Celebrating Norway’s rural traditions

Phil and Else enjoying a drive with a pair of their Norwegian fjord horses in Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Else Bigton

Phil and Else enjoying a drive with a pair of their Norwegian fjord horses in Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Else Bigton

Explore traditional folk art and rural life in Norway with Phillip Odden and Else Bigton this summer

By Christy Olsen Field

Norwegian American Weekly

Norway’s cultural identity is rooted in its rich rural traditions, from its intricately crafted stavkirker (stave churches), rosemaling and folk dancing. This summer, Phillip Odden and Else Bigton of Barronett, Wis., will lead a tour through Norway that is centered on folk art and rural life traditions.

Odden and Bigton (a native of Ålesund, Norway) are the owners of Norsk Wood Works. The couple met each other at the Hjerleid wood carving school in Norway in 1977. They were married in 1978 and returned to Wisconsin in 1979 to establish Norsk Wood Works, which has allowed them to make their sole living as artists in the Norwegian folk art tradition. They have commissioned pieces at the Norway Pavilion at Walt Disney’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla., the Gol Stave Church reproduction in Minot, N.D., and Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. In addition to making traditional furniture and wood carvings, Odden and Bigton raise and train Norwegian fjord horses on their farm in northwestern Wisconsin.

Drawing on their experiences and extensive network of contacts, Odden and Bigton have organized a tour that takes participants off the beaten path to celebrate Norwegian folk art.

A view from Spjelkavik, looking out towards the art nouveau city of Ålesund. Photo courtesy of Else Bigton

A view from Spjelkavik, looking out towards the art nouveau city of Ålesund. Photo courtesy of Else Bigton

“When we travel to Norway, we tend to visit the rural areas where the folk arts are strong and where Fjord horses live. It is these parts of Norway and the culture of rural Norway that we would like to share with our friends. Because of our personal ties to Norway, Else and I decided to offer a tour and asked personal friends in Norway to be daily guest guides,” said Odden.

The itinerary is scheduled to visit Phil and Else’s favorite places and people in Norway, stopping at small farms where rural life traditions are still preserved and practiced. The tour focuses on folk art and food traditions from different regions of the country, and these traditions will be explained in the cultural and historical context of Norway.

“We will be invited into homes that are full of traditional folk art and we will be entertained by some of Norway’s finest musicians to include the great Nordfjord fiddler and our friend Arne Sølvberg,” said Odden.

One special component of the trip is the special guest guides, people who Odden and Bigton have come to know in Norway and they will offer insights that would not be possible to learn otherwise.

Furnishings at the Maihuagen museum in Lillehammer

Furnishings at the Maihuagen museum in Lillehammer

In addition, visits to the Fjord Horse Center at Nordfjordeid and Norway’s art nouveau city Ålesund are planned.

“The scenery and food will be fantastic, and there will be plenty of time for those who wish to browse the shops of Norway,” Odden adds.

The maximum number of participants is 26 people. Currently, there are 10 – 12 spots available for interested participants. The land package (double occupancy) is $3,995 per person plus airfare.

“With several decades of experience living and traveling in Norway, Else and I will help to explain the sights, sounds and tastes of Norway in the context of the rural traditions of this wonderful country,” Odden concludes.

For a full itinerary and to contact, visit www.norskwoodworks.com or call (715) 468-2780.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 18, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

You may also like...