Conversation with Pieper Bloomquist , Folk Artist interviewed by Emily Sajdak
Emily Sajdak : What inspired you to participate in the Nordic Churches Project ?
Pieper Bloomquist : It is exciting to work with people who are pro-active in their communities and interested in thinking outside of the box when it comes to local activities that can bring neighbors together . As an artist involved in the project , I am pleased that Nordic folk art is valued .
ES : Could you speak to your process for creating pieces ? How did that process play out in your work with Hallson Church ?
PB : I met with the community members and gathered the stories they wanted to tell about their church . I chose common themes and developed a story board sketch , using actual photos provided by the community , as well as many I found in the local historical museum and in my own research . In the case of the second piece for Hallson Church , I enlisted the help of Hillary Kempenich , Turtle Mountain Anishinaabe Artist , to provide designs and consultation in representing the indigenous imagery and symbolism . Once the sketch is done , the main features ( borders and figures ) are transferred to a piece of linen that has been base-coated with a ground . Main features , buildings and figures are outlined and I paint in some of the things I want to have a certain way — such as faces and some images that need to be particular colors . We then host a community paint day , where a group of community members are guided to paint in the base colors of the outlined figures . I then take the painting home , finish embellishing the figures , add the floral elements , and script . The artwork is then cut to actual size , edges frayed , and then hand-sewn onto the mounting fabric .
While I try to use all traditional materials , in the case of a community painting — where members of the public ( all ages ) are going to be contributing to the actual painting — I use acrylic ground since it is more forgiving than a traditional gesso or wheat paste / egg ground when fixing painting errors . I make creamy liquid paint using powdered pigments and a mixture of egg yolk / vinegar / water with a drop of clove oil . This part seems to be the most intriguing thing for many people who want to participate .
Regarding the script : That planning and execution is very fluid and develops over the course of the entire process . Some of the script is given to me in the form of written information or verbal from the discussion , and so there are places designed for certain phrases up front . But much of it is only half-formed in my head . I leave spaces throughout the painting and in the sketch simply write “ put some words here ,” like caption holders . Usually at the very end after everything is painted is when I need to get poetic and concise . And I am terrified of spelling errors . I have everyone I know go over the words when I am done !
ES : What role did the community event in July 2021 play in your work ? What stands out to you about that day ?
PB : The visibility of working artists is key to any community project involving art . Non-artists need to see and experience the work being done in order to relate to it and gather meaning from it . I think having all of the artists visible that day — dressed in folk dress and working on their craft — added to the festive atmosphere of the day and educated the community about the importance of what was taking place at their church .
For me , it was really fun to just show folks how easy it is to paint with egg yolk . That is a show stopper , a mystery , and really captures attention . I was also able to bring many of my other paintings to display and I think community members were more impressed with what we were doing once they saw the other artists working , and my sketches and script I planned to include in the paintings .
ES : Do you think that your work has inspired or encouraged others to follow in your footsteps , i . e ., learn and practice traditional Swedish / Nordic folk art painting ?
PB : Absolutely . I think the visibility of my artwork in the past couple of years has drawn attention to the Swedish folk painting styles . Often it is the story telling and design that is more interesting than the technical skill !
Detail of a Swedish bonadsmalning painting by Pieper Bloomquist . Pieper Bloomquist
8 SACRED PLACES • SUMMER 2022