12 Ways to Explore Scandi Style and Craft in the Midwest
In the design world, Scandinavian style often means clean lines, bold patterns and saturated colors. (Think: Ikea furniture, or the cheerful poppies on a Marimekko print.) But that crisp, modern look is just one slice of the lingonberry pie. Many artists are working to preserve the traditional, intricate crafts of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Below, we've gathered a sampling—a smorgasbord, you might say—of shops, makers and museums, so you can learn more and bring the look (or rather, the looks) home.
Gene and Lucy Tokheim established Tokheim Stoneware in 1973, when Scandinavian folk arts were seeing a revival across the country, and especially here in the Midwest. In their shop in Dawson, Minnesota, they sell a huge variety of pieces glazed in earthy blues, creams and taupes. Many have Norwegian motifs, like reindeer, horse-head handles and rosemaling.
Partners in life and work, Else Bigton and Phillip Odden have been carving chairs, cabinets, mantels and other pieces in traditional Norwegian style since 1978. (She is from Norway; he grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm and met her at a carving school in Norway.) They work primarily by commission at their farm studio in Barronett, Wisconsin, and also teach classes at folk schools and museums.
Jim Sannerud Studios
Two decades ago, Jim Sannerud left his job to chase a dream of being a woodworker. He was raised on his grandfather's Minnesota farm, where he learned to value all things handmade. He draws on that upbringing—and his Scandinavian roots—in his work, which includes furniture and turned-wood bowls. Follow him on Instagram for glimpses of his current work, show updates and photos from his travels to Scandinavia.
In Rockford, Illinois, Sarah Reed-McNamara applies linoleum block prints to textiles and paper products, available at her brick-and-mortar store and online. An art history major in college, Reed-McNamara says her work draws on varied influences, including Scandinavian motifs, vintage children's book illustrations, Mid-century Modern design, and her Mexican heritage. She collaborates often with the Swedish Historical Society in Rockford to host workshops, holiday markets and events. Her festive tea towels printed with dala horses are especially sweet, and in her shop she also sells another artist's popular hand-painted origami dala horses.
Custom Woven Interiors
In 1992, Kelly Marshall gave up her career as a dental hygienist to pursue her passion for weaving. (She first discovered the craft as a student in 1979.) She studied traditional techniques in Sweden, and many of the rugs for sale on her website use traditional patterns (some from the National Museum in Stockholm). But other cultural influences on her work include Native American beadwork, Aztec patterns, and Prairie style. In addition to rugs, she sells pillows, bags and table linens.
Based in Golden Valley, Minnesota, Finn Style began as a retail storefront, and although the brick-and-mortar store has closed, the website remains an incredible resource for modern Finnish design, stocking iconic brands like Iittala and Marimekko.
Founded in Fargo, North Dakota, in 1972, Stabo sells a full range of imported goods from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland from a downtown storefront and online. Highlights include wrought-iron candlesticks, eco-friendly Swedish dishcloths and elegant glassware.
Related: Fargo Trip Guide
In the proudly Swedish town of Lindsborg, Kansas, Hemslöjd sells a wide variety of Scandinavian crafts and souvenirs—including wooden dala horse signs crafted and painted onsite. It's also a great resource for holiday decorations and supplies, such as advent candles and whimsical felt tomtes (mischievous gnome-like characters).
For more than a century, Ingebretsen's has been a staple in Minneapolis. When it opened, it served a vibrant immigrant community, and over the past 101 years, it has evolved into a full market and gift shop, celebrating Nordic culture and selling a wide assortment of foods, woven table linens, glassware, candles, needlepoint supplies, books and more.
Related: Top Things to Do in Minneapolis
American Swedish Institute
A lively cultural center with robust programming, the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis has a museum, educational facilities, a cafe, a shop and a historic mansion. You can visit to attend seasonal festivals or see rotating art and cultural exhibits; the Institute also offers an array of in-person and virtual workshops and classes for crafts, food and language.
Housed in an ornate historic building in downtown Decorah, Iowa, The National Norwegian-American Museum and Folk Art School is home to the world's largest collection of Norwegian-American artifacts (33,000!). The gift shop is charming, and if you're interested in learning traditional crafts, you can enroll for classes taught by leading artisans.
Related: One-Day Itinerary in Decorah
Museum of Danish America
In tiny Elk Horn, Iowa, this small but active museum celebrates Danish culture and heritage with permanent and temporary exhibitions on topics as varied as tattoo art and Mormonism. A 30-acre prairie park around the museum recreates the landscape the first wave of Scandinavian immigrants would have encountered upon arriving in Iowa and honors Danish landscape architect Jens Jensen, a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright. The design-focused gift shop is outstanding.