Kathleen Ernst is back today for another visit. Kathleen is the author of fourteen historical novels for young readers and the Chloe Ellefson mysteries for adults. The second Chloe book, The Heirloom Murders, was published last fall. Visit Kathleen at her blog to follow her meanderings through the intersection of history and fiction, and see her website for more information about her books.
Kathleen is offering a copy of any one of her seventeen books to one of our readers who leaves a comment this week. Don’t forget to check back on Sunday to find out if you’re the lucky winner. Otherwise we have no way of getting your book to you unless you leave an email address along with your comment. -- AP
|Author Kathleen Ernst doing Rosemaling|
I love handwork. My current passion is rosemaling, sometimes called rose painting. Rosemaling is a decorative folk art long practiced in rural Norway. Nineteenth-century immigrants brought treasured pieces across the Atlantic in their trunks, but the art itself almost died out in the new world. A revival began during the Great Depression, and an even bigger revival surged in the 1960s.
Today rosemaling is thriving. I’ve been lucky enough to take two classes at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Vesterheim also sponsors a National Exhibition in the Folk Arts each July. Entrants compete for ribbons; those who earn enough ribbons over the years earn a coveted Gold Medal.
Earning a Gold Medal would be extremely cool, but it’s not something I aspire to. Developing such proficiency requires, I imagine, total focus and dedication to the art. I’ve worked with equal tenacity to establish myself as a working writer. When it comes to handicrafts, though, I don’t have that much single-minded commitment. I’m an unashamed dabbler.
|Author Kathleen Ernst at a weaving loom|
My introduction to domestic arts and crafts is rooted in my fascination with history. Most of my novels for young readers are historical fiction. I’ve worked as an interpreter and curator at historic sites. Chloe Ellefson, protagonist of my adult mystery series, is also a curator. The plots always involve some historical event or theme that resonates through time and affects the here-and-now. And many feature an heirloom art.
Folk-art pieces in museum collections are often the only tangible hint of anonymous lives long gone. One of the characters in my newest book, The Heirloom Murders, is an elderly woman of Swiss descent. When I found some embroidery in Swiss Historical Village and Museum in New Glarus, Wisconsin, I felt as if I’d found a reflection of my fictional character.
Women who were illiterate or simply too busy to write diaries or letters did leave some of themselves in their quilts or woven coverlets or bits of lace; men in their painted trunks or carved ale bowls. When I learn the rudiments of those crafts, I feel just a bit of kinship to the long chain of women and men who developed or practiced the art. By incorporating a handicraft in a novel, I hope to honor all those people who faced enormous challenges and yet found ways to express themselves and indulge in creative pursuits.
Which brings me back to rosemaling. The plot of the first Chloe mystery, Old World Murder, revolves around a missing antique—a Norwegian rosemaled ale bowl. Chloe’s mom happens to be a Gold Medalist painter. Those choices provide some mom-daughter conflict as the series progresses, introduced some readers to the art of rosemaling, and sparked my own interest in painting. I’ll never be a great rose painter, but I do intend to keep learning and practicing as time permits.
Characters in some of my other mysteries include an 18th-century young woman who is passionate about overshot weaving, a basket maker living in the Kentucky hills, and Depression-era quiltmaking using flour sack fabrics.
|Embroidery from the Swiss Historical Village and Museum|
I just started developing ideas for my fourth Chloe Ellefson mystery. No title yet, but I’ve decided the plot will include a glimpse of the centuries-old art of chip carving. I’ve never dabbled in woodworking before. I can’t wait to give it a try.
How about you? Do you prefer to stick with one art or craft, or do you like trying new things? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I’m grateful to Anastasia for inviting me to visit. And I’m grateful to readers! I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you. Leave a comment (and a way to contact you), and your name will go into a drawing for a free book. The winner can choose any of my seventeen titles. A Chloe Ellefson book, one of my American Girl mysteries, a Civil War novel—the choice will be yours! To learn more, please visit my website.
Thanks so much for joining us today. As for me, I’m a dabbler like you. What about the rest of you readers? -- AP