I am happy to tell you that the little violin and accordion found a home in the US. I hope they bring great joy to the new owner. Among the things that were left after I helped my mother close her workshop were some new and unused catalogs. I have just a few minutes ago offered one of these catalogs on Ebay if you are interested in checking it out. This catalog is 24 pages and was produced by the Norwegian Folk Museum for the exhibit Ronnaug Petterssen’s costumed dolls and the traditions that surround them which opened at the museum in 1974 and became a permanent exhibit. The foreword for the exhibit and the organizer for it was Aagot Noss who at the time was head curator for the textile department. She of course also wrote the foreword to my book Ronnaug Petterssen – The Artist and Her Dolls which remains available on Amazon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ronnaug Petterssen – the Artist and Her Dolls available at Amazon.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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 eastern 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.
Great news to share with you. The first reviews are coming in.
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.
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.
The summer of 2006 in Norway was beautiful, with warm days and long summer evenings. One evening I had dinner with a cousin I hadn’t seen for years. He had recently turned 94. We had been invited to another cousins who had an apartment around the corner from where I grew up and it was wonderful to catch up after all that time. I had long wanted to pick his brain about our family’s history and now I had to make the most of it. Because of failing eyesight he could no longer write, email or …, What a treasure it was to sit there with him and watch him remember as he told me about my parents from the years before the war; the first years of getting the new business going. He could even tell me how many people they already had working for them. A treasure trove of information on the whole family history way back to his uncles and aunts growing up in the north. I remember feeling so very lucky. He also had many amusing stories to tell from my father’s learning to speak Norwegian, something my father mastered extremely well in a relatively short period of time. When we left I had to chuckle as I worked to keep up with him. My cousin skipped down the stairs from the fourth floor and lightly danced up the street on the way to the tram with me trailing behind.
With the changes in the streets scape in my old neighborhood, I also went to Oslo’s City Museum and the staff were helpful in digging up old photos of the buildings on our block and information on the history of the street. Along with the development of the neighborhood had also been the tearing down of the old Rosenborg Movie theater, which had had two long murals depicting our street with some houses dating back to the mid 1700. What a pity it was to have such a bit of history lost.
Once home, I had a great deal of information to add and now the real work began to write it all down in a coherent story. Having never written anything like this before, I enlisted the help of my daughter, Karen Green, who was a wonderful writer as well as sculptor. For a while we worked together and I was so grateful for her insights and critiques, myself being far to close to the subject to be able to have enough perspective. Eventually, the demands of her own work of building her and her husband’s business as weathervane makers had to take precedence, but I was enough on the way to be able to see the story as a story with more objectivity.
In the fall of 2008 the economic crisis hit and it became necessary to focus on my work as a practitioner of Chinese Medicine. While the book project was never shelved, it got less focus. Also an old back injury resurfaced with vengeance and over the next two-three years this is where most of my energy went. However I worked on the book whenever I had time. I had become increasingly interested in my mother’s family’s background. I fortunately had quite a bit of genealogical information from an uncle, Anslem. One Sunday I was idly searching the internet and came across a website of a historian in the Vesterålen area. I emailed him, not sure if the website was still active, but three hours later on a beautiful sunny summer Sunday I got a reply from Johan Borgos which read; “I know who you are, you are the daughter of Rønnaug”. He knew my whole family and some hours later sent me my grandmother’s genealogy back to the 1600s. Wow, I was completely blown away. An idle question begetting so much information. So now some of my focus began centering on tracing my family, I wanted to know who they were, where they lived, what they did, what kind of lives they lived, what kind of people they were. I set my findings up on Ancestry.com and eventually also traced my grandfather’s family as far as I could and that of my own father as well. I felt it was important to know as much as I could about our background, to create a perspective on who we were, what kind of stock we came from.
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.