Vesterheim is pleased to announce the awards for Embellishment, a special juried folk-art folk art show in 2023, focusing on the importance of detail in folk art and featuring 71 pieces by contemporary folk artists from around the country!

Artworks and awards were chosen by a selection committee made up of Elliot Taillon (owner of Binkhaven, Norwegian design retreat, Ephraim, WI); Eric Sovern (owner of Cardboard Robot, Decorah, IA); Jennie Knoebel (Iowa Arts Council, Des Moines, IA); and Darlene Fossum-Martin, Former Director of Folk Art Education (Vesterheim, Decorah, IA).

Award winners are featured below.

This exhibit was supported by The Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

People’s Choice

Donna Johnson 
Faribault, Minnesota 
Doll House

Artist Statement:
I love rosemaling! Over the past 12 years, it has provided a special bond with my daughter. I have taken classes from five different Vesterheim Gold Medalists and Turid Fatland. I have taken classes at Vesterheim and have entered pieces in the National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition. I have attended many Nordic Fest and Syttende Mai celebrations. I have met so many wonderful, talented people through rosemaling.

Norwegians of old who lived where winters were long and dark felt the need to brighten their homes with rosemaling. This plain, unassembled craft store dollhouse needed to be brightened up too. The walls, ceiling, doors, shutters, and furnishings all became surfaces for little flowers and scrolls. Up until Vesterheim opened this exhibit, the fact that this 75-year-old rosemaler plays with dollhouses was a closely guarded secret!

Best of Show

Liz Bucheit 
Lanesboro, Minnesota 
Fiddlehead Bridal Headpiece

Artist Statement:
This piece is inspired by Scandinavian bridal crown traditions and created using fine silver filigree techniques unique to traditional regional Norwegian
bunad (national costume) silver. The fiddlehead fern shape is a beautiful form found in nature and I seek to honor its elements by elevating its status to a more permanent jewel. 

I create jewelry and body adornment inspired by my Scandinavian ancestry and keep close ties to my heritage by drawing inspiration from Nordic folklore and myth. A goldsmith for over 30 years, I hold a master’s degree in metalworking and jewelry. I’m an active speaker on the topic of Norwegian filigree work and conduct workshops and classes in jewelry design and fabrication. I own and operate Crown Trout Jewelers in Lanesboro, Minnesota. Artist website: .

Juror comments: 

“So delicate, so creative.”  

“Stunning, very original, unexpected.” (Comment on interior of bridal headpiece) 

Juror’s Choice

Jerry Johnson 
Stoughton, Wisconsin 
My Scream Plate   

Artist Statment:
I thought I would do my take on Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and incorporate the horrifying face into a rosemaling pattern. For those who don’t know who Munch is – he was a Norwegian painter. The Scream painting was made famous in Western art and has become an iconic image as a painting and on tourist merchandise, bags, shirts, prints, etc. My take on this work was not totally original, but different. I am retired Norwegian and have been rosemaling since 1991.   

Juror comments: 

Can’t stop looking at it.” 

“Unusual figures not in rosemaling often.”

Juror’s Choice

Phillip Odden 
Barronett, Wisconsin 
“Peace and Circumstances” Carving   

Artist Statement:
This is my original composition inspired by Norwegian stave church carvings and romantic period carvings. This is one in a series of panels I have drawn, carved, and painted. I am interested in the relationship of the characters to one another in space. It is important that the lines are clean and flow but still there is tension. It’s equally important to see some tool marks indicating it was handmade with sharp tools. Though there are many thin layers of paint the grain of the wood should be visible. I made this piece during COVID-19, during a time of uncertainty. 

Creating traditional Norwegian folk art in the rural setting has been my passion since 1977 when I was accepted at the Hjerleid wood carving school in Norway. There I met my wife Else. Together we have been making a living as wood carvers and furniture makers on our farm in rural northwestern Wisconsin where we keep and train Norwegian fjord horses. I received a Vesterheim Gold Medal in Woodworking in 1983. Artist website:

Juror comments:  

“Breathtaking aura around it.” 

Juror’s Choice

Lynn Susag 
Lanesboro, Minnesota 
Spring Troll Among the Birch

Artist Statement:
One of the 2023 calendars in our home features trolls and it has encouraged me to notice troll shapes in the most unusual places. I enjoy adding burnt decoration (svidekor) to everyday objects, and so when I picked up this birch plate in the store, I could see a troll immediately. Spring is my favorite season, and I decided to create a forest floor with flowers, rocks, trees, and sunshine. How many trolls do you see? 

My first introduction to carving was a Holiday Figure Carving class taught by Harley Refsal. I have been fortunate to take several other Scandinavian-style flat-plane carving courses through the years. In 2022, I took my first spoon carving class and feel like it has given me additional carving skills. I live in Lanesboro with my husband David.  

Juror comments: 

“Wood (was) begging to become a troll and artist brought that out.” 

Juror’s Choice

Sallie Haugen DeReus 
Leighton, Iowa 
The (Not So) Synchronized Swim Team Installation   

 Artist Statement:
Well! What do you do when you have the chance to recycle mannequin parts and keep them out of the landfill? You think of possibilities! So, I brought home nine bottom halves. Now with this exhibit,
Embellishment, it was time for these girls to show their stuff and for me to have some fun. So, smile and enjoy.  

I have been at Vesterheim and painting since Dr. Marion Nelson, Sigmund Årseth, and Nils Ellingsgard were here. I majored in Applied Art with an emphasis on Interior Design at Iowa State University. This led my path to work with Sigmund for approximately 25 years. I received my Vesterheim Gold Medal in Rosemaling in 1974. Both of my parents had Norwegian language, skills, and traditions. They led me in the direction of the Norwegian folk arts.  

Juror comments: 

“Takes (you) to a place you didn’t know you were going.” 

“Made me happy.”