Norwegian Folkarts: Rosemaling

One of the activities my children most enjoyed about summer camp was the opportunity to explore the folk art of Rosemåling in more depth. We had been introduced to this delightful art a year or so ago when I invited one of our talented lodge members to give a presentation to Barnesklubb (Scandinavian Kid’s Club).

You ask, What is Rosemåling? If you have seen the latest Disney movie, Frozen, you are likely familiar with Rosemåling.

Rosemåling, or rosemaling, Norwegian for “decorative painting”, is the name of a form of decorative folk art that originated in the rural valleys of Norway. Rosemåling is a style of decorative painting on wood that uses stylized flower ornamentation, scrollwork, lining and geometric elements, often in flowing patterns. Many other decorative painting techniques are used such as glazing, spattering, marbelizing, manipulating the paint with the fingers or other objects, etc.

When the kids wrote home, they hinted about a project they were doing in Rosemåling class but they didn’t give any details because they wanted it to be a surprise.  When I picked them up at the conclusion of camp, I was indeed surprised. Their work was astonishing … especially for beginners!

Pictured below are the two Mangebørds they painted in class. Traditionally, Mangebørds were made by young men wishing to marry a young lady.  He would place the Mangebørd on her porch or doorway and return the following day. If the Mangebørd had been brought into the house, her reply was yes. However, if the Mangebørd was still where he had left it, her reply was no. If he wanted to marry another young woman in the future, he would have to make another Mangebørd (on a cautionary note: beware of the man with many Mangebørds).


Question :: Can you identify which style of Rosemaling is shown here?

Various Styles of Rosemaling:

  • Telemark
    The Telemark style is asymmetrical with a root center from which a scroll branches out with leaves and flowers that are varied and irregular. Designs are “fantasy-like” and transparent. (In recent years a shaded, opaque Telemark is preferred.)
  • Hallingdal
    Baroque scrolls and acanthus leaves wrap around a central flower. The designs are symmetrical, using opaque color and not generally shaded. Backgrounds are red, black-green, dark green, and a lighter blue-green.
  • Valdres
    Flowers are grouped in a bouquet or garland, gathered in an urn or hanging from a rope. Realistic flowers can be identified and given a name. Leaves are slender, long, s-shapes with a second s turning it at the end. Flowers grow from blue landscapes.
  • Rogaland
    In Rogaland, flowers are more important than scrolls and leaves. Tulips, stylized roses, 4 and 6-petal flowers, and the daisy pull-out are used. Designs are symmetrical. Opaque colors on dark backgrounds, and the use of cross-hatching, dots and teardrops characterize Rogaland.
  • Os
    Typically backgrounds are white or red. Designs include geometric shapes such as cubes and squares, and architectural motifs such as churches or fine houses. Flowers, both symmetrical and asymmetrical are grouped on stems. Heavy line detail on leaves. Transparent, bright colors,and saw-toothed borders are used.
  • Gudbrandsdal
    Gudbrandsdal style is an imitation of carving. Acanthus scrolls and leaves predominate in a C with an S extension. Shading gives leaves a 3-dimmensional look. The flowers used are tulips and 6 or 8-petal roses that center in the C and, again, in the S above. Often symmetrical.
  • Vest Agder
    Symmetrical and somewhat geometric. Typified by light colors on a dark background, teardrops by the dozen along the leaves and scrolls. Opaque colors, not shaded, and with red, black and white overlays are typically used. Oval flowers are split down the middle with contrasting colors.
Answer :: The Rosemaling style that is pictured above is Valdres.

Upon their return from camp, the kids said they wanted to explore Rosemåling in more depth and to earn the Cultural Skills pin. In Barnesklubb, we thereby kicked off the new school year with an introductory lesson.

My kids, now more knowledgeable than I, gave a short lesson to their peers about the styles of Rosemåling and then led them through a few simple strokes.

Aeronautics: How Airfoils Affect Flight

Like most young men, my son is fascinated by planes, trains, automobiles, and ships. His interest in each will ebb and flow like the tide, depending upon various things that give spark. Presently, he is focused on airplanes and would like nothing more than to fly one himself.

He insists that he is capable of flying a plane and enjoys proving this to anyone who will watch him as he plays a simulator game. I’m not so worried about the actual flying; it is the landing that gives me pause.

For our annual homeschool science fair, he expressed interest in designing different airfoils (cross sectional shape of a wing) for a glider to see how the different shape or camber (convex or concave curvature of an airfoil) would affect the flight distance.

Research & Construction

A glider is a light, engineless aircraft designed to glide after being towed aloft or launched from a catapult.  It is composed of three main parts, the fuselage, wing, and the tail.

When air flows past the wing, due to the difference in curvature of its upper and lower parts lift is generated, which is responsible for balancing the weight of the plane, and the glider can thus fly.

Upon settling upon a style, he began designing and constructing his own glider out of a sheet of Styrofoam we purchased at Lowe’s.  For several weekends, he and his dad set about cutting, glueing, and sanding the foam sheets to resemble the fuselage. Along the way, a few modifications to his original design were necessary to enable the airfoils to be easily interchangeable.


Testing: How Does the Airfoil Affect Flight?

Concerned that the glider would get damaged upon landing, he made the decision to launch it from a seated position.  He grasped the fuselage in the same spot and made every effort to be consistent with the effort he used to launch it each time.

A tape measure was laid out upon the ground and he measured the distance it flew (using the nose of the fuselage as the reference point). He flew the glider three times with each airfoil, recording the distances flown in his journal.



He discovered that there was no significant difference between the airfoils he had used; the average distance that each airfoil flew varied by only a couple of centimeters. He surmised that this was due in part to his low launch height, the design of the glider (would it have been better to have a slot in the fuselage so that the airfoil was lower?), and the similarity of the camber (perhaps the airfoils were not different enough; it was difficult to sand the thin Styrofoam without breaking it).

He was very disappointed but understood (after a few tears and much consolation) that his project did not fail.  Regardless of the result, he had a great time, bonded with his dad, and loved telling his friends about his project at the science fair.



Barnesklubb: Sculpting with Vigeland

Gustav Vigeland is by far, my favorite artist.  I have loved by his work since I first discovered him in May of 2011 during our visit to Oslo.

I shared with you yesterday a post about Gustav Vigeland: Artist and Visionary.  Today, I invite you to join my Barnesklubb kids as we use his work as inspiration for our own.

Parental Advisory :: Vigeland’s work is predominately nudes.


I opened the lesson by showing the video, The Vigeland Park and Museum.  The kids were then directed to the tables where I had distributed a number of photographs of Vigeland’s work. I took a few minutes to read a short biography and to share a few of the details of my favorite pieces.  I put emphasis on the emotions expressed in their faces.

Method #1 ~ Air Dry Clay

I then distributed the materials (air dry clay) and encouraged the kids to create a sculpture of their own. They were not limited to human figures but most chose to sculpt something simpler – an airplane, a bird nest with eggs, Mjölnir (Thor’s hammer), and even a little spouting whale.

I was most impressed with the youngest artist in our group – a super sweet little girl, just 3 years old. She took pieces of the clay, rolled it into little balls, squished each ball to make something of a pancake shape, and then layered these. She pointed to her finished work and told me, “Pile.”  She then pointed to the photograph I had on display of Vigeland’s A Pile of Babies.

Working with the air dry clay turned out to be more troublesome than I had anticipated.  It became a little crumbly rather quick and cracks appeared on the surface of their work.  The kids all expressed frustration with the medium.  Some chose not to finish the project.

vigelandMethod #2 ~ Plaster Gauze

I thereby gave it another go with my own children at home, using a tutorial I found at Art Rocks. This format worked a lot better and we were much more pleased with our work.  Rather than use the tuna cans, as she described however, we used pill bottle lids.  The only wire we had on hand was 24 gauge so it was very thin.  Our sculptures were very small and thereby a little tricky for the kids to wrap with the plaster gauze.

In the end, we had a lovely collection of miniature statues – Buddy says his is a basketball player and Sweetie was aiming for a runner.  She wasn’t happy with her end result until I told her it resembled Vigeland’s Sinnataggen running through the park.

I would certainly use this method again.  However, I would use tuna or cat food sized cans and larger gauge wire.

Barnesklubb: Learning the Norwegian Lyrics to “Let it Go!”

la den gå

I was excited when Disney announced the release of their new animation, Frozen, in November of last year. It was the first Disney animation to be set in Norway; a stunning big-screen comedy adventure.  It features the fearless optimist Anna as she sets off on an epic journey — teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven — to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

Frozen is inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s classic The Snow Queen, about a young girl who saves her friend from a magic mirror and wicked snow spirit. To adapt the story to the screen, Disney needed a suitable setting to match. After traveling to several Nordic locations, the art direction team settled on Norway as the perfect backdrop for the fictional ice kingdom of Arendelle. The Norwegian influence is reflected not just in the wintery landscape with snow-capped mountain tops and deep fjords but also in characteristic Norwegian elements like the ancient stave churches, the traditional Norwegian folk costume the bunad, and even in the typical Scandinavian hairstyle with braided plaits.

Art director Mike Giaimo explains, “Norway offered a cultural backdrop we’d never explored before and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to blend its dramatic environment, architecture and folk costume aesthetic?’ It feels like a world from a classic Disney film, but it’s completely new.”

My kids and I have been singing the theme song of the film since we first saw it in theaters months ago.  We have enjoyed the film so much (my daughter is not into Disney princesses – so this is saying a lot) that I thought it the perfect opportunity to learn a little Norwegian with our Barnesklubb friends – Norwegian Lyrics to “Let it Go!”

La den gå

Det glitrer hvitt over fjellet i natt,

det er vakkert vintervær.

I riket jeg bor alene,

og som dronning står jeg her.

Og vinden hyler lik som

stormen i mitt bryst.

Holdt det ikke ut, himlen så min dyst.

Slip ingen inn, la ingen se,

slik er plikten, jeg er jo født til det.

Jeg dekket til. Det ingen så,

det vet de nå!

La den gå, La den gå.

Den kraften jeg skjulte før.

La den gå, La den gå.

Jeg har snudd og stengt en dør.

Jeg er lei, alt de tror de har sett.

La det strome nå,

litt frost gjør meg ingenting unasett.

We focused on learning only the first verse in Norwegian but the kids thought it would be fun to learn another verse in Chinese and then sing it in three languages. I would love to see them follow through. 🙂

To accompany this language activity, the kids enjoyed creating snowflakes using Disney snowflake templates as well as their own designs.

Barnesklubb: The Finnish Craft of Himmeli

Himmeli is a traditional Finnish handcraft that is generally done at Christmas time.  Back in the day it would be hung above the dinner table to ensure that next year’s rye crop would be plentiful.  Traditionally, himmel ornaments were made by threading string through cereal straw and creating 3-dimensional sculptures.  Himmeli are generally rotationally symmetrical and they are hung from the top point by thin sewing thread upon the ceiling. Himmeli will spin with a slight flow of air.  The name himmeli comes from the Germanic word himmel (sky).

How to Craft Himmeli / Barnesklubb @ Eva Varga.netFor Barnesklubb this month, we explored this traditional handcraft and everyone – adults and children alike – enjoyed creating their own unique sculptures.  For convenience sake, we utilized common plastic straws.  Each family brought their own, so we had a large variety of colors and sizes.


  • straight plastic straws (snip off any bendy parts)
  • embroidery floss
  • scissors
  • long wooden BBQ skewers (or a needle and a magnet) to aid in threading string through the straws (optional)

There are numerous online tutorials.  With the kids, we started out with a simple 4-Sided Pyramid or tetrahedron. For a challenge, you may wish to try a Decahedron Himmeli Mobile or the Himmeli Star Mobile.

Get creative!  Try using straws of varying lengths to create different geometric shapes and linking numerous pyramids, hexagons, and decahedrons together to create more elaborate mobiles.  In Finland, it was believed that the larger the himmeli, the larger the crop in the coming year.

I loved that this activity integrated culture, history, mathematics (geometry), art, and homemaking (decorating).  We all had a great time and have continued creating additions to our mobiles for days.

Our Norwegian Christmas

A Norwegian Christmas is filled with many celebrations and traditions, old and new. As the snow falls, the white landscape is the first sign of Christmas and Norwegians start to prepare for their long season of juletid (Christmas time), a celebration of traditions and family in Norway. With the fall of winter snow and the wonderful displays of Northern Lights, Norwegians sit around their fire places, dance around the Christmas tree on Christmas eve, enjoy rich food, and share julefryd (Christmas cheer). As this special time of year approaches, I am happy to share our Norwegian Christmas with you.  I hope you will celebrate with us by having a little bit of Norway in your Christmas.

This post may contain affiliate links. 

norwegian christmasGuests in our home during the holidays will not always pick up on the traditions we have come to incorporate into your Christmas holiday.  At first glance, there are many similarities between Scandinavian and American Christmas traditions.  Look closer, however, and you will begin to see the little touches that speak to our ancestry and love of Norway.


Advent is the Christian season marking the preparations for Christmas.  The first Sunday of Advent is the first Sunday of the Church year.  In Norway it is celebrated with Advent Candles.  Usually four candles, purple or white, sit in a candelabra or on a decorative plate.  The first is lit on the first Sunday of Advent – four Sundays before Christmas.  The first and second candle is lit on the second Sunday, and so forth.

A more recent tradition is the Advent Calendar, a tradition borrowed from Germany. Starting on the 1st of December, they are used to count down the days to Christmas. that starts a countdown from the 1st of December to the 24th with little treats and sweets hidden in its pockets.  Wall hangings with doors or pockets are most common, however, there are also many modern varieties such as boxes with drawers, a string of mini stockings, or a hanging clothesline with pegs. In our home, the kids share a calendar of felt pockets we stitched together and they each have a special advent play set of their own (Sweetie is shown with her Playmobil Forest Winter Wonderland Advent Calendar  set below).


The Barn Elf (Fjøsnissen) is a creature from Scandinavian folklore. He was often described as a short man, “no bigger than a horse’s head”, wearing grey clothes, knickerbockers and a red hat similar to what Norwegian farmers would wear. As the name suggests, the Fjøsnisse lived in the barn. Of course, he was so shy that he was hardly ever seen, but he was a good little helper on the farm as long as the farmers treated him well. Especially at Christmas he would expect to get a large bowl of porridge and homebrewed beer, in return for looking after the livestock. Often the farmers would also leave the leftovers from Christmas dinner on the table so the Nisse could help himself. But if farmers failed to keep him fed and happy, the Nisse would create mischief.

Today, Norway also has the tradition of the Julenisse, which is a combined tradition of the fjøsnisse and the American Santa Claus. The Julenisse looks a lot like the Barn Elf  and visits the home on Christmas Eve with presents and the greeting “are there any good children here?”. Often he demands the children sing to him before they get their presents, and so everyone sings På Låven Sitter Nissen (In the Barn Sits the Elf). I have written a little about the Nisse in years past (The Nisse of Norway).


There are many traditional Scandinavian Christmas crafts. In fact, it is tradition in many communities around Norway to have Christmas workshops; a time where family and friends get together for a night (sometimes one night each week leading up to Christmas) to make gift cards, tree ornaments, and table decorations.  Each year, I have tried to incorporate more and more handmade decorations into our traditions and have invited Barnesklubb friends to join us on many occasions.  Christmas Crafts Scandinavian Style is a great resource for ideas and easy to follow instructions for  Christmas crafts with a Norwegian flair.  Other traditional crafts include:

  • Gingerbread Houses ~ These are usually placed on tables or mantels for show.  They are made in early December.
  • Christmas Baskets (julekurver) are a regular feature of a Norwegian Christmas.  They are heart shaped baskets designed to hang around the house and can be filled with goodies.  They can be made of wool or felt but are usually made of colored paper or card stock.

This year, I wanted to make Christmas decorations inspired by the Finnish traditional craft of Himmeli, an ornament made of straw that is hung from the ceiling at Christmas time. I wanted to keep it natural and simple by using straw and wooden beads.  We will be crafting these with Barnesklubb next week and I’ll share with you a quick tutorial then – you won’t want to miss it.  When complete, the small ornaments will hang on our Christmas tree but after Christmas, I imagine we’ll combine them into a larger ornament and hang it somewhere in the house.


Decorating the whole house for Christmas is a big tradition in Norway.  No table is left alone, no window is left undressed and no sofa is left bare.  Christmas is an all-out decorative affair.  The German custom of having Christmas trees became common in Norway around 1900. In Norway most everyone has either a spruce or a pine tree in their living room – decorated with white lights, Norwegian flags, straw ornaments, and other hand-made ornaments for Christmas.

Lighting your own outdoor tree is a great way to put a little Norwegian into your Christmas.  To further celebrate the season, why not get the family together, hold hands and sing your favorite Christmas songs as you circle around the tree.  For an alternative, you might also consider decorating a tree for wildlife as we were inspired to do upon reading Eve Bunting’s book,  Night Tree.

Saint Lucia

Another fond memory of the season is the Saint Lucia parade at the lodge Christmas dinner.  Before dessert is served, the kids line up in the hallway – the girls donning white gowns with a sash and holding a candle (battery operated for the little ones) and the boys wear a cone shaped hat adorned with stars and hold a large glittery star on a pole.  A girl (generally the oldest) is chosen to represent Saint Lucia and wears a wreath of candles around her head (electric lights – for fire safety).  As everyone sings the Saint Lucia hymn, she leads the precession of children through the dining hall handing out treats – special Lussekatter (Lucia sweet bread/boller).

saint lucia

Lefse & Cookies

What is Juletid without Lefse and Norwegian cookies? I know not.  Since the kids were just toddlers, we have been gathering with the Sons of Norway lodge to make lefse together.  It has become a very special part of the season and we look forward to it every year.  In gathering, we also take part in a cookie exchange – baking our favorite recipes and discovering new ones.  I am saddened, however, that the lodge was unable to gather this year.  Illnesses and the loss of members who have passed have begun to take their toll.

I am disheartened and fearful. I don’t know what the future holds for fraternal organizations like Sons of Norway.  Society is indeed changing.  People are increasing busy – or at least they perceive themselves to be.  Regardless, I know that at least in our home, I will continue to incorporate little things that make the holidays special, little reminders of our ancestors and the culture of our heritage.



 This post is part of a Holiday Unit Study Hop hosted by the iHomeschool Network.