by Kathleen Ernst
I write full time. And yes, that’s a dream come true. It also means that I’m pretty much writing, or thinking about writing, or doing something related to writing, all the time. I fall asleep reading reference books. Vacations become research trips. I’m rarely found without laptop, and never without a notebook.
It can be a little overwhelming.
I recently spent a week in Decorah, Iowa, taking a rosemaling class at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Rosemaling is a form of decorative painting—a folk art with old roots in Norway. In the photo below, I’m holding a rosemaled ale bowl that some immigrant tucked into a trunk in the mid-1800s before boarding a ship for the new world.
I took a rosemaling class a year ago, primarily for research. The protagonist of my historic sites mysteries, Chloe Ellefson, is Norwegian-American. Her mom is a Gold Medal rosemaler, which is really good. The plot of Old World Murder features a missing antique ale bowl.
There are different styles of rosemaling, each with its own traditions. When I worked in the museum biz I admired the rosemaled pieces in our collection, but I figured I needed to understand the art in a hands-on kind of way. I started with a class in the Telemark style, which is considered the easiest to for beginners.
I learned a couple of things in that original class. First, I love to paint! Second, rosemaling is very challenging for a word-nerd like me. The class was intense and by the end of the week, I was exhausted. But I had two beautiful pieces that I take to programs and signings.
It’s been a very busy year. My head is constantly bubbling with plot ideas, my calendar seems too-full of deadlines, and my writing biz to-do list could, as my husband says, choke an elephant.
All that being the case, it was wonderful to once again immerse myself in the painting. We did two projects in the course of five days. Most of my classmates didn’t worry about finishing their pieces in that space of time. I, though, knew that once home I’d never find time to mix a palette and dig in. If I wanted the pieces done, I better get them done while in Decorah.
I did finish my pieces, a bowl and a box. I had a wonderful time, learned more about this marvelous old folk art, improved my technique, reconnected with friends and made some new ones. And best of all, being so focused on something different and difficult provided a much-needed mental margarita. I came home tired, but also mentally refreshed.
Although I must admit that I got some pretty good ideas for a future Chloe mystery while in Decorah, too.
How about you? What do you do to banish all things work-related from your brain?
Note: these pieces designed by my wonderful instructor, Joanne MacVey. You can learn more at kathleenernst.com, sitesandstories.wordpress.com, or Vesterheim.org.