A special exhibition of contemporary folk art celebrating decorative detail

Important Dates:

March 1, 2020-March 31, 2023: Works must have been completed during this timeframe. 

April 1-30, 2023: Online or Mail-In Entry Forms accepted. 

April 30, 2023: Entry Form postmark deadline. 

May 21, 2023: Artists notified via email of status of their Entry Forms. 

June 1, 2023January 15, 2024: Required loan timeframe for accepted artworks. 

June 16, 2023: Accepted artworks due at Vesterheim.

July 6, 2023January 5, 2024: Embellishment on view dates. 

January 2024: Artworks returned to artists. 

Supported by:

The Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.


Lauryn Johnson, Collection Assistant, at ljohnson@vesterheim.org or 563-382-9681, ext. 221. 

This special folk art show focuses on the importance of detail in folk art. Whether detail means flowing painted motifs, embroidered designs, ornate beadwork, or intricate carving to you, embellished designs are the focal point of this show. Carrying forward the spirit and mission of Vesterheim Folk Art School, the exhibition will include woodworking, rosemaling, knifemaking, blacksmithing, jewelry, weaving, and fiber arts. Pieces in other mediums that visually celebrate traditional Norwegian embellishment are also welcome. 

The exhibit is open now – find more info here.

View information about the award winners here.

Check back for information about the next special juried exhibit in 2025!


Each artist may submit no more than two pieces as follows:  

  • two individual pieces, or  
  • two collaborative pieces between two or more artists, or 
  • one individual piece and one collaborative piece. 

Eligibility Guidelines

Works must have been completed between March 1, 2020 – March 31, 2023. Works created by both domestic and international artists are welcome. 

Artworks should: 

  • Follow historical Norwegian folk art traditions in technique, materials, colors, and style.  
  • Be contemporary departures from the historical, but some element/s must visually link the artwork to Norwegian folk art tradition.  
  • Be connected to genres represented in Vesterheim Folk Art School class listings (woodworking, rosemaling, knifemaking, blacksmithing, jewelry, weaving, embroidery, quilting, and fiber arts), or created in other mediums that celebrate traditional Norwegian embellishment. 
  • Highlight the artist’s unique and personal technical skills and design decisions. 
  • Be attributed appropriately if created collaboratively. (Please see Collaboration below.) 


The collaboration between artists must be active, meaning both artists agree that they are creating a piece together. For example, embellishing a vessel already created by another artist is not considered a collaboration. 

Per individual, only two art submissions can be made. Only one artist should complete the Entry Form for a collaborative artwork. The entry fee of $20 should be paid at the time of submission.  

Not Eligible: 

  • Not showing clear themes of embellishment. 
  • Not connected to artwork in the Norwegian folk art tradition or genres taught through Vesterheim Folk Art School. 
  • Work partially or entirely created under supervision in a class or created by an instructor to teach a class. 

Selection Process

Vesterheim wishes to feature creative work that demonstrates artistic and technical excellence, is visually connected to Norwegian folk art traditions, and celebrates decorative detail. This exhibition seeks to include the mediums that are eligible for the National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibit, as well as mediums that are not currently eligible.  

The selection committee (or jury) will consist of four community members who have connections to Norwegian folk art. Also on the committee will be Elliot Taillon (owner of Binkhaven, Norwegian design retreat, Ephraim, WI); Eric Sovern (owner of Cardboard Robot, Decorah, IA) (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). 

  • The committee will screen anonymous submissions (photos, artist statement, artist bio) that meet the exhibit criteria and will make the preliminary selection of work for the exhibition.  
  • Entries will be evaluated on concept, design, technique, craftsmanship, creative expression, and artist’s description of piece.  
  • The folk art in this exhibition will be selected by a committee. Artists will not receive comments and will not earn points toward Vesterheim’s Gold Medal program. 
  • Artworks accepted and shown in Embellishment will not be eligible as entries in future shows of the National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition.  

*Accepted work is subject to final evaluation once it has arrived. Work that differs significantly from the photos submitted may be ineligible for the exhibition and will be returned to the artist. 

Entry Procedure:

You may enter online or by mail between April 1 and April 30, 2023. All submissions must be received by April 30.  

1. ENTER ONLINE: There are two separate online options – one for entering as an individual and one for entering as a collaboration. Click the link to complete the entire information, including an artist statement(s) addressing how the work relates to the theme and a short artist(s) bio. A video demonstration about how to submit materials for an individual is available here and about how to submit materials for a collaboration is here 

Please note: Before beginning your online entry, have photos ready and a credit card available for entry fee payment.  

2. ENTER BY MAIL: Download a paper entry form for individual entries here or collaborative entries here. (You can also contact Lauryn Johnson and she will mail you a form.) Submit the completed form, images, and entry fee by mail before April 30, 2023. Photos will not be returned.

Contact Lauryn Johnson at 563-382-9681, ext. 221, or ljohnson@vesterheim.org with any questions.


Photos: Two photos (full view and a close-up detail) are required for each piece entered. The artist’s name must not be visible in the photo of the artwork. If you have signed your piece, please cover your signature in some way before you photograph it.  

Vesterheim reserves the right to photograph artworks accepted for the exhibition for any use.  

Entry Fees: $20/entry fee per artwork submitted. Limit: 2 (total) entries per person. The entry fee of $20 is due at the time of submission.  

Artworks must be available for loan from June 1, 2023 – January 15, 2024.  

Shipping: Instructions will be sent after acceptance notification. Artists are responsible for the costs of roundtrip insured shipping or delivery.  


Juror’s Choice ($200), Best in Show ($500) (selected by the jury), and People’s Choice ($100) (selected by popular vote by visitors to the exhibition).


Artists who wish to sell their work must provide a sale price on the Entry Form. Sales will be available in the gallery and on the Museum Store website. After the closing of the exhibit, the artist will receive a check for 80% of the price. Vesterheim retains 20%. Vesterheim will collect sales tax. Membership and other discounts will not apply. For insurance purposes, the sale price will serve as the declared value. Artists who do not intend to sell their work must declare the insurance value on the registration form.