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The Folk School at Midsummer

Cover Image Caption:  Karen Tembreull, Crossbody birch tote (Birch bark,  leather, brass findings, inkle woven band cotton), Vessel 1, Flourish (Vintage spigot handle, cedar bark, waxed cotton, sedge, red osier dogwood), Vessel 2, Sprout (Vintage brass spigot handle, cedar bark, Iris leaves, soft rush, waxed cotton, red osier dogwood), 2024

HANCOCK, MI – The Finlandia Art Gallery, in collaboration with the Finnish American Folk School will present The Folk School at Midsummer, the third annual group exhibit presenting the work of the folk school instructors and students.

The exhibit will be held at The Finlandia Art Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center (FAHC), Hancock from June 17 to September 18, 2024. 

A reception for the artists will take place at the gallery, Thursday, June 20, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public, refreshments will be served.

Lisa Wiitala, Make-Believe Tidal Pool, Ryijy, 2024, 16″x10″x2”

The musical quartet Jouhi-kombo, with musicians Oren Tikkanen, Matthew Durocher, Alice Margerum, and Clare Zuraw will be playing at the reception beginning at 7:00 pm.  The quartet came together in 2017 as a way to feature the Finnish bowed lyre known as the jouhikko. Several of the jouhikkos played by the group were built by local instrument maker Alice Margerum who is also a Folk School instructor. Jouhi-kombo draws from Finnish song and dance traditions, while also delighting in folk music from a variety of traditions. Jouhikko playing and bow making will be featured workshops at the Finnish American Folk School’s Midsummer Jouhikko Gathering this June. 

Instructor Phyllis Fredendall with student in A Well Dressed Loom workshop

The Finnish American Folk School has had a remarkable year of instruction including workshops in weaving, contemporary embroidery and stitching, knitting, textile techniques in wire, willow and birch harvesting and art making, cooking, and music. 

“We’re excited that the Folk School can collaborate with the Finlandia Art Gallery again for a third year,” says Folk School Director Clare Zuraw. “It’s becoming a tradition that we really look forward to as a great opportunity to share what our students and instructors have been working on and inspired by in the past year with the gallery audience. And of course we are incredibly grateful that Finlandia Foundation National has made this ongoing work possible.” 

Students creating Willow Towers during the Bark and Willow Symposium

Popular, productive and skill-building, the Bark and Willow Symposium held in September 2023 featured artists Karen Tembreull and Poppy Hatinger who lead a series of workshops and free demonstrations about growing, harvesting, and making with willow and barks of all kinds. In addition to bark and willow basketry, workshops featured bead making, cordage techniques, gardening, and bookbinding. Artwork madeduring this symposium will be on display in this year’s exhibit.

Bead making

In April 2024, Finnish American Textile artist Heather Allen Hietala held an exhibit of her textiles in the Finlandia Art Gallery and presented two workshops with the folk school, Contemporary Embroidery Sampler Book and Textile Techniques with Wire.    

“It was wonderful to teach at the Finnish American Folk School, the facilities are fantastic,” says Hietala. “Introductions to Contemporary Embroidery and Stitching was a wonderful class with so many wonderful insights,” said Hietala.  “A simple running stitch changes everything” “It’s okay to wander around…with needle and thread.” “Perfection is not the answer” among many others.

“Textile Techniques in Wire was another wonderful workshop,” said Hietala. “As we explored working with wire we discussed the difference between embellishments and structure and the immediacy of cold connections. There was so much wonderful creativity and knowledge in the group.”

Hietala is confident that the workshop participants will continue to learn, explore and incorporate many of the techniques they learned in the two workshops she taught. The proof of this will be on display in the Folk School at Midsummer exhibit.

Heather Hietala’s “Contemporary Embroidery Sampler Book Workshop”
Students display their creations made during the embroidery workshop

The Folk School at Midsummer exhibition will feature the work of these Folk School instructors and more.  “With 7 instructors and 14 students entering work into the exhibit, there will be a variety of media and techniques that will inspire and delight,” says Gallery Director Carrie Vander Veen. “I am sure our gallery audience will head directly to the Finnish American Folk School webpage to see what the school is offering next! Getting involved in workshops is a great way to build skills, form community and simply have fun, creativity = growth!”

Students with their birch bark journals created with the Finnish American Folk School

Programming at the Finnish American Folk School is supported by a grant from the American Scandinavian Foundation. 

The Folk School at Midsummer will be on display at The Finlandia Gallery through September 18, 2024.

The Finlandia Art Gallery is located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm. Please call 906-487-7309 or email for more information.