and effortless and frequent Tweets. My daughter made a commissioned weather vane for Jackie Morris some years back, the girl riding a polar bear. Now as any  Norwegian will tell you this old and much beloved fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a staple of every Norwegian and Norwegian descended child’s growing up. It was one of my favorites as a child, besides the trolls and the mischievous nisse of course. But I would dream of this huge and gently bear and the beautiful girl who could not bear not to see for herself the face of her night time visitor, thus setting her off on a quest.

Pre war play dollOther marketing efforts are moving forward, with responses coming in from a series of marketing mailings I made. Most notably the review in The Antique Doll Collector Magazine is now in the print copy of their October issue. The winter issue of United Federation of Doll Clubs is likely to have a review in their winter issue. A review has just been written by a northern Norwegian collector and free lance journalist and I am waiting to hear where it will appear. Also Scandinavia House now has a desk copy of the book. Check them out they are located on Park Avenue if you are visiting or living in New York City. It is immensely gratifying to know that people are actually paying attention out there. But there is always that period of waiting and wating. If any of you have any good ideas, I am all ears.  Just send me an email. You’ll find the contact information here.

A corner of my brain has begun thinking of possible new projects. At some point, after eating, breathing and sleeping a project like this book it was bound to happen. One has to sweep some cobwebs, roll up ones sleeves, take some deep breaths, tidy up the office and put one foot forward to see where the road goes next. I have ideas, but it’s too early to share.Hans og Grete

Tea time

Tea time

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Norwegian Emigrant Museum

Sami group

Sami group

I have had some delightful exchanges with curators at the Norwegian Folk Museum, The Norwegian Emigrant Museum and Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum over this past week. Today I received several photographs from the Emigrant Museum located in Ottestad, Norway not too far north of Oslo, in other words within easy visiting range if you travel to Norway.  If you have gotten the book you should find it easy to identify the costumes by region in these photographs.  The other Museums are also easy to find and I encourage you to visit if you are in their area. You will be glad you did.

Also new today is that a copy of the book was delivered to the Library of Congress, so it can be included in their library. I am excited about that. The book is of course available through Amazon.com and through Amazon in Europe. We will soon have a Bowker widget to make buying the book directly through the website easier.

Dolls in Norwegian Costumes

Dolls in Norwegian Costumes

Don’t miss the first of three editiorial reviews; Antique Doll Collector Magazine  Monter4

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Of Museums And Such

 

Hardanger costumes

Hardanger costumes

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Within the next couple of weeks copies of the book will have arrived at three museums, two in Norway and one in the US, destined for their libraries. The enthusiastic response to my offer of sending copies was warming. Norsk Folkemuseum (the Norwegian Folk Museum) In Oslo, Norway and the Migration Museum/Emigrant Museum in Ottestad, Norway have their collection of Rønnaug Petterssen’s dolls still on display. Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, while they don’t own a collection of dolls, nevertheless have a beautiful bridal couple from Hardanger. These two dolls were a gift from the Norwegian Folk Museum in 1975 on the occasion of a visit from King Olav V who was in the United States to mark 150 years of Norwegian emigration. Already in the works at the time was the purchase of a collection of dolls by Norsk Utenriksdepartement (the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) also in the connection with the 150 year celebration. This collection, designed as a travelling exhibit, consisted of 26 dolls and opened in New York. After the opening it traveled on to various locations through out the US  to promote Norway, Norwegian Culture and travel to Norway. The collection is now permanently housed at the Emigrant Museum. To read more about it you will need to get the book.

It is exciting to know that the book will be a permanent part of the reference libraries at these three wonderful institutions.

 

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And So We Come To The End Of The Story

Østerdal and Fana boys 18cm

Østerdal and Fana boys 18cm

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Once home after my trip (2011) what remained was to pull the manuscript together and also continue the search for a publisher. The latter proved to be perhaps the most frustrating part of the project. As happens with any creative project one tries to “birth” into the public arena, one has to expect rejections. I knew this from my work as an exhibiting visual artist and was prepared for it, I thought. My initial forays into the world of publishing proved unsuccessful both in Norway and in the US. I then armed myself with other books in the field of doll making/collecting and took a hard look at what made them look appealing and desirable to own, interesting to read and easy to use as reference guides and went on to format my own manuscript to fit within those parameters. Along the way there were further rejections. I was told the book was too much a niche book, that the current economy would not support the investment of funds that such a book would demand. The clock kept ticking.

There were times of great frustration, I knew I had a good manuscript, good photos; a book that people wanted. That much had become clear from the response to the website and from website stats I had created and later a Facebook page and the number of people both in the US, UK and in Norway who asked to be placed on the mailing list and with other interested people world wide. But it was not enough to sway the publishing industry. It became clear that self publishing was likely the answer. Friends gave me advise and I did research, but with many self publishing companies the cost of just the printing of each copy was prohibitive and with the cost of distribution and shipping on top of it would make the book too expensive to sell. It was all quite depressing.

Eventually I looked more closely at Createspace. My initial issue with self publishing was that most of the companies could not provide coated paper which does show photographs to a better advantage. With Createspace the trim size options were also limited. But it became clear that it was either jumping in or permanently shelve the project. There were however little silver linings in all the waiting. I knew my mother had made certain types of dolls I really wanted to include photos of in the book but I knew no one who owned such dolls. I asked collectors I had come to know over the course of the project if they knew people who might have them and eventually a few collectors surfaced in Norway and the US who were willing to photograph their dolls under my guidance. In the middle of all this I was introduced to Alberto Ucles and Tom Knoll whose publishing company, Green Kids Press, eventually became my publishers. They understood the world of publishing quite well and after an afternoon of talking I too came to understand why it had all been so hard. I had a project on a topic that was no longer well recognized and I came with no large built in fan base, just a limited (in publishing terms) number of very dedicated people, many who were collectors. I knew there were many, many more behind them and more behind those again who didn’t yet know they wanted to own such a book. I knew from stats that they were located world wide.

Front cover

Front cover

In early 2014 I finally uploaded a small trial copy of the book on Createspace to see how it would look with their trim format and paper type. When I received the trial copy back I realized I could live with it. Createspace proved to be extraordinarily helpful and were always available, 24/7, to answer questions or help solve problems.  The project now took on urgency. More hours than can be counted were spent battling the software programs I was using. I had mocked up the front and back cover and found a graphic artist who could pull it all together in the format Createspace required. While it all took time, it was eventually ready for uploading. By the end of July 2014 even the proofing process of the finished book was done and the book went to press. A project that had occupied my time, one way or another for 8 years was finished.

I hope you enjoy it.

Weather vane with Siamese cats

Weather vane with Siamese cats

This is what Rønnaug Petterssen’s grand daughter Karen Green creates at her and her husband, Gordon Green’s studio, Greens Weathervanes in Herefordshire, UK, not far from Hay-on-Wye She is the the third generation artist in our family.

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Herring Festival Fun In Eidsfjorden

Just to remind to the readers that these little background stories of how the book came to be written are not a rehash of the book about Rønnaug Petterssen and the dolls she created. If you want to read the whole background story the first entry started back on July 29, 2014.

With Adrian Korsmo at the talk

With Adrian Korsmo at the talk

The main reason for my traveling to Sortland was as told to participate in the Herring Festival  which is held on the fishing dock in Sildpollen usually in the latter part of May each years. Each Festival has a topic or focus if you will  and the one in 2011 was on emigration from Norway. Since I for all intents and purposes I had emigrated it was certainly appropriate. Still  in past times of immigration from Norway to the US (between 1825 and 1925) large numbers of Norwegians left Norway, many from the area around Eidsfjorden, to seek better economic opportunities in America. This was also the case with our family. Of my maternal grandmother’s brothers and sisters, 5 out of 9 (one died in infancy) emigrated first to Minnesota then on to Seattle, Washington. There are now hundreds of descendants of the original 5 living in the US. They were the true emigrants. I merely left because I married an American.

Studying the charts

Studying the charts

My talk at the Festival went off without a hitch, I met so many interesting people and it was fun to experience how many came specifically to hear the story about my mother and the dolls. Exhibits of art by local artists are always part of the Festival, but this years Adrian Korsmo had also arranged to borrow dolls from the Norwegian Emigrant Museum in Ottestad in southern Norway. The Museum graciously lent  a nice collection of large dolls and among them a Kautokeino boy with proper leather britches, a doll that Petterssen made only 3 or 4 of during the whole of her production.  Some dolls at the exhibit had also been lent by two ladies who have doll museums, one in Lofoten, the other in Vesterålen .

Dagmar Gylset’s family owns a wonderful Rorbu by, fisherman’s village, in Reine, Lofoten   Here she also operates a Doll Museum,   and owns many wonderful Rønnaug Petterssen dolls. They also recently opened a restaurant. I can still taste sauteed Sei that we had for lunch in a dockside restaurant in Gjestehuset, Nyksund.

Nyksund

Nyksund

It was caught that morning, sprell levende (meaning it still practically flaps its tail) (there is nothing in the world as delicious in my mind). I had been to Reine some 40 years earlier, before the whole idea of Fishing village vacations had really taken hold. In 1972 my little family and I were spending some time in Svolvær with my mother in her Rorbu, located on Svinøya, Svolvær in Lofoten and the focus of this particular daylong excursion to Reine was to visit a wonderful master blacksmith who made the most enchanting small sculptures out of forged iron especially the northern loon. Another woman who lent dolls to the exhibit and who also came to my talk was Svanhild Reinholdtsen.  She lives in Myre  just north of Sortland. Svanhild owns and operates a very special doll museum, Dukkehuset i Myre south of Nyksund and she as well has a significant collection of my mother’s dolls. Both of these attractions are well worth the visit if you travel to Lofoten and Vesterålen, which you should.

Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm

But of course many other people came as well to hear about my mother. Many already knew about my uncle Sverre Petterssen, brother of Rønnaug Petterssen. He was the world renowned meteorologist  and had been a significant contributor to the weather forecasting for the Allied Forces helping predict the most advantageous day to invade Normandy, a day when the weather would pose the least threat and would give them the greatest possibility of surprise and success. He had published a book in the early 1979 –  Med Stiv Kuling fra Nord which was later translated in the US as, Weathering the Storm.

It was with great sadness I had to return home, from an area of the world I consider my true home, but not before promising to write an article for the Sortland Historic Society. This I eventually did and it was published in the spring of 2014.

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Trip to Sortland 2011

Just to remind to the readers that these little background stories are not a rehash of the book, but rather a story about how I came to write the story about my mother Rønnaug Petterssen and the dolls she created.

Foundation of the house Petterssen was born in

Foundation of the house Petterssen was born in, in 1901

I set off for Norway in May 2011 and arrived to light rain at Framnes, Narvik’s airport, but by the time the bus pulled into the Blue City as Sortland is also called, it had pretty much cleared up. I had barely registered at the hotel when Adrian Skogmo, the organizer of the Herring Festival came and took me away for an interview with the localpaper – SortlandsAvisa. The following day, there came a call for me at the hotel and a voice explained: “I am a cousin of yours. I have three other cousins right here with me and we are very eager to meet you”. I had some faint idea I had cousins up north, but no specific knowledge of who they might be or if they were still there. Four people showed up shortly and I knew immediately this was family. Three of them were third cousins; two brothers and a sister descendants of one of my maternal grandmother’s sisters. The fourth a fifth cousin of a slightly more distant fore-mother was married to the sister. Later I was to meet several more third cousins, all descendants from my great-grandfather’s second marriage. Without much ado I was moved to a cousin’s home where I stayed for the rest of my time  in Sortland and what a time it was. Here were people who had the same sense of humor and ability to observe. We told story after story and laughed a great deal. An uncle of mine had put together a family genealogy, which included a map with locations where the various members of the past generations had lived up here, all within a few miles of each other. I was taken to see many of these places and got a good sense of who my ancestors had been; the hardships of their lives as fisherman/farmers (see definition on Johan Borgos website) in a beautiful part of the world, but one that was rough on those who made their living off the ocean, fishing for cod in the dead of winter. Our great grandfather had been a well-known captain in that area about whom many daring stories were told and it was quite amazing when his name came up, strangers would invariably answer “Oh, him. Yes I know about Petter Hansa, I have heard many stories about him”. He has been dead for over a hundred years.

1947 Grandfather and I

Hildor with Bodil in 1947

House in BjørndalenI was taken to see the house my maternal grandfather came to from Gildeskaal south of Bodø, when he was seven, after losing first his father, then his uncle in storms on the ocean. This house would have been impossible to locate, had it not been for the extensive work of historian Johan Borgos. My grandfather had arrived in 1877 to live with a cousin in a small well-kept house in the innermost part of Eidsfjorden, the part called Bjørndalen. Even today there is the same kind of boat tied up at the beach below the house, that would have been there back then. One of my cousins who is very outgoing knocked on the door and we were welcomed in to see the interior of this small house, the rooms laid out exactly as they had been back then. We drove on to see the field where my grandparents first home had stood. The hole, still there in the ground, the foundation stones scattered around, even after a hundred years. We went on to see where they then moved, across the fjord by Sildpollen. The house was gone and it was hard to determine exactly where it might have stood, but then a man came walking by and by miracle he knew exactly where it had been. We drove on to see where the family had moved next, in 1906,further down the coast. Our spirited cousin again knocked on the door and  we were let in, this time by a young family who looked amazed at meeting people who knew the people who had lived there so long ago. Their young, 9 year old daughter remarked it was like reading a history book.

On we drove up the easterAuthor with familyin Gullvikan side of Eidsfjorden, when I suddenly remembered the story of how my grandmother had single-handedly sailed a northland’s boat  with her family, livestock and belongings on board, several miles on their way to their new house we had just visited. My grandfather had been away. My mother would have been five years old. We stopped near a church and tried to figure out where Petronelle would have sought shelter when it brewed to a storm  the first night. Out of the parish house came a man who inquired what we were looking for and when he heard, he said “Oh, I have heard that story many times” and proceeded to point to a particular place across the fjord telling us that was where my grandmother had anchored up, to bide the weather. It was heartwarming to realize that my family’s footprint still lingered here. They were not truly forgotten.

Rønnaug Petterssen The Artist and Her Dolls meleney_artist&herDolls LIGHT_300dpi

 

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