(Woven) Potatoes at the State Fair

There are prize-winning potatoes at the Minnesota State Fair each year, but generally not in the Creative Activities Building. This year, mine are.

There’s nothing like a deadline, right?  I decided the deadline for my first larger piece in the transparency technique of Frida Hansen would be the last day to bring in entries for the Minnesota State Fair Creative Activities competition. This is “The Farmer’s Daughter’s Yggdrasil (Tree of Life).”

It made me a bit nostalgic. I know my father won prizes for his potatoes, but I don’t think he ever participated in the State Fair. Here’s my father with a truck full of potatoes, taken in 1952, the year of a stupendous yield. The next year he married my mother and built the house I grew up in with the proceeds from that stellar harvest.

He even had potatoes on his stationery.  He was a wonderful correspondent, full of news and support. I found the first letter he sent me after I left for the University of Minnesota, a big switch from a farm outside East Grand Forks to the big city. I was the first of the four children to leave. The first topic covered–status of the potato digging. He finished with lovely fatherly advice, “Make real good use of the precious few days of your life that are spent in school, we share them in our heart with you Robbie.”

And just to show my potato roots run deep, here is my grandfather Anchor Wurden with his award-winning potatoes. I’m just not sure who gave out that trophy.

I have lots to write about the weaving experience. While I’m not 100% pleased with my design choices and execution, for now I am enjoying the empty loom and thoughts of my own potato roots.

Addendum: It won a blue ribbon.




  1. I think your tapestry is great. I followed your story of the Norwegian tapestries which was totally new to me. I admire your effort. The design makes sense with your family story. Congratulations!