Beginning the Valley Grove Tapestry Commission

The “What was I thinking?” phase

This project started with excellent planning, a well-written proposal, and the excitement of acceptance. Now I’m trying to pull the dozens of design possibilities together into FOUR cartoons. (See heading above. Four!) Early on, the board members and I saw how four colorful tapestries would enliven the stone church space and fit beautifully below the restored sconces. I’m in a very messy head space time, productively filling a notebook with abstracted sketches of birds, animals, landscapes, and plants from the Valley Grove area. I’m examining many historical Norwegian tapestries for the borders I like best. And what about people? Pastor Quammen, a long-serving early pastor of the parish, was known to ski between churches, and from his home in Farmington out to Valley Grove Church. Perhaps a skiing pastor will fill the center area of one tapestry.

There will be animals and birds in a border

I have long admired the old Norwegian tapestries with friezes of abstracted animals surrounding a center frame, and I’d like to weave a design inspired by them. Sometimes there are many tiny animals in the border.

Sometimes there are fewer, larger animals and birds.

Eagles flew above Valley Grove when the Norwegian immigrants first built the stone church on a high point in the valley. After nearly disappearing in the 20th century, you can spot nests in trees and see them soaring. For a billedvev eagle I started with an eagle clip art image online, and made more simplified, angular lines. From the sketchbook:

Flowers and trees will be celebrated, too

Nerstrand State Park abuts the restored oak savanna behind the churches. It is home to the dwarf trout lily, which grows in only three counties in Minnesota and is on the federally endangered list. It blooms for a short time in the spring. On an outing to the churches with Kelly Marshall on April 22, we saw many!

So of course a dwarf trout lily will emerge in woven form too.

I have a long way to go. But thanks are due to the Nordic Churches Project for this challenge!


  1. The shape of the animal-filled friezes reminded me vividly of a boat hull seen from above. Perhaps a subconscious reference to Noah’s Ark?

    Valley Grove is very lucky to have you take this on, I’m sure whatever you produce will be as beautiful as the examples shown and tie the land, creatures, and church to all the Norwegian-Americans who love them.


    1. Thanks for your support, Joanna! And all of those older Norwegian tapestries had religious themes, so Noah’s ark is appropriate!

  2. Oh the stage filled with anxiety, a bit of terror and possibilities – I think all artist know this stage well. The only answer is to keep pushing, sketching and working on it until you get to more certain ground.

  3. Hi Robbie, it’s a great treat to hear about the tapestries and your comments on progress.  The dwarf trout lily is a great idea, but the horticulturists/wildflower folks will notice…it must have six petals!


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