Modern Viking

The Saur family with (who else?) Leif Erikson in the background.

The Saur family with (who else?) Leif Erikson in the background.

Andrew Saur combines art and heritage to create special Nordic-inspired art.

Art was a part of Andrew Saur’s life since he was a child – he still has a sketch of a Viking ship he did as an eight-year-old. He grew up in on the shores of Lake Superior in Two Harbors, Minn., where many Nordic immigrants settled over a century ago. Saur discovered graphic design in college, and realized it was a perfect fit for his interest in computers and fine art.

Today Saur and his wife Angel Sarkela-Saur have traveled to the Nordic countries several times, engaging in the culture and seeing where their ancestors came from (both have different combinations of Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish heritage). The young couple is based in Duluth, Minn., and together they create one-of-a-kind art with Nordic inspiration.

“From church to bazaars, the heritage is everywhere,” said Sarkela-Saur.

Together the couple expresses their love of their heritage through art: Graphic design and Coffee Art®. Coffee art is done exclusively with coffee, using it as a watercolor to acheive different tones to stunning effects. Many incorporate Nordic themes into the pieces, such as rosemaling, sweaters and runic carvings. The artistic duo recently opened an exhibit at Takk for Maten, a Norwegian coffee shop in Duluth.

The Viking ship has been a defining signature for Saur, and the longship was a beautifully designed boat with artistic embellishments adorning the ship. This blend of form and function from a thousand years ago inspires Saur to carry the tradition forward into the future.

For the past few years, Saur has designed a Leif Erikson Day logo to raise awareness about the Norse explorer.

“Christopher Columbus got the notoriety for exploring, but you start learning pretty early that Leif Erikson came first. There has been more attention about Leif Erikson in maybe the last 10 years, but I want to raise more awareness,” said Saur.

Saur’s Leif Erikson Day logo is distributed for free on the Internet for promotion of the Nordic explorer. He was commissioned to design a logo for the Midwest Viking Festival in Moorhead, Minn., and his art has been presented to the King of Norway and the President of Finland.

Saur has also created functional works of art inspired by the Viking ship. He recently designed a Viking ship bike rack out of steel that can hold up to eight bikes and he and Angel constructed a Viking ship wagon for their daughter, Annika and puppy, Gidget.

In addition to his graphic arts, Saur has designed two kinds of wearable art: a Viking Ship pendant and Viking ship cufflinks. The clean, strong lines of the Viking ship make a subtle tribute to heritage and a fashion statement.

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This article originally appeared in the Oct. 7, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.