Barneblad: No strings attached
Virtual troll puppet workshops unfetter creativity
Trolls are such an integral part of Norwegian folklore. Their popularity has spread throughout the United States, through the transformed, whimsical, tame Poppy, found in the movie Trolls or the more dangerous loathsome bully, who fiercely protects his bridge in The Three Billy Goats Gruff, the beloved Norwegian folktale that has found its way to children on this side of the Atlantic.
It is thus no surprise that Scandinavia House in New York City chose a troll to be the centerpiece of a hands-on virtual workshop held during the third week of September with Marte Ekhougen, aka Doctor Superhelga. Ekhougen works in set design and as an art teacher, holding a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater arts from the Norwegian Theater Academy and a Master of Fine Arts degree in set design from New York University.
The artist has resided in New York since 2011 and is the creator of the Toy Imperium, a place to experience and purchase her unique creatures.
The organization’s website gives an overview and lists the required materials for the project. This programming is available for about a week. If you miss it, this center offers a different program weekly.
There are some lovely touches included in this workshop. The project is filmed in a garden on the small Norwegian island Hisøy, located near Arendal. You can hear the seabirds and catch a glimpse of the ocean in the background. Ekhougen’s daughter, Tyri, is the one demonstrating the steps, making it very charming and relatable to kids.
The only downside is that creating this puppet requires a sewing machine, which may require a skill most of our children don’t have or a tool not found in your home.
Conversely, this would be a great opportunity to teach some simple stitching as a prelude to this project. It would be more time-consuming to sew by hand but definitely possible. And it would teach your child how to do a running stitch, as well as how to sew on buttons, both needed skills in life.
During the first week of July 2020, Ekhougen held a virtual marionette troll class. This class is still available on YouTube.
Unfortunately, Doctor Superhelga will be missed by her fans in New York—at least for a while. The artist moved back to Hisøy about a year ago, so her children could attend school during the pandemic. I asked her about her future plans.
“I don’t know yet if we will move back,” she said. “I love New York and hope to find a solution where we can live both here and there. I’ll always be a New Yorker, but being a single mother of young children and an artist is hard, especially in New York City.”
Of course, this means that the Toy Imperium had to be suspended. However, this has not stopped Ekhougen’s creative endeavors in New York.
“I’m still making monsters. I was in New York all summer stocking up my collaborating venues Leroy’s Place in Park Slope and New Orleans and Buunni Coffee in northern Manhattan,” she said.
Ekhougen has also been creating in Scandinavia. She is part of a store collective in southern Norway called Kollektivet, and she is also slowly getting back into theater. She has started collaborating with a Swedish designer she met at New York University to create costumes for a show at Stadsteater in Gothenburg, Sweden, and she has other theater collaborations and new projects in the works.
For now, Scandinavia House’s popular Heimbold Family Children’s Playing and Learning Center, the location for their hands-on projects, is still closed. But fortunately for the young and young at heart, their online classes and programs for children are offered weekly. You can check out their calendar of events at www.scandinaviahouse.org/calendar-of-events.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 22, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.