Sacred Symbols, Ceremonial Cloth:
A Textile Study Tour to Norway and Finland

Tour Lecturer

Mary Kelly

Tour Leader

Laurann Gilbertson


  1. Day 1 Tues., June 18: MINNEAPOLIS-OSLO

    Transatlantic flight from Minneapolis to Oslo via Icelandair..

  2. Day 2 Wed., June 19: OSLO (D)

    Arrive midday at Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport and transfer to the city center. Take a short orientation tour of the city on the bus before checking into the hotel. Welcome dinner at hotel. Three nights at Best Western Hotel Bondeheimen.

  3. Day 3 Thurs., June 20: OSLO (B/L)

    The Viking Ship Museum houses the spectacular contents of several burial mounds. Vikings customarily buried their dead with decorative and utilitarian objects. Some of the best textiles, dating to the 800s AD, were found on the Oseberg, which is believed to be the burial ship of the wife of a chieftain. Norsk Folkemuseum is Norway’s national museum of cultural history for the years since the Reformation (1537). Textile Curator Kari-Anne Pedersen will introduce us to Norwegian folk dress and textiles used for special occasions and rites of passage.

  4. Day 4 Fri., June 21: OSLO (B)

    Walk to the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design. Let Dr. Mikkel B. Tin, one of Norway’s foremost authorities on symbols, teach you more about billedvev, pictorial tapestries from the 17th and 18th centuries that show a combination of Christian and pre-Christian symbolism. Afternoon free to enjoy Oslo.

  5. Day 5 Sat., June 22: OSLO-STOKKE-SKIEN (B/L/D)

    On our way to Skien, we will stretch our legs at the mound where the Oseberg ship was found. Lunch is at Aarholt-tunet, an historic farm. The county of Telemark is remarkable in its variety of landscape (coastline to mountains) and culture (modern cities to remote villages). The rural culture is well preserved at Telemark Museum. We will have a special viewing of embroidered and woven textiles from storage. Three nights at Thon Hotel Høyers, Skien.

  6. Day 6 Sun., June 23: SKIEN (B)

    Try your hand at the embroidery techniques used in Telemark for basket cloths—square textiles that covered gifts of food for weddings, funerals, and births. Or enjoy a free day. You might like to take a trip down the scenic and historic Telemark canal. Along the full length of the canal, from Skien to Dalen, there are 18 locks, including a five-chamber staircase lock.

  7. Day 7 Mon., June 24:

    Free morning to explore Skien or to finish embroidery projects. Visit the home workshop of Helga Bergland in Lunde where she weaves and embroiders folk costumes and ritual textiles. Meet Irene Haugland and Anne Bergland, who design sweaters for the company Vrikke using traditional textiles and folk art as inspiration. After a tour of the buildings at Evju Bygdetun, we will enjoy a fest! There will be displays and demonstrations of bunad sewing, embroidery, fletting, and a traditional meal.

  8. Day 8 Tues., June 25:

    Telespinn in Flatdal spins all kinds of animal fibers, and specializes in lustrous mohair. We will visit this new mill to watch their process of sorting, dyeing, carding, and spinning. We will tour the magnificent Heddal Stave Church, Norway’s largest stave church, built in about 1250. A short Finnair flight brings us to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Two nights at Hotel GLO Art.

  9. Day 9 Wed., June 26: HELSINKI (B)

    At the Museum of Cultures, curator Ildikó Lehtinen will introduce us to Finno-Ugric folk art. Members of the Finno-Ugric language group include Finns, Karelians, Sámi, Estonians, and Hungarians. This museum holds the extensive ethnographic collections of the National Museum of Finland. Free afternoon.

  10. Day 10 Thurs., June 27:

    Drive to Jyväskylä to tour the Craft Museum of Finland. Founded in 1890, the museum features fine handcraft in textile, birchbark, and wood from all over Finland. The National Costume Center of Finland is housed here and presents an exhibition on the history and the techniques behind the costumes. The Taito Shop, like Norway’s Husfliden, features locally-produced items. Continue to Joensuu, founded by Czar Nicholas I of Russia in 1848 and currently a lively college town. Dinner and overnight at Sokos Hotel Kimmel, Joensuu.

  11. Day 11 Fri., June 28: JOENSUU-ILOMANTSI-JOENSUU (B/L

    Ilomantsi is a Karelian village where many traditions are kept alive. Ritva Korhonen, a fiber artist, will be our guide as we visit several local attractions, including the Iljala Centre, Piirolan Piha (handicraft school and shop), Prophet Elijah’s Orthodox Church (Finland’s largest wooden Orthodox church), and a Karelian cemetery. We will learn more about käspaikka, long narrow textiles made as signs of affection and respect. Return to Joensuu. Dinner on own. Overnight Sokos Hotel Kimmel.

  12. Day 12 Sat., June 29:

    Return to Ilomantsi. After visiting the Doll and Teddy Bear House, Ritva will teach us how to make simple Karelian dolls. We will learn about Elias Lönnrot who lived in Ilomantsi while he researched his epic poem, Kalevala, based on Finnish and Karelian folklore. At Parppeinvaara Bardic Village we will experience more Karelians traditions, including architecture, music, and food. Overnight Sokos Hotel Kimmel.

  13. Day 13 Sun., June 30:

    Drive to Heinävesi for an inspiring visit to the New Valamo Monastery. We’ll see the impressive collection of Orthodox liturgical textiles from Russia and enjoy lunch at Restaurant Trapesa. Overnight Helsinki.

  14. Day 14 Mon., July 1: HELSINKI-MINNEAPOLIS (B)

    Free morning to finish sightseeing and shopping in Helsinki. Airport transfer for those flying with the group. A longer stay can be arranged for a fee. Indicate your interest in an extension when you register for the tour.

The tour operator reserves the right to make changes necessary in order to give travelers the best experience possible.

Single supplement:
Land only:

Minimum of 25 participants

Maximum of 35 participants

Price Includes (as listed in the above itinerary):

Tour Lecturer

Mary Kelly

For more than 20 years, artist and art historian Mary Kelly has researched pre-Christian motifs on embroideries and weavings from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Greece. In 2009 she was guest curator for an exhibition at Vesterheim titled “Sacred Symbols, Ceremonial Cloth.” Kelly’s most recent book is Goddess Women Cloth: A Worldwide Tradition of Making and Using Ritual Cloths (2011). She has lead study tours to Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia. Kelly lives in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Tour Leader

Laurann Gilbertson

Laurann Gilbertson has been Textile Curator for 19 years and is now Chief Curator at Vesterheim. She holds a B.A. in anthropology and an M.S. in textiles and clothing from Iowa State University. She cares for the museum’s collections, curates exhibits, plans conferences, and has planned and led five textile study tours to Norway (Sweden and Iceland).