Hiawatha and the Holidays

Norwegian-American tapestry weaver and embroiderer Pauline Fjelde paid an amazing tribute to her adopted country when she spent more than ten years weaving the monumental tapestry, “The Coming of Hiawatha.” She wove from 1913 until her death in 1923.  Her sister Thomaine wove a final small portion. I admire Pauline Fjelde’s determination, self-confidence and ambition; she traveled to Scandinavia to learn tapestry weaving in 1910, wove a couple of good-sized tapestries, and then spent years on a single piece.

Thank You, Lila

The not-so-great image from the 2004 article

Lila Nelson wrote an article about Pauline Fjelde in 2004, and it is reprinted in the latest Norwegian Textile Letter, “A Forgotten Artist Remembered: The Tapestry Weaving of Pauline Fjelde.” Her article is both scholarly and personal, and Pauline’s life story is compelling.

This time, thanks to Sondra Reierson from the Minnesota Historical Society and Charlotte Nordstrom, a relative of Pauline Fjelde, there are many wonderful images, not just a couple of grainy black-and-white photos. Lila would be thrilled with this new digital version full of color and links. Recently I moved our Scandinavian Weavers email list from one platform to another, and I was struck about how many of the messages from the earliest year, 2004, were from Lila. Even in her eighties, she was an early technology adopter.

I had forgotten about Lila’s article until I learned about the Hiawatha tapestry again recently.  It was acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), and my friend Beth McLaughlin performed conservation work on it before it was delivered.  MHS does not have plans for its display yet, but I’m looking forward to it!

I think about Lila, and miss her, especially during the holidays.  She held our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group holiday parties at her home for several years–it was like visiting a lovely museum. Lila always enjoyed a party.

Sharon Marquardt, Lila Nelson, and Robbie LaFleur
Sharon Marquardt, Lila Nelson, and Robbie LaFleur at the Scandinavian Weavers holiday party, 2008.


One comment

  1. Hello Robbie, what a tender tribute to your dear friend Lila and thank you so much for spotlighting some very accomplished and inspiring (and some forgotten) weavers in your blog. I very much appreciate your ability to bring these weavers to us. You are inspiring!
    Sara Jeanne