Programs and Activities
New for 2008
The master artists and apprentices featured at this year's GLFF come from the MSU Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. This programs showcases the creativity and vitality in Michigan's artistic heritage. Artists demonstrating and performing here come from all points of Michigan and represent a diverse range of talents and traditions. CraftWORKS activites run Saturday and Sunday, 12 noon - 6 p.m.
Like its natural resources, Michigan's folk traditions are a treasured resource to be nurtured for future generations. The Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program is a statewide arts education initiative that encourages cultural preservation, pride, and respect for folk traditions by supporting master artists, who maintain their traditions with excellence and according to the needs and aesthetics of their respective communities, and who teach their skills, techniques, and knowledge to others in their communities.
The Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (MTAAP) was launched in 1985 as part of a nationwide, state-by-state effort to bring support to traditional arts and education. In Michigan the program is coordinated by the Michigan State University Museum as part of its Michigan Traditional Arts Program, in partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. It receives partial support from the Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.
An apprenticeship is a designated period of one-on-one training during which a student (the apprentice) learns a tradition through practical, hands-on experience under the guidance and instruction of a respected, accomplished traditional artist (the master). Participants in the Michigan program have included master artists of many craft forms and these apprenticeships have helped to strengthen and expand the knowledge of important regional, occupational, and ethnic traditional crafts in the state. Some of the masters of craft traditions and their apprentices are featured in this year's Great Lakes Folk Festival.
To apply for an apprenticeship, write to the Michigan State University Museum, Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, Circle Drive, East Lansing, MI 48824. Forms and guidelines are also available electronically at
Craft and design in Michigan have a strong and long-standing presence that is shaped by the richness of our natural resources, the diversity of our people, and the way we work and live. More and more regions in the country are recognizing the relationship among craft production, cultural heritage, and community economic prosperity. CraftWORKS! Michigan is an initiative of the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries' Office of Cultural Economic Development and the MSU Museum. The program aims to leverage Michigan's creative talent, cultural assets and unique artistic heritage to spur economic growth and community prosperity.
Nationwide, the craft industry had a $13.8 billion annual economic impact - about half the size of the U.S. toy industry and only slightly smaller than the retail floral market. [Craft Organization Development Association, 2001]
In Michigan, arts and cultural activities already generate nearly $2 billion dollars a year. [W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research report, Economic Benefits of Michigan's Arts and Cultural Activities]
Because of Michigan's unique natural and physical elements, together with its incredible diversity of social, occupational, recreational, ethnic, and religious traditions, it is no wonder that the state hosts thousands of individuals and businesses who have and can make a wide variety of crafts. Some of these crafts are unparalleled in their form, technical mastery, and creativity; some have deep meanings to the communities from which they spring; all contribute to the economy of the state. In Michigan, the craft sector is an extensive inter-related network of artists, consumers, craft promoters, agents of sales, private and public collectors, museums and galleries, educators, and suppliers of raw materials, tools, and finished products.
CraftWORKS! Michigan began in 2005 as an economic development strategy for Michigan designed to cultivate awareness of these crafts, stimulate culture-based tourism, and increase opportunities for crafts-based economic development that benefit artists and communities. It was launched as a joint initiative of the Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries and Michigan State University Museum with the support of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Today CraftWORKS! Michigan represents a collaboration of government, university and regional scholars, artisans, nonprofit organizations and private businesses joined in the effort to document and promote Michigan's craft sector to grow our economy.
This year's Great Lakes Folk Festival recognizes the strong and long-standing presence of craft and design in Michigan and the ways in which crafts have been shaped by the richness of our natural resources, the diversity of our people, and the way we work and live. The inclusion of crafts in the festival's Folk Art Marketplace and the craft artists in the special program on the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program are intended to bring recognition to the relationship among craft production, cultural heritage, and community economic prosperity.
For more information about CraftWORKS! Michigan and its initiatives and to download a copy of a 2006 report that described the scope of traditional craft activity in Michigan, assessed the needs of that sector, and summarized national, regional, state and international "best practices" pertaining to craft and economy, go to www.craftworksmichigan.org.
Michigan master artists and apprentices
at the 2008 Great Lakes Folk Festival:
James Anderson is of the Iroquois Confederacy and an Ojibwe descendant with ties to the Cherokees. He is very active throughout the state making presentations to the public and in schools about Anishinaabek life, mobilizing disenfranchised urban Anishinaabe into coalitions, serving as a color guard at pow wows, and carving stone.
His grandfather, a full-blooded Iroquois instructed in the teachings of the pipe, practiced and later passed on his teachings to James, who spent most of his adolescence with him and his Anishinaabe grandmother. From them he learned songs and prayers, and about healing, herbal medicine, and ceremonies. He also learned to carve stone and wood under the direction of his grandfather. James credits his grandparents for teaching him the Native ways and finding a balance in both worlds.
Since 1956 James has studied native spirituality with several elders, and with their permission has since performed pipe ceremonies for many families and local organizations. With Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeships, he taught stone carving in 2004 and in 2000 to Patricia Shackleton.
Stuart Baird (b. 1941) emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland, with his parents to southeast Michigan in 1956. While growing up he learned woodworking skills from his father, a wood pattern maker, and grandfather, a custom furniture maker. "I guess I have wood in my blood," recounts Baird, "I was always making something in [my father's] shop. . . .My first carvings were whales and dolphins." After a career as a master machinist, he moved to Calumet and soon took up woodcarving, first doing relief carvings and then finally turning to his great love, birds of prey. He is self-taught as far as bird carving goes but he knows wood and he knows about carving, which for him is just another facet of woodworking.
Baird studies his subjects until he feels he can capture their physical splendor. With a supply of bandages, a magnifying glass, and good basic tools, he creates a bird of prey out of a block of wood. As a recipient of a 2007 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship, Stuart Baird began teaching his carving and painting techniques and knowledge about birds to his apprentice, Christopher Leer.
Black ash baskets
Jennie Brown, member of the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Nation, is from an extended family of talented basket makers representing the Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa tribes. In the 1830s large numbers of the Potawatomi were forcibly sent to Kansas where they were forbidden to speak their language and many of their traditions were forgotten. Those Potawatomi who returned to Michigan relied on basket making to supplement their income; consequently, this traditional art has deep symbolic value and plays an important role in their lives.
At the age of seventeen, Jennie's uncle, Edward Pigeon, began to teach Jennie to weave baskets. Since learning she has made many baskets and greatly honed her skill. Jennie regards the basket weaving tradition to be essential to the maintenance of their cultural identity, and she actively teaches the tradition at Potawatomi tribal gatherings, tribal elder meetings, cultural camps, as well as to her own children and relatives. She bemoans the fact that elders are no longer able physically to gather materials to weave and too many youth are either too busy or not interested to learn the difficult physical work of harvesting logs and pounding splints. Jennie selected her daughter, Jamie, as her apprentice, who will learn everything about basket weaving from harvesting logs to tribal designs and styles to carving handles and rims. Eager to perfect these skills, Jamie plans to participate in the Indian Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Black ash basket maker
Kelly Church (b. 1967) is a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa and a fifth-generation black ash basket maker, an art form she learned from her father, Bill Church, and her cousin, John Pigeon. Kelly often demonstrates and teaches basket weaving to a variety of audiences. With support from the National Museum of the American Indian, Kelly coordinated a symposium in 2006 to teach other black ash basket weavers about the Emerald Ash Borer, an insect that is destroying thousands of black ash trees, She is advocating for the collection of ash seeds to ensure the future of black ash basket making. Although Kelly is best known for her black ash bracelets, market baskets, and strawberry baskets, she also works with birch bark and birch bark biting.
Birch bark biting is perhaps the most endangered traditional Woodland Indian art form. The number of biters in both the Great Lakes area and Canada are few. Traditional designs are of flowers, animals, or abstract; experienced biters in the past also made complex birds, insects, and even human figures. Birch bark should be from a young tree, because it must be supple and without knots and color imperfections. The bark layers must be carefully peeled and folded. The bitings are done with the left or right eyetooth.
Kelly is a recipient of a 2007 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship to teach her daughter, Cherish Nebeshanze Parrish, the art of birch bark biting, and thus helping to maintain this ancient tradition for future generations.
Kristy Dayson is the apprentice of Renee Dillard (known as Wasson in her Native language), who is recognized in the Great Lakes region as a highly accomplished and widely acclaimed master weaver. Renee weaves cedar bark, black ash baskets, and cattail and bulrush mats, as well as finger weaving sashes. She selected Kristy as her apprentice, because Kristy has a serious interest in learning to finger weave and in teaching others in order to preserve this vulnerable tradition.
Originally, finger weaving was done with natural materials, such as basswood cordage, and was widely practiced. With European contact and the availability of yarns, more intricate designs were created. These sashes of yarn were valued as examples of fine work and became valuable trade items with non-Natives. With time, the sashes became shorter and were worn at ceremonial dances by both Native men and women. Although woven sashes are still highly valued and sought after by traditional dancers and culture bearers, finger weaving today is a skill few people know, because of the time and skill required to create the intricate designs.
Braided rag rugs
Vivian Huotari was born and grew up in the Upper Peninsula in a Finnish American community surrounded by traditional artists and their arts. Although steeped in Finnish culture, she did not actually learn Finnish material folk traditions until many years later when she returned to the Upper Peninsula in 1997 after a career with the postal service in the Lower Peninsula.
Vivian was especially interested in rag rug braiding and weaving. Her aunt Anna Lassila, a recognized master of Finnish traditions and Michigan Heritage Award recipient, had intended to teach Vivian her special method of multiple-strand rug braiding, but Anna had a severe stroke that left her unable to speak. Fortunately, Lorri Oikarinen had apprenticed with Anna several years earlier and learned her techniques, use of materials and colors, and sense of aesthetics. Lorri and Vivian applied for and received a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship in 2000, and Vivian learned to braid five- and seven-strand rag rugs.
Vivian's goal has been "to teach my children and grandchildren about their rich [Finnish] heritage in traditional arts and of an era before we purchased everything at a shopping mall." Toward this goal, Vivian has, since her own apprenticeship, made many multiple-strand braided rugs out of old woolen coats and she has taught her children, grandchildren, and a number of local women. She also has demonstrated at local festivals and taught workshops. In 2008 Vivian and her apprentice, Joann Taivalkoski, were selected for a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship, and they are enthusiastically working on Joann's braided rug.
Wilho (Wil) Kilpela was born and raised in Aura, where his family had a small farmstead in this Upper Peninsual Finnish community. It could be said Wil began his musical career as a singer, who at the age of nine, sang popular tunes to crowds of people in the community hall. When his voice changed, however, he turned to the accordion his sister had abandoned. Wil practiced relentlessly, puzzling out bass, treble, and scales by himself. Although his father played a few tunes, Wil actually picked up styling and tunes by hanging around and playing with local musicians and listening closely to musicians who traveled through, such as Viola Turpeinen, the famous Finnish American accordionist who provided Wil great inspiration. He also credits Frankie Yankovich as having influenced his playing. He has played steadily since age 15 and especially since his retirement as a civil engineer, and favors Finnish tunes, performing rapidfire polkas and minor key waltzes with precision and feeling. He has formed his own group, "Wil Kilpela and Friends Band" and has produced a CD with the same name, and he plays backup on CDs for other UP Finnish musicians.
With Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship awards in 2002 and 2003, Tanya Stanaway apprenticed with Wil to learn Finnish polka, waltz, jenkka, and tango on the accordion.
Great Highland bagpiper
Dj Krogol (b. 1949) grew up in an environment where the pipes were always played at family get-togethers. He began to play the Great Highland bagpipes at age seven when he joined the St. Andrews Junior Pipe Band in Detroit. He continued his study during his youth with noted piper Walter Rose. At the age of ten he became his clan's piper, playing for clan reunions and other gatherings. A committed performer with a firm and consistent command of the instruments technique, Dj's virtuosity and skill are revealed in his mastery of more than 80 difficult grace note combinations. In addition, he is a dedicated teacher. In 1995 Dj was honored with a Michigan Heritage Award for his skill as a Great Highland bagpiper and his dedication to the preservation of this musical form through performances and other teaching opportunities. In 1995, 2002, 2003, and 2007 he was awarded Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grants to further this tradition in Michigan.
One of Dj's apprentices, Devin Lamb, will accompany him at the 2008 Great Lakes Folk Festival.
Waterfowl decoy carver
As a youth, Willy McDonald first tried his hand at carving after watching a street vendor carve trinkets. He carved toys until he decided to study music, which led to a career as a professional musician and entertainer. In this profession, he was occasionally invited as an emcee to Ducks Unlimited banquets, which rekindled his interest in carving. Today he is devoted to making working waterfowl, what he calls "carving for the hunt."
Although primarily self-taught, Willy credits his grandfathers for his early experience in woodworking. He was greatly influenced in waterfowl carving by Ken Krum and Jim Wicks, recipients of the Michigan Heritage Award. With plastic decoys becoming more prevalent, Willy is doing his bit to keep the tradition of hand-carved and hand-painted decoys alive. He conducts classes all around the country on aspects of painting and carving decoys, writes articles on carving decoys, and makes public presentations. Today, Willy and his wife, Diane, have an internet store, "The Duck Blind,"offering a wide range of materials relevant to waterfowling.
With a 2003 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship, Dwane Ong apprenticed with Willy to learn about making traditional hunting decoys. In 2007 Willy was honored with a 2007 Michigan Heritage Award for his work to preserve and perpetuate the tradition of hunting decoys and for his excellence in waterfowl carving and painting.
Larry "Pun" Plamondon is a member of the Turtle Clan of the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians in Grand Rapids and is highly respected in the native communities of Michigan and surrounding area. He is an emcee at pow wows, an engaging writer, a fine woodworker, and an accomplished storyteller. He began storytelling in the late 1970s and he regards his stories as gifts from others that he passes on. He speaks at native gatherings and ceremonies, helping to preserve his community's oral traditions. Outside his community, he has shared knowledge about his culture through participation in a variety of formal and informal educational settings, including the production of planetarium programs, exhibitions, and festival programs. Larry has been a recipient of a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship in storytelling in 2002 and 2006.
Les Ross, Sr.
Harmonica, lumberjack style
Leslie Victor Ross, Sr. was born in 1924 in Eben Junction in Michigan's north central Upper Peninsula, an area settled mostly by Finns. During the Depression, inexpensive instruments like the harmonica were popular. When Les was about seven, his grandfather gave him a used "mouth organ," and he learned tunes from family elders, old 78 records, and Finnish-speaking lumberjacks taking leave of their paychecks at the local Blue Moon tavern. Les's Finnish-Scandinavian "lumberjack style," in which the melody and pronounced rhythmic chording are played simultaneously, was once common in his community, but today he is one of the few remaining masters of this style. His 1998 recording "Hulivili Huuliharppu" ("Rollicking Harmonica") of Finnish American folk and popular dance music created a sensation and led to radio, television, and festival appearances. Since then Les and his group, Les Ross, Sr., and the Finnish American All-Stars, frequently play at local, regional, and statewide events.
In 2006 Les and his apprentice Mark Hamari of Marquette received a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship and Mark learned Les's distinctive harmonica style.
Bones & Spoons
Randy Seppala is a percussionist who apprenticed with John Perona, master bones and spoon player, in 2001 and 2003. John first heard bones and spoons at a local Upper Peninsula bar in 1948. Since that time he has developed his own unique style and today is recognized throughout the region and by bones players nationwide as one of the great masters for which he was awarded a Michigan Heritage Award in 2002.
Randy is a third-generation Finnish American who at the age of 14 began playing drums. It was another 30 years, however, before Randy began playing Finnish American music at public events. Since his apprenticeship, he now plays bones and spoons-often with John Perona-and drums in local Finnish American bands. Randy expresses a great appreciation for John and his art, stating he has gained much more than he'd ever thought possible from a man "who just may be the best boneshaker on the planet. Who could ask for more?" With the purpose of showcasing treasured musicians of the Upper Peninsula, like John, Randy established the Covington Music Festival, an important annual event. Randy appears this weekend with Les Ross, Sr. and the Finnish American All-Stars, a group consisting of more great Upper Peninsula musicians.
Birch bark cutouts
Patricia Shackleton is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. She is a highly motivated and committed educator about Ojibwe and Native culture and history. She has held a variety of positions in local and state government to achieve her aim and has been an advocate for Native rights. Patricia's interest in birch bark cutouts, stone pipe carving, and storytelling is in keeping with her intent to preserve Native traditions.
The tradition of birch bark cutouts was almost lost in regional Woodlands Native cultures until relatively recently. The designs and family patterns, handed down from generation to generation, were both ornamental and teaching tools. Today, birch bark cutouts are once again a highly valued viable art form. Each image has multiple meanings and the cutouts are used in various ways, for example, as a pattern for quill and bead work or a design on festival regalia clothing.
Patricia learned the basics of birch bark cutouts as an apprentice in 1997 to Anna Hubbard of Sault Ste. Marie, and she has since greatly developed her skills and taught several apprentices as a recipient of the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Patricia has also been an apprentice to James Anderson for stone pipe carving and to Larry Plamondon for Native storytelling.
Finnish American musician
Oren Tikkanen (b. 1943) is very well known in Finnish America and throughout the Upper Great Lakes region as an accomplished musician and an advocate for the preservation of immigrant and ethnic Finnish music. He plays a range of instruments and his mandolin playing is highly regarded. Oren plays in three to four Finnish American bands and several other types of musical groups. In 2001, Oren and his late wife Toni were honored with a Michigan Heritage Award for their generous promotion and dedicated support of traditional music in the Upper Peninsula. They preserved the music and songs of early immigrants by restoring early 78 rpm recordings, and they produced cassette recordings of contemporary local musicians playing traditional Finnish American music. They also actively participated in local bands. They are known as "cultural treasures."
Oren Tikkanen is a 2007 recipient of a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship to further the learning of Kelly Suvanto in Finnish American music and songs on the mandolin. This apprenticeship follows that of another apprenticeship Kelly had with the late master fiddler Ed Lauluma, who taught Kelly Finnish music and basic Finnish fiddling styles.
Cedar fan carver
Cedar-fan carving is an old and widespread tradition of using only a simple knife and a single block of cedar wood to create delicate fans. Immigrants from northern Europe first brought the technique to Michigan and other parts of the United States. Some of these immigrants worked as lumberjacks, and it was in the lumber camps, during long winter nights of storytelling and whittling, that the art of fan carving spread and developed.
Glen VanAntwerp's connection with cedar fans begins with this lumber camp era. His great-great-grandfather settled in northern Michigan where, as a young man, he worked as a lumberjack. Later, Glen's grandfather, Elmer, was born in a lumber camp where his father was the foreman and his mother served as cook. As a young man, Elmer learned cedar fan carving from his relatives and other lumberjacks. He passed the skill on and Glen made his first cedar fan at the age of 12 in 1961, instructed by his grandfather, Elmer, and father, Stan.
Glen lives near Cadillac on property that has been his family's for a century. He gets his white cedar from his own land, using dead or fallen trees and saving living ones for future generations. Some of his favorite wood is old cedar fence post, well seasoned, straight-grained, and hard.
Glen has passed on his fascination for fan carving to his son, Jeremy, and his daughter, Sara, to whom he has taught both the stories and practice of cedar-fan carving. He also has taught numerous workshops around Michigan, demonstrating fan carving to neighbors, school children, and friends and educating them about the art nurtured in Michigan lumber camps.
Eugenia Worobkevich was born in Lviv, Ukraine, and became an American citizen in 1955 at the age of 12. She received degrees from Rutgers University and Wayne State University and taught German and Spanish in middle and high school. Her "burning passion," however, is embroidery, and today she is a master Ukrainian embroiderer.
With encouragement from her aunt, Helen Kos, who provided her with examples of embroidery and family cutwork to copy, and Ukrainian embroidery books for directions on technique, Eugenia at the age of 31 began her long journey in the world of Ukrainian needlework. In 1985 Oksana Tkachuk, a master in Ukrainian nyzynka embroidery, introduced Eugenia to this totally different and challenging technique. It has since become her favorite embroidery technique.
Traditional embroidery plays an important part in the daily, celebratory, and ritual lives of Ukrainian Americans. Eugenia takes very seriously the responsibility her mentors left her: to teach Ukrainian embroidery to others in the community. She finds students and students find her. She received Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship awards in 1995 to teach cutwork and in 2004 to teach the nyzynka technique. Eugenia's apprentice is Michele Horeski.
--Yvonne L. Lockwood