From My Carving Bench to Yours . . . Rebecca Hanna

From Woodworker Rebecca Hanna. (In the series Folk Art In Place, explore and learn with folk artists as they take us through their workspaces and demonstrate their craft.)

You might ask yourself (after the whole emotional shock of the pandemic in our country and world), “What will I do with myself if we are self-isolating or go into ‘lock down’ mode?” In an odd sort of way, I welcome the gift of time!

As one of many folk artists with numerous UFOs (UnFinished Objects), this is my chance to dive into those many woodworking projects I have long put off. To have those long periods of uninterrupted time is a treasure I am willing to embrace!

About five years ago, I added a woodworking studio/workshop onto my house. It is on the lower level and in a walk-out basement on the north side. I look out upon my huge back yard bordered by our neighborhood park. It’s a beautiful view all year round. With three walls of windows, I get lots of natural light.

The exterior of my workshop may remind you of Norway. My good friends, Aaron and Arvid Swenson, of Flom, Minnesota, suggested I add a Norwegian portico and drew up plans for it. Along with the plan, they carved several dragon carvings to enhance it. It happened that when I was having this built, we ran out of siding to match the house. I suggested to my builder that we make it look like a Norwegian building. We used car siding on the top half and stone on the bottom half. My workshop was created!

In the past four weeks I have finished two long-neglected projects and started a third.

This dragon-style project below was started two years ago with Norwegian instructor Rolf Taraldset, who taught at Vesterheim for two weeks in the summer fo 2017. This pattern is reproduced from the Ulvik Stave Church portal, built in 1150 in Norway. My great-grandmother’s ancestors would have attended this church. My cousin Gudrun still lives in Ulvik. The church is no longer in existence, but the portal was saved and is on display at the University of Bergen Museum, in Bergen, Norway. I visited the museum this past September. It was a thrill to see it in person. After Rolf’s five-day class, this piece (26 x 15 inches) sat in my shop, making no progress except for the occasional demonstrations. Now it is finished.

Next on my “to do list” was a child-size kubbestol (log chair), also started a couple years ago. I had not yet decorated it. Two years ago, I hadn’t made up my mind what to do with it, but now I was ready to commit. I’ve always loved Celtic and Viking designs, so I got my stack of reference books out and decided on a couple of designs—one for the front and one for the back. This is how it turned out . . .

Now I am working on an adult-size kubbestol, started 20 years ago! Supplied by my friends, the Swensons, I am fortunate that they had chain sawed the interior of the chair and had already shaped it. In the last days I have started to make sure every aspect is symmetrical and balanced. I give credit to all of those folk artists who have already carved these huge chairs! There’s a lot of wood to work through.

Time will tell how long the pandemic will last and how long we shelter-in-place to keep everyone safe. Rest assured, I have plenty of UFOs to fill my time! Stay well and safe!

Rebecca Hanna of Decorah, Iowa, is passionate about many Norwegian folk arts, especially woodworking. A graduate of Luther College in elementary education and museum studies, she is a retired elementary school teacher. Rebecca is a Vesterheim Gold Medalist and was instrumental in the creation of Vesterheim magazine, Vol. 3, No. 2, dedicated to woodworking.

Find more about her Vesterheim classes here.

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