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Indiana Artisan Jan Boettcher
Norwegian Rosemaling
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Jan Boettcher

“The most important part of this art is that the pattern fits the piece, and the colors are pleasing and original to the style and background color.”

It wasn’t easy for Jan Boettcher to learn how to do Norwegian Rosemaling in 1980 when she started doing the traditional folk art that involves decorative painting on wooden pieces.

Her first teacher, who also was her aunt, died suddenly, leaving Jan to work at it on her own. “I did not make much progress,” she acknowledged. “I tried to work from a few books that were available, but didn’t take any more classes. The painting was put aside for several years while I went back to school and started a new career in nursing.”

When she took a class in 1995 at Vesterheim Norwegian Museum in Decorah, Iowa, however, the door opened and her love of the little-known technique blossomed. “Vesterheim brings in teachers from Norway,” the Boone County artisan explained, “as well as teachers from the United States. I have taken classes from 25-30 teachers and have traveled to Norway twice through the museum.”

To do Rosemaling well, the artist has be knowledgeable about Norway, too. There are several styles, and each depicts the lifestyle of a specific valley of the Scandinavian country. “Since my mother’s family came from the Valdres Valley of Norway, that particular style was very interesting to me,” Jan said. Valdres is rich in trees and lumber, so the art from there uses trees to depict the stages of life. It is commonly done on a reddish-orange background and the design usually incorporates realistic flowers.

Rosemaling is known to have existed as far back as the early 1700s and may be an even older art form. Jan feels that contemporary artists must maintain its traditions, but her interpretations of the art make the pieces uniquely hers. “My goal is to present this beautiful art to promote interest and to pass it on for customers and possible students,” she said.

Jan’s husband, a woodworker, makes the majority of pieces she paints. “The traditional pieces are trunks, cabinets, cupboards, bowls, cake plates, tines (a wooden lunch pail pronounced tena), amburs (porridge pots), sending baskets, trays, spoons, and cutting boards,” she said. “Carved ale bowls are a treasured piece to paint, but are very difficult to find and are very expensive to purchase or produce.”

Through competition, where all pieces must be the painter’s original designs, Jan has achieved the professional level and is working toward Gold Medal status through Vesterheim.

One of her ornaments was selected for the 2005 “Creativity Across America” Christmas tree at the Library of Congress. In 2010, Paintworks magazine featured one of her pieces and The Decorative Painter magazine chose another piece for its January 2012 issue.

“I feel that when an artist is working with the art they love, it is important to know that they are on the right track as far as how they execute their art and how it is presented and received,” said Jan. “Indiana Artisan gives me an ideal way to promote my art and to increase the interest in Rosemaling. I feel so very fortunate my work to have been chosen for this designation.”