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Finnish American Folk School Features Fiber Arts at Festival Ruska 2021

August 26, 2021

Readers may already be familiar with the Finnish American Heritage Center at Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan as the home of this newspaper, but for some it may come as a surprise to know that the Heritage Center is also home to the Finnish American Folk School. Since 2017 the folk school – the first of its kind in the United States – has offered unique opportunities for education and exploration of traditional Finnish folkways including arts, crafts, food, and music. Under the leadership of their new director Phyllis Fredendall, the folk school is planning exciting new dimensions and programming in the coming year and beyond. Fredendall, emeritus professor of fiber and fashion design at Finlandia University, will build on the folk school’s past programming by anchoring many classes and workshops in the university’s well-equipped fiber arts studio. 

This autumn, as part of Festival Ruska 2021, the Finnish American Folk School launches an exciting new series of traditional fiber arts classes and workshops. Instructors include several local tradition bearers, many of whom are nationally recognized for their work as artists and teachers. The word ruska refers to Finnish Lapland’s color season, and the festival celebrates the gorgeous natural colors of the changing season in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula with educational and cultural events that celebrate traditional Finnish American arts and music. 

From September through November, six instructors will offer a variety of classes including birch bark basketry, weaving, felting, spinning, dyeing, and knitting. Karen Tembreull, a nationally recognized basket artist from L’Anse, Michigan, has been teaching workshops with barks and roots since the early 1990s across the United States. The folk school is fortunate to have her teach one of her signature workshops, “Patchwork Birchbark Sewing Kit” during Festival Ruska October 9-10, 2021. In 1998 Phyllis Fredendall taught beadwork and quilting at the Kuopio Academy of Craft and Design in Finland and while there learned Finnish felting methods.  She will teach a felt making workshop as part of Festival Ruska, October 16-17. See below for a full list of fall classes and stay tuned for additional opportunities in the future.  

If you’re interested in participating in any of the Finnish American Folk School programs this fall, please call the Finnish American Heritage Center at 906-487-7549 to register in advance. The folk school welcomes workshop requests and proposals and has a limited number of scholarships or assistantships available. For more information, please contact director Phyllis Fredendall by email and include FAFS in the subject line: phyllis.fredendall@finlandia.edu.

2021 Finnish American Folk School Workshop Schedule

Article originally posted in the “Finnish American Reporter“, published monthly by the Finnish American Heritage Center. 

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