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Day 1 of My First Rosemaling Class

Updated: Jan 23

Loaded up with only a suitcase and curiosity, my friend and I headed to North House Folk School in Grand Marias, Minnesota for our first three-day rosemaling class. We were both excited for the adventure and didn’t know what to expect.

Women on their way to their first rosemaling class

Before arriving into Grand Marias, we made the ever-mandatory stop at Betty’s Pies north of Duluth and Two Harbors, for pie of course. I swear the car turned into the parking lot on its own. Check Betty’s Pies out for yourself if you are ever in the area.

Arriving at North House Folk School we were in awe. The campus is situated on the shores of Lake Superior, with a picturesque view. I honestly thought the classes were going to be held at the high school Home Ec. room. I had no concept what a folk school was or what they were capable of offering. So needless to say, I was surprised when we arrived at

North House Folk School campus in Grand Marais, MN

this quaint folk school campus offering a wide variety of courses all taking place simultaneously over the weekend – Damascus knife making, felt hat design and making, twig furniture construction, and building a yurt, just to name a few. Click here to learn more about North House Folk School.

The classroom was in a building right on the shores of Lake Superior

rosemaling classroom

with windows overlooking the lake. Along one wall were two tables with rosemaling examples of many styles. This class was focused on the Valdres-style of rosemaling. If you are not familiar with Valdres, primarily focuses on flowers. Our fabulous instructors were Mary Schliep and Kim Garret.

As my friend Kim and I were standing with our mouths open looking at the rosemaling display, a cute, older lady came over and pointed to the large, beautiful plate and said, “That’s one of the class projects.” Kim and I looked directly at her and laughed. “Yeah, right?!”, we said. Thinking to ourselves… this is our first class, that’s way too complicated, there is no way we could paint that. Who is this lady? She sure has a good sense of humor. Well… it was Mary, one of our instructors. That WAS one of the project options. Eeek.

This class was a project class. In a project class the instructor usually provides the wooden ware and pattern. Our class was presented with a two project options, plus a couple practice ornaments. A few of the students brought their own projects, which was okay too.

We selected our practice Christmas ornaments and then chose from the two plate options – large or small. Kim and I selected the large, scalloped-edge plate. Yes, the same big, complicated plate we laughed about doing earlier. What the heck.

Since this class had a variety of rosemaling levels, beginner to advanced, the instructors covered the basics of putting the background color on the wood. I backgrounded my ornaments and plate and black and dark blue.

While our background paint was drying, we pulled out our round paint brush and were given a squirt of oil paint and container of oil medium (walnut alkyd oil) for practicing our rosemaling strokes. We were instructed how to load the paint brush and use the medium. Providing us stroke examples, we began learning the basic rosemaling strokes – C-stroke and S-strokes. We then put our hand toward painting with the thin liner brush. After stroke practice, we were ready to put those skills to work.

But before we could start, out came the oil paint for our project. In this class we had the option of coming with our own oil paints from the suggested paint/materials list, or for $10 we could get the paint we needed from the instructors. I chose later option.

Everyone to receive paint placed their palette boards on the table, and the instructors squirted the paint mixes into little piles to create the project color palette. I learned that it’s often necessary to mix 2 to 3+ colors together to achieve the correct “Norwegian” shade. The class was provided written paint mix ratios, so we could replicate these mixes at home. Then it was back to our chairs to mix each little paint pile together with our palette knife. Having never painted before, just mixing the paint was exciting as I watched the different colors blend together to form new shades.

Next we learned how to transfer the ornament design onto our backgrounded ornament using tracing paper, transfer paper and pencil/pen. With the pattern on the ornament, we were ready to paint. First painted were the leaves. The instructors broke down the steps.

I was rosemaling!!!

I was now able to see the leaf come into shape. The layering of different colors, the line work. It was so much fun! Some of my strokes looked a bit funky, but that wasn’t going to stop me. Mary and Kim G. were very encouraging. I can still hear instructor Kim G. say…”just follow the process”. She was right. By following the steps as outlined, the results were surprisingly not too bad.

The final picture shows what I accomplished my first day of rosemaling class. It doesn’t look like much, but my head was spinning. So much new information. So much fun!

Stay tuned for what happened on the remaining two days of class.

Happy rosemaling!

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