Ever since she was a young girl, Lois Mueller wanted to be an artist. But she couldn’t draw or create things as well as other kids. She remembers thinking, “I’ve got to look for something else to do. I can’t be an artist.”
But decades later Lois discovered Norwegian rosemaling and her outlook changed. Now she’s an award-winning painter!
Learning the Art
Lois had never heard of rosemaling until her mother attended a class in Black Earth in 1977. That got Lois interested and she began to take classes too. “It looked interesting,” Lois explains, “and I thought, ‘If my mother can do it maybe I can too.’”
In her first class Lois learned to paint in the Rogaland style of rosemaling. This style focuses on symmetry. “At that point in my life I wanted everything in its place, a certain spot for it, and this fit the bill,” she explains. “I loved the colors and I loved to be able to create something myself. It was a wonderful feeling.”
Teaching the art
Just two years after she took her first class, Lois began teaching others. An instructor in Appleton suggested it.
Lois remembers, “I laughed. ‘You know I’ve only been painting for two years,’” she told the class organizers. “They said, ‘You’ll love it, and it will force you to get better and better because you have to keep ahead of your students.’ And, actually, it worked.”
This was the start of a decade-long teaching career in Appleton. Since then Lois has moved to Platteville and gone on to teach rosemaling classes throughout the United States and Canada. She is also the author of several instructional books.
Making It Her Own
The best folk artists follow the tradition but change it too, inserting their own style and creative ideas. Lois did that so well that she won the highest award possible for American rosemalers.
Lois earned her prestigious Vesterheim Gold Medal in 1998 after ten years of competition. The medal shows that the national rosemaling community thinks Lois’ style is traditional yet unique, and that her technique is excellent.
Someone at the Vesterheim Museum once called Lois’ style “feathery.” What do you think that means? To get some ideas about Lois’ ‘feathery’ style, just fly over to the next page!