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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Identifying The Dolls Correctly

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I was looking at the stats today to see where people live who have checked out this website. Lately a visitor checked us out from Novo Sibirsk and just yesterday I sent off a book to Alberta Canada. In all people in 15 countries have visited this website and that gets me excited for sure. Thank you all for the interest you have shown. There have been visitors also from India, Thailand, Philippines and Japan and of course Australia and Brazil. It just warms my heart.

Girl from Kautokeino, ca 1965 45cm

Girl from Kautokeino, ca 1965 45cm

It has been interesting to see what is offered for sale of dolls, the condition they are presented in, if the costumes are correctly identified, etc. etc. It does not matter so much which site they are offered on. This is one of the reasons I finally wrote and published the book. I can easily understand why costumed dolls are misidentified. It isn’t easy to keep so many different costumes appart, if one is not Norwegian. I have to use reference material if I look at the costumes from Poland, Sweden, Hungary, Greece, for sure. Also my mother Rønnaug Petterssen began making dolls during a time when the regional costumes were more standardized. By that I mean everyone from a specific distict wore exactly the same design. In the last couple of decades, it has become more common to go back to the earlier way of doing it, with often some variations within that region.

Sami girl ca 1936, 15cm Courtesy Sandy Smith

Sami girl ca 1936, 15cm Courtesy Sandy Smith

Something that should not vary is that a doll  should be presented with whichever costume parts it was obtained with and the costume parts should be correctly put on. If one uses the book as a reference it should be fairly easy to see how each of the costumes are to be presented. A doll should not be sold with costume peaces obviously made from newer materials without being  so marked, nor should a doll be offered for sale with costume pieces that do not belong to that doll or that costume.

An interesting question came up with a small pre-war Sami doll recently.  Did it depict a boy or a girl. Usually a girl wears caps  and boys wear hats that sit more on top of the head. But in the Lule and southern Sami  costumes for example the men and women wear same type hats.

Sami boy ca 1936-37, 17.5 cm

Sami boy ca 1936-37, 17.5 cm

Just about all the men’s costumes have shorter skirts (the part that is below the belt) on their Kofte (costume). The women wear much longer skirts. The dolls depicting girls also have longer hair than the boys. I understand that all this may seem confusing, and certainly it helps having a reference guide like the 3 volumes of Norwegian Costumes, by Bjørn Sverre Hol Haugen which was published in 2006.

 

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Keeping The Dolls Clean And Tidy

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Click image to buy

It interests me greatly when I see Petterssen dolls for sale on the internet that they  are so often poorly posed and also often very untidy looking.  For folks selling dolls regularly I suggest  buying the book so one can see whether the doll being sold have all the costume parts or correct .

Magazine ad 1937

Magazine ad 1937

I have seen dolls offered with entirely unrelated costume pieces. I have even seen in one instance costume pieces replaced with with pieces from another culture all together.  It will look a bit odd. My mother would, well you can imagine.

Damage to dolls or clothing may occur if the dolls are displayed in direct light, especially direct sunlight and left to gather dust, because they are unprotected from dust and moths. The best of course is to place them in a display case. A display case does not have to be extravagant or expensive. Many are constructed from simple pine with glass shelves, glass front and sides. But depending on the space available and the budget available, they can have just a grass front (as door that can open).

Nisse wife

Nisse wife

Displaying them this way protects your investment against (further) damage, because you are keeping them dust free and also can place some form of moth protection with the dolls.  My mother used fabric natural, like cotton and wool. To keep the dolls clean you may want to consult the book which has a chapter on that. But let me say, even in a display case, inspect the dolls a couple of times a year for any damage and brush theme off a bit. This will give you a chance to “play” with them and perhaps rearrange the display to suit your current interest.  The dolls from the smallest to the largest are eminently posable (check earlier blog). If you find you need to part with a doll and have kept them clean as possible and also know how to pose them, that will make the doll far more desirable to a buyer.  We respond to the dolls because of their inherently individual personality. Be with a doll for a bit, it will reveal to you who she/he is.

Here is the full review from Antique doll collector Magazine. Click on the image and it will be large enough to read. It is also posted on the Review page, accessible at the top.Antique doll review 1014

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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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Displaying the Dolls

Setesdal couple, 18cm

Setesdal couple, 18cm

Over the last few years I have seen a good many dolls displayed on various re-seller sites on the internet or in books on dolls for those interested in collecting. The dolls are often not displayed to their best advantage. Of course the book Rønnaug Petterssen – The Artist And Her Dolls has a section about how to take care of the dolls and with the over 300 photographs there should be ample suggestions on how the individual dolls can be posed to show well.  The best is of course if one has some knowledge of anatomy, but not everyone has that advantage.  However, let me say that poses should be according to the human body’s ability to stand balanced and also bend naturally, at the waist, elbows, wrists or knees, whether one poses the small dolls or the larger ones. All to often, even in books, the dolls are posed stiffly, looking like inanimate objects instead of little people. Try instead to give the head a slight bend as if the doll is listening to what is being said and don’t let the whole arm on the small souvenir dolls bend like a large hook. Instead find the natural elbow and the natural wrist and let them bend there.  If you are unsure of what to do on your own, buy the book.  It is available at Amazon worldwide

Boy from Kautokeino

Boy from Kautokeino

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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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Book Is Now Available on Amazon WorldWide

Standing angel close up

Standing angel close up

My book, Rønnaug Petterssen, the artist and her dolls is now available through Amazon.worldwide  Up, up and away. Wonderful things are happening. We will be adding a map to track where the book has found a home.

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A trip to Eidsfjorden To See Where My Mother Was Born

Great news to share with you. The first reviews are coming in.

A Febøring at the dock in Sildpollen

A Febøring at the dock in Sildpollen

The story continues. Just to remind to the readers that these little background stories are not a rehash of the book, but rather about how the book came to be. Over the next year I continued writing and editing the manuscript over and over again. Along with this came the sorting of the photographs my father had taken before WWII and a few photographs my mother had gotten taken by one of the best known photographers in Oslo, as well a few snapshots I had. These photographs had to be scanned, properly edited and cropped. There was also undressing dolls to verify construction from what I remembered and also assessing when they were made.  The came setting up to photograph the dolls I had, as well as I could borrow. This was no small task. I wanted the quality and feel of the photographs to be similar to the ones my mother and father had worked on, to reflect how they wanted these dolls to be presented. I needed appropriate lighting and proper background paper or cloth. I was able to borrow on extended load professional lighting equipment from a photographer friend. There were interminable trips to the fabric stores to find cloth of appropriate color, shade and texture. I had given up on paper, since it became too expensive for my use since I needed more than one color. The cost per roll was prohibitive. Then came photographing, re-photographing and sometimes re-photographing more times than I care to remember. Long evenings; one after the other. I learned a lot more than I will ever need to know again. By the time I was done with the first round and had placed photographs within the text and had a copy printed out, I realized the photographs were too dark and needed to be redone. Long evenings stretched interminably into weeks. By then my photo lighting equipment became unavailable and I decided to buy my own. These came with daylight, energy saving bulbs, which gave wholly different lighting and I had to learn anew how to use the set up. In the end though they proved to give better lit photographs. In early 2009 an email came from Adrian Skogmo in Sortland, Vesterålen, a hop skip and a jump from where my mother was born. Each year they had a Herring Festival in Sildpollen across Eidfjorden from Selnes where she was born and he was the organizer for the event. Would I consider come to speak about my mother at the festival.  It sounded intriguing, but funds were not available for such a trip at that time and my back was getting worse. Such was the situation for most of 2009 and well into 2010. By summer 2010 my back had worsened so significantly that in early fall surgery was scheduled. It went off without any problems and I was recovering when the second invitation to come to Vesterålen  was issued and I made the decision to go to Norway the following summer. This I decided was to be my consolation, my carrot to make the most of my recovery, a reward for being a such a good sport. The arrangement to go was made and in early 2011 I bought the tickets. I was very excited to visit my mother’s birth place. What an exciting trip it proved to be, but that is for the next installment.

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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.

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