Valley Grove Tapestries: The First Three are Unveiled

The first three Valley Grove tapestries were hung in time for a Syttende Mai (Norwegian National Day) celebration at Valley Grove.

Photo: Margit Johnson

One wall features “Oak Tree and Animals” and “Pastor Quammen Skis Between Parishes.” It’s nice that the pews lining each wall act as natural guardrails.

“Oak Tree and Animals” Photo: Peter Lee
“Pastor Quammen Skis Between Parishes” Photo: Peter Lee

On the other side we mounted “The Valley Grove Limestone Church.”

“The Valley Grove Limestone Church” Photo: Peter Lee

I depicted a Ladies Aid member based on a photo I found in the St. Olaf Archives. (See “What I was Thinking, Part Two.”) I just liked the way she looked strong and resembled my grandmother. A woman who lives near the church came up to me at the event and said, “That’s my great-grandmother, Berit Hope.” Her sister in Vancouver, who had been following my blog, recognized Berit from from the photo I posted. What a fun connection!

Nancy Hope Shannon with her great-grandmother!

“How did you learn so much about Valley Grove? You must have done a lot of research,” one visitor commented. The answer to that is yes, I did a lot of research, but also had the most marvelous group of people who managed the project. They were hands-off and trusting when it came to the actual designs and content of my tapestries, but they were responsive, supportive, and generous with their time when I asked for stories and information. I have not created commissioned works for public spaces in the past, so it is amazing that this experience was so rich and satisfying (oh–and also difficult and challenging).

Thank you so much to the Valley Grove Preservation Society board team sitting next to me: Marlene Johnson, Gary Wagenbach, and Margit Johnson.

I made several small samples along the way, which visitors enjoyed handling. I also brought one of my collage-like working drawings, and a couple of cartoons.

Yarn, samples and cartoons interested many people. Photo: Margit Johnson

For demonstration purposes, I wove a fox tapestry on my portable Norwegian Hagen tapestry loom. As a reminder of the Valley Grove project, I decided to weave a small tapestry for myself. Those of you who follow this blog may remember the story of the fox from my “Oak Tree and Animals” tapestry. He gained a bit of fame in Iran. (Read: “The Woven Animals become International Instagram Stars“) I am weaving a fox, along with the word fox in Persian, with some borders taken from historical Norwegian tapestries.

Note the fancy beater on the table beside me–very Norwegian. Photo from the Valley Grove Preservation Society website.

But what about the fourth tapestry? Here’s the sign that hung under the fourth sconce.