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Not an artist, a rosemaler

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Mary Hardwick of Crosslake claims not to be an artist, even as she sits surrounded by many of her works in the Norwegian painting style known as Rosemaling.

“I’m not an artist, I’m a Rosemaler,” Mary said.

Mary’s background, in fact, is more mathematically inclined.

She was a junior high math teacher in Richfield when she married her husband, Alden, who was an engineer. They had three boys while they lived and worked in small farming communities.

“We lived on a farm for a lot of years in all the community cities where he was an engineer,” Mary said. “He decided that we should do some of the farming ourselves so I drove the tractor and I planted corn.”

Then, in the 1970s, the Hardwicks bought a cabin in the area on Lake O’Brien.

“Our boys were wanting a job so we thought, OK, we’ll start a craft store and that was Lake Country Crafts and Cones,” Mary said.

“When we first bought it, it was just a little bitty ice cream store. We built on in the back, and then every three years or so we would build on again,” she said.

“The boys ran it for the first few years, and then of course they went on to bigger things. They are all three engineers,” Mary said.

At Lake Country Crafts and Cones, Mary had the opportunity to sell her Rosemal work, a hobby that had blossomed out of a friend’s suggestion.

“I had two good girlfriends from college, and our families went camping together, and one of the girls said she just thought it would be kind of fun to learn how to Rosemal, and I didn’t even know what it was,” Mary said. “She never pursued it, but I did.”

Thus, Mary started taking Rosemaling classes. She has taken many classes, including several from the Norwegian teachers at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.

“I think it’s something creative, and it’s fun to be able to produce something that you look at and think, ‘That’s not so bad,’ or maybe I should say, ‘That’s pretty good,’” Mary said.

“It’s fun to work with the colors,” she said. Rosemal work generally includes a somewhat muted color palate. “You don’t do bright red,” Mary explained.

Although Rosemaling comes from a distinctively Norwegian background, there are style differences between more traditional work and the work that is produced now.

“It was done in Norway for many years, but what we do here is more Americanized,” Mary said, noting that more traditional pieces would be simpler and intended for the home.

Mary does not actively sell her pieces since the Hardwicks sold Lake Country Crafts and Cones. Currently she gives many of her creations away to Habitat for Humanity, Camp Knutson and the Crosslake Lutheran Church’s Jul Kaffe Fest Bazaar.

Mary paints in several styles of Rosemaling, including the Telemark and Rogaland styles.

“Right now, I like to do Telemark,” she said.

The Telemark style is generally asymmetrical and characterized by flowers and scrolls. In contrast, the Rogaland style is characterized by symmetry.

Mary begins the process for Rosemaling with a wooden plate, a common canvas, by coating the plate in two coats of the background color.

She also draws an individual pattern for each of her Rosemaling designs before she paints the plate or object. The designs generally have a center from which flowers and scrolls expand. Sometimes Mary creates her own style as well as the traditional styles.

Besides Rosemaling, Mary enjoys traveling with her husband.

“We went on a river cruise in Europe, which we enjoyed a lot, and we do a lot of Caribbean cruises in the winter,” she said.

“It’s not so bad when you get old,” she added with a smile.