Robbie LaFleur, August 2022
The Reverend Nils A. Quammen was the longest serving pastor for Valley Grove Church, from 1867-1908. Born near Bergen, Norway, in 1839, he immigrated to Wisconsin with his family when he was eight years old. He attended public school in Madison, Wisconsin, followed by Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and finally graduated with honors from Concordia College in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1866. He could preach in German, Norwegian, and English, and knew Greek and Hebrew.
My tapestry image is from lore related by Valley Grove Preservation Society member Marlene Halvorsen. Her father told her that the pastor who lived in Farmington (where Quammen lived) sometimes skied from his home to Valley Grove for church services and stayed at parishioners’ homes, including Marlene’s great-grandparent’s home. He would arrive very cold and sometimes crusted with snow but, as the story has it, not at all daunted by his journey.
The arch above the pastor is taken from the long-gone wooden arch at the front of the Valley Grove stone church. It serves as a graphic element, dividing our earthly world from the heavenly realm of the protective angels.
Most of the historical billedvev (Norwegian “picture-weaving,” or tapestries) had religious themes. Many had angels in the corners.
The spirit of the Valley Grove tapestries come from historical Norwegian tapestries, with their abstracted images and overall patterning. The diamond-patterned snow in this tapestry was inspired by a dress in this tapestry from around 1600.
A weaving note
My design process is a combination of drawing, abstract cutting, lots of taping, and Photoshop manipulation. Below are the final sketch collage, and the “cartoon,” the pattern that is fastened behind the warp threads on the loom. The third photo is the tapestry on the loom, with only a bit woven. I often mark my work in time by adding headlines.
Related blog posts: “Valley Grove Tapestries: The Skiing Pastor is Complete.” (May 2, 2022), “Valley Grove Tapestries: Skiing Pastor in the Colorful Woods.” (March 16, 2022)
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