Heritage Memorialized

38 Bucket or Firkin

Bucket or Firkin Bucket or Firkin
Norwegian-American
Decorated by Patricia Edmundson, c.1977
Wood (pine), paint
Little Norway Collection, Gift of Scott & Jennifer Winner
MHAHS 2014.050.0042

Created by Edmundson as a gift for Little Norway in the late 1970s, this wooden stave bucket, or sugar firkin, demonstrates the range of rosemaling application and the artistic infusion of ethnic identity into everyday items. Firkins store dry, nonperishable cooking materials. The fitted lid creates a tight seal, bent wooden bands provide structure and a bentwood handle offers ease for domestic transport. The rosemaling, set against a red-brown base, covers the flat lid and curved side. These elegant designs demonstrate the incorporation and significance of identity, both the celebratory and the mundane.

To learn more about Patricia Edmundson, click here.


Local artists contributed greatly not only to the display of ethnicity at Little Norway but the tourist economy by producing artwork for sale.  For eighty-five years tourists were welcomed to experience the sights and sounds of Norwegian-American heritage tucked in the picturesque “Valley of the Elves.” By drawing on an “Old World” aesthetic through the reconstruction and repurposing of buildings constructed by Norwegian immigrants, visitors were able to glimpse an idealized version of Norwegian pioneer life and folklore. Housed in the striking replica of the 12th c. Stavkirke, a Christian Norwegian church (stave), originally constructed in Trondheim, Norway, and sent to Chicago for display at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, where over 7,000 individual artifacts, some of which were created by local artists like Patricia “Pat” Edmundson (1929-1993).

Tourists, whether they visit places foreign or domestic, often seek to bring home with them pieces of their travels, as gifts or keep-sakes, to commemorate their journey and imbue them with special memories created in that place. Little Norway, whether through its appearance of foreignness or sense of familiarity driven by nostalgia, had the same impact on visitors – the urge to take a piece of Norway and the Driftless Area home.  Artists assisted with these abstract desires by producing material goods. Item 48 was created by Pat during the late 1970s for this very purpose. The rosemalled board is beautiful in its simplicity and the sense of years long gone past, of a piece of art which has quietly hung in a family’s kitchen for generations. This is achieve firstly by the frame, constructed from an egg and dart trim circa 1900. Set against a creamy yellow background, the painting is centered on a single, elegant Telemark style design with a vibrant color pallet, from the multiple shades of green in the acanthus leaves, to accents of blue peddles and burned orange flowers. Edmundson’s signature is visible near the center on a green acanthus leaf. This piece, however, was never sold – the site’s owners removed it from sale in 1980 to become part of Little Norway’s collection.

Ethnic art was also created by artists as gifts to Little Norway for display, demonstrating a relationship based not solely on economics. Item 50 was created by Edmundson for this express purpose in the late 1970s. This wooden stave bucket, or sugar firkin, also shows the use of ethnic art like rosemaling through its incorporation into the everyday items of life like food storage. Firkins such as this one are used to store everyday nonperishable cooking materials, such as butter and sugar. As such, functionality is key.  The fitted lid creates a tight seal, bent wooden bands provide structure, and a bentwood handle offers ease for domestic transport.  The rosemaling, set against a red-brown base, covers the flat lid and curved side.  These designs demonstrate the incorporation and significance of identity not only in the celebratory, but the mundane.

Little Norway served as site not only for visitors to encounter Norwegian immigrant history and settlement, but for artists to perform their ethnic identity through their craft. Artists like Edmundson fostered a mutually beneficial relationship with this popular attraction, contributing greatly to a rich history of art that continues to travel and transform across time and space in a diverse Wisconsin and United States.

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Bucket or Firkin by Individual Contributors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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