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The Delicate Hand

Intricate objects require a great deal of time and skill to make by hand. A high degree of execution reflects a maker's intense personal commitment to the distinctive community traditions and identity that the object's designs, forms, and techniques reflect and reinforce.



Norwegian Bridal Crown Ornament, before 1880

Probably made in Telemark, Norway. This piece of jewelry was purchased by the J.H. Terens Museum from the Hanmerstad family of Gibson, Wisconsin in 1880.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1955.264

All three of these pieces represent intricate craftsmanship in traditional Norwegian metalwork. Not made of precious metals, these items derive their value from their delicate, handmade construction. Such jewelry traditionally was worn on everyday clothing but is now used to accessorize folk costumes worn for special occasions. Eivind G. Tveiten, a silversmith from Dalen, Norway, made the silver-plated Norwegian brass pin between 1910 and 1930. The pin probably was acquired by Eva Marks of Elroy, Wisconsin, when she visited Dalen in 1927. Marks and Tveiten were distant cousins.


Norwegian Pin, 1910-1930

Gift of Eva Selvina (Kittleson) Marks.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1958.911


Norwegian Mask Shield Pin, before 1880

Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1955.253

Paper Art


Polish Paper Cutting (Wycinanki), early 20th century

The tree of life motif and monochromatic scheme suggest that this paper cutting represents the Kurpie or Lasek regions of Poland. Gift of Mrs. Maria Laskowski.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.4630a

"Wycinanki" originated in the 19th century when eastern European peasants could readily obtain inexpensive, colored paper to decorate their homes. They cut intricate designs with scissors and affixed the finished art to whitewashed walls and wooden beams to achieve a cheerful appearance. The complex designs are created through the repetition of symmetrical patterns and natural folk motifs. The most traditional symbols of "wycinanki" are the spruce tree and the rooster, a symbol of the Easter season. Designs and color schemes often convey styles derived from particular regions in Poland. All three "wycinanki" examples displayed here may have been made in Wisconsin as they were donated by Milwaukee women, one on behalf of Polanki, the Polish Women's Cultural Club of Milwaukee.


Polish Paper Cutting (Wycinanki), early 20th century

This paper cutting reflects the Lowicz region of Poland, famous for its multicolored paper cuttings. Separately cut pieces are pasted atop a basic design, creating a layered effect. Gift of Mrs. J.J. Gostomski.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.4624


Polish Paper Cutting (Wycinanki), c. 1950

A third style of "Wycinanki" called "Gwiazdy" incorporates geometric designs with circles, stars, polygons, and snowflakes. Gift of Irena Epler.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.1051



Oneota Storage Vessel, c. 1600

Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1995.218.39

The Oneota people of the Mississippi River Valley decorated their pottery with distinctive styles and motifs over different time periods. Although this vessel's specific date is unknown, this style of ceramic generally dates between 1530 and 1600. The Oneota constructed the vessel from Mississippi flood plain clay and mussel shell, which was used as a temper.

Archaeologists analyze aesthetic embellishment and contextual clues to identify and date artifacts. Because the handles are attached below the lip and the vessel is decorated with trailed (incised) lines bordering punctate-filled, triangular zones, archaeologists term this style Allamakee Trailed. A lack of European trade goods found at the site suggests that the settlement was occupied by the Oneota before 1625, when Europeans first made contact with Native Americans in the upper Mississippi valley. Objects found near this Oneota storage vessel have radiocarbon dates from around 1500-1625, a period known as the "Valley View phase."

Carved Wood


Carved and Decorated Norwegian Box, 1794

Redecorated in 1817. Gift of Esther Kalvestrand.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1993.6.2

Trinket boxes sometimes were given as bridal gifts. In addition to the detailed decoration, trinket boxes often had a puzzle-like quality to their construction, as seen in the hidden openings in these boxes.

Ole Olsen Kalvestrand demonstrated skill and creativity by incorporating a secret drawer into his highly intricate Carved and Decorated Norwegian Box, constructed from maple in Norway in 1794 (the carved date on the side). Kalvestrand, the donor's great-great-great grandfather, redecorated the box in 1817, as noted in the overpainted mark, "OOSK/1817," meaning Ole Olson (son of) Kalvestrand.

The 1794 carved box was passed down to the oldest son in the family three times before it was given to the donor, Esther Kalvestrand. Her grandparents brought the box to America in 1870.

The 1810 Carved Norwegian Box was brought to Wisconsin from Lom Gudbrandsdalen, Norway in 1903. It is a trinket box that features fine chip carving and a hidden opening.

Both the Irish harp and the Irish letter opener communicate Irish identity through multiple Celtic symbols carved into ancient pieces of wood that had been submerged and recovered from peat bogs in Ireland. Such wood was considered sacred in pre-Christian Ireland. The harp was purchased from an Irish souvenir salesman on board the White Star Liner "Olympic " in 1911. Traditional Irish symbols of the harp and shamrock grace the surface of the letter opener. Relatives of the donor may have acquired this intricate piece of bog oak while visiting Ireland.

The Dutch cookie mold was used for special occasions. Made of walnut, it has finely carved, traditional Dutch symbols such as the windmill.


Carved Norwegian box, c. 1810

Gift of Mrs. Thea Larsen.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1951.161


Carved Irish Bog Oak Harp, early 20th century

Gift of Fred L. Phillips.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1971.16


Carved Irish Bog Oak Letter Opener, early 20th century

Gift of Walter Haight.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.1007


Hand-carved Dutch Cookie Mold, 19th century

Gift of Lenore Middleton Estate.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1970.36.86



Menominee Gerald Hawpetoss Beading a Moccasin, 1995

Madison, Wisconsin. Source: Lewis Koch, Wisconsin Folk Museum Woodland Indian Traditional Artist Documentation Project

Almost every Native American group used deerskin to make moccasins. Through an examination of materials, design characteristics, and construction styles, a pair of moccasins can be attributed to a particular American Indian group.

Ojibwe makers construct their moccasins with a central seam running from the top of the toe back across the vamp. Ojibwe vamps are characteristically small and puckered, and the term "Ojibwe," translated as "puckered up," may refer to the style of moccasin seen in the Beaded Ojibwe moccasins, 1913-1914. An Ojibwe artist, perhaps from the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation, made 1913 the pair for the donor's father when the family was living in Stone Lake, Wisconsin.

The Ho-Chunk moccasins show typical Ho-Chunk construction, including a back seam over the heel and a central seam running from over the toe down to the underside. Small tabs of hide at the base of the heel act as pulls. Two strings attached under the cuff tie together around the ankle holding the moccasins in place. These moccasins are embellished with colorful appliquéd ribbon-work representative of the Ho-Chunk.

Chief Simon Kahquados of Blackwell, Forest County, the last hereditary chief of the Wisconsin Potawatomi, wore the Beaded Potawatomi Moccasins in 1930. Potawatomi moccasins generally feature beaded floral designs and have large flaps that almost completely cover the top.

Menominee moccasins are characterized by puckered or crimped vamps. According to the donor, a Menominee artist made this pair for George Hobins Barwise, a surveyor who worked near Rice Lake, Wisconsin.


Beaded Ojibwe Moccasins, 1913-1914

Gift of Neal Ward Stanger.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1988.178.1


Ho-Chunk Moccasins, early 20th century

Gift of Guido Rahr.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.8345.a


Beaded Menominee moccasins, late 19th century

Top view. Gift of Mrs. Benjamin Ramsey.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1957.991,a


Beaded Potawatomi moccasins, c. 1930

Gift of Charles E. Broughton.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1943.336


Pall Bearers at Chief Kahquados' Reburial, May 1931

The pall bearers at Chief Simon Kahquados reburial wearing moccasins. WHI 33302


Side view of
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1957.991,a