Bodil Petterssen Meleney will give an online presentation on Saturday, March 4, at 3:00 (CT) about beloved dollmaker Rønnaug Petterssen. Petterssen’s dolls are featured in Vesterheim’s exhibition, Dolls: Playing with Identity.
Rønnaug Petterssen was born in 1901 into a rural fishing community in Eidsfjorden in Vesteralen, Norway, north of the Arctic Circle. Growing up, time to play was scarce and toys were a luxury. Rønnaug made herself a doll and she would make repairs and fashion new clothes as needed.
In 1934, Rønnaug started her own dollmaking business and by 1936-37 she had two or three employees. She developed dolls with Norwegian costumes, studying costumes in the collection of the Norwegian Folk Museum. Rønnaug Pettersen made a variety of dolls (pressed felt and plastic) and was the leading maker of Norwegian costume dolls from 1934 to 1979. The 8-inch costume dolls were particularly popular with American tourists.
Bodil Petterssen Meleney is the daughter of Rønnaug Petterssen and is the author of the book, Rønnaug Petterssen: The Artist and Her Dolls (2014). She was born in Oslo, Norway and spent a great deal of time as a child in her mother’s workshop, observing as the treasured dolls were crafted. Later she helped with small projects, ran errands, and for a period in her adult life even headed up the workshop for some months. Bodil is an artist, writer, and professional herbalist. She received her art education at the Art Institute in Chicago and at The Corcoran College of Art in Washington D.C. and lives in the United States.