Posts Tagged: decorah artists

Q&A with Artist Lauren Bonney

marinade grillingIntroduction by Aryn Henning Nichols
Interview by Inspire(d) Intern Martha Hall
All art by Lauren Bonney

As we’re heading out of summer and into fall (we just sent the Fall Inspire(d) Magazine to the printers today!), we want to thank the amazing illustrator and artist, Lauren Bonney, who contributed so hugely to the summer Inspire(d). Her beautiful food illustrations (see right) on the cover and throughout the Roots of Food section made the whole layout shine – we just loved it!

Lauren-profilepicLauren is well-known in Decorah for her cool designs for Nordic Fest – she’s designed the logo and buttons the past several years – but her speciality is what she calls her “geek” art. She’s likely to reference science fiction or Norse mythology in some clever way in her art or in conversation. Her work lately has been a softer, though, as she and her husband, rural Decorah farmer John Kraus, prep for the arrival of their first child. (Yay!)


Lauren also designs logos, of course, and custom invitations for weddings, parties, and more. Check out her illustrations, block prints, experiments in fabric, and more at her website or Etsy shop, Odd Egg Out.


Summer Inspire(d) intern Martha Hall caught up with Lauren to ask her a few questions about fall and art and inspiration and more – it was fun to get a glimpse into our friend’s fun mind. Read on to do the same!

1. What is inspiring you right now?

Hmmm… the answer to that definitely changes depending on the projects I’m approaching for the day. I’ve recently discovered the work of the artists at Bumpkin Tattoo in Slovakia and I’m loving the use of color and line that they work with, like a “next generation” Story People. I’ve also reaffirmed my deep and abiding love of the animation of Tomm Moore and the animators at Cartoon Saloon after watching their segment in Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet.” I’ve been listening to Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer’s album “Child Ballads” and singing the songs to myself as I work. The songs on the album have been around for about 300 years, which makes me feel very connected to the past. It’s nice when you end up spending hours in front of a computer to feel a sense of history.


2. What are some of your favorite things to do in the Driftless Region in the fall?

Every year my family gathers apples and presses cider and it has been really great to join in that tradition. I’m definitely not a hot weather person so I spend a lot more time outside in the fall and I like organizing picnics and bonfires once the weather cools down. My husband and I had our first date at the Driftless Area Art Festival, so that holds a special place in my heart, as well.

3. What’s the last thing that made you laugh?

Probably my husband, John. Possibly a segment from “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

4. If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?

Someone patient, funny, driven, and an excellent leader. It would have to be someone I could talk to regularly without going crazy and someone who challenged me to take more risks. I know a lot of people who could fit that description, but as far as someone famous goes, I’d opt for my favorite power couple – Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Fictional mentor? Rupert Giles.

GnomeNisseCulture5. What was the last book you enjoyed reading?

Non-fiction:Grand Forks” by Marilyn Hagerty. This simple collection of decades of restaurant reviews left me feeling happy and wanting to chat with my grandma over a cup of coffee.
Fiction: The audio book of “Ready Player One” by Ernst Cline and read by Wil Wheaton. I like to listen to audiobooks while I cook and do chores around the house. I’m very over franchises and series of books and I appreciated the stand-alone nature of the story.

Don’t forget to click over to Lauren’s website and Etsy shop to see more!

Artist Feature: Paul Bauhs


Woodworker Paul Bauhs takes the road less traveled

By Sara Friedl-Putnam • Photos by Kyrl Henderson
Originally published in the Winter 2012-13 Inspire(d)

Paul Bauhs lives barely 10 miles past Decorah’s city limits, yet his house (and adjacent workshop) feels much more remote. So off-the-beaten-path is Bauhs, in fact, that many first-time visitors get at least a little lost; bears are not unheard-of neighbors; and, yes, even MapQuest doesn’t get the route quite right.

bauhs_paulIt was the secluded nature of this breathtaking piece of land along the Upper Iowa River that first lured this talented woodworker to Decorah three decades ago – and it’s also one of the main reasons he can’t ever envision leaving. This homestead is where he has, quite literally, carved out a niche for himself in Northeast Iowa’s rich artisan community.

“I love Decorah,” says Bauhs. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.” Nor can he imagine making a living any way else. A native of Waverly, Iowa, Bauhs has always, as he puts it, “been good with my hands.” And he’s always been fascinated by wood. As a child, he would spend hours at a time at the local lumberyard. “It was my favorite place to hang,” he says. “I thought the guys who worked there had the coolest jobs in the world.”

By his early teens, he had graduated from admiring wood to working with it. His first piece? A rustic aquarium cabinet. “It looked pretty good and didn’t fall down,” he says with a laugh. “That was a time when experimentation was its own reward.”

bauhs_irregsBauhs would go on to graduate from Wartburg College, a small liberal arts college in his hometown, with a degree in psychology and plenty of studio art classes on his transcript. Though he considered a career in art education – and took classes at both Wartburg and, later, the University of Iowa in that discipline – it was during a three-year apprenticeship working alongside the master craftsmen at the famed Amana (Iowa) Furniture Shop that he found his life’s calling. He learned how to choose just the right piece of wood for a given project, how to set up machinery (and set it up right), and how to work with tools like a planer to size the thickness of boards and a drill press to make holes in those boards.

“I had no professional skills to speak of when I started there and had to learn the ‘language’ of woodworking,” says Bauhs. “Even though there wasn’t much creativity involved, the repetition of making the same furniture designs over and over made it a great place to learn.”

By the early 80s, Bauhs was yearning for “a different way of life” than a city could provide – a place where he could work as vegetable grower (also a longtime passion), pursue interests like woodworking and canoeing, and help raise a family. Determined to find just the right spot, he spent years looking at property throughout Northeast Iowa before finally landing on the 33 acres where he still resides and where he raised his two sons, Aaron and Logan. “When we came down through the woods, I just knew,” he says. “The house was in pretty rough shape, but that wasn’t really a consideration – you can always change the house, but you can’t change the land.”


Today that house – a circa 1865 log cabin with a much newer wood-frame addition – is equal part home and showroom, a testament to Bauhs’s prodigious woodworking talent. Crafted over the course of a 20-year home-renovation process, his handiwork enlivens every room – from the live-edge honey locust stair rail to the live-edge elm mantel (his favorite piece) that decorates a living room so full of his visually commanding furniture that, upon entering the room, it’s difficult to decide where to look first. “I’m a very visual person,” he says of finding inspiration. “That’s a big reason why I enjoy woodworking so much.”


As his home might suggest, while Bauhs is skilled in working with all kinds of wood, he particularly enjoys the challenge of transforming live-edge wood – or wood that retains its natural edges, knots, and wild-grain patterns – into furniture and cabinetry that both function well and look great. “It takes some creativity to figure out what to do with the natural character of a piece of wood, but I like that challenge,” he says, adding, “I think people are yearning for more nature in their homes, and that’s why this type of woodwork resonates with so many folks.”

Having turned avocation into vocation over the last three decades, Bauhs has crafted cabinetry and furniture (both more traditional and live edge) that can be found in homes, offices, and kitchens throughout the region, as well as St. Ben’s Catholic Church and First United Methodist Church in Decorah. Still, Bauhs is quick to point out he is just one in the large (and growing) community of skilled artisans this area boasts. “There’s an amazing artisan presence here,” he says, citing Chris Wasta of Wild Rose Timberworks as having a particularly strong influence on his work. “I can’t imagine working with better people – I’m always learning from them.”


And they, no doubt, from him. Watching Bauhs don his protective gear, pull out his miter saw, and start to work on a walnut table –  he likes most local wood species, but walnut is his favorite –  it’s clear he’s carved out a place for himself in the Driftless Region – and it’s exactly where he was meant to be, doing exactly what he was meant to do.

“I always try to strike a balance between functional needs and appearance,” he says, pausing thoughtfully. “I tend to think a lot of what I do is sculpture with a purpose.”

For more information on Paul Bauhs Woodworking, visit
Bauhs’ artist studio is one of the many great stops on the Northeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour.


Sara Friedl-Putnam admits to getting a bit lost on her way to interview Paul Bauhs but fully enjoyed the off-the-beaten path adventure nonetheless.

Artist Feature: Elisabeth Maurland


By Susie Clark • Photos courtesy Elisabeth Maurland
Originally published in the Summer 2011 Inspire(d)

Some things are better left unsaid; others speak for themselves.

“It seems cliché,” artist Elisabeth Maurland says with a smile, “but if I could put my work into words, I wouldn’t have to do what I do.”

Maurland’s pottery is certainly not in need of many descriptive words. Her signature bright colors, animal motifs, and unique Scandinavian style is well-known and recognizable in this region and beyond. The now-Decorah resident has made art her life and her life-long career.


Born and raised in Oslo, Norway, Maurland attended Luther College then went on to graduate school at Illinois State University and finally did a five-year apprenticeship at Genszler Stoneware Designs in Wisconsin… before she found herself right back in Decorah. She now has a sweet little pottery studio built behind her home (pictured at right, photo by Aryn Henning Nichols).

But how did she get from Olso to Decorah? “Growing up I wanted to travel. I was very interested in languages.” After high school, Maurland lived in Germany for a year, where she learned about an opportunity to study in the United States. She applied to Luther, and transitioned from Norway to “Little Norway”.

The intention was to study at Luther for a year. But plans change and life paths are altered. “Halfway through my first year I decided I wanted to stay, “ she says. By then she had also discovered the wheel and clay. While picking classes at Luther, on a whim she signed up for pottery. “I thought, ‘hey, this could be fun,’” she says. She never looked back.


But it wasn’t as though the artist had never been exposed to such things before. Maurland’s father was an architect, and she remembers always enjoying art and design.

“One of Norway’s most famous modern art museums was close to my home growing up,” says Maurland. “I liked to look at art books, and took as many art classes as I could. I was exposed mostly to Norweigian art, Edvard Munch being one of them, but I loved the rococo styles from Renissance paintings.”

The swirls and ornate flourishes of her pots display this early affection.

“It’s unintended, but undoubtedly inspired,” she adds referencing the design on a greeting card called “Phoenix” (pictured below).


“It took me a long time to find my own style. What I was exposed to in Norway was very different from the art I saw here,” she says. “I was confused as to what I liked. It took me years to discover what that was.”

And, interestingly, sometimes making something you don’t like helps direct you to what you do.

“In graduate school, I had a teacher who told us one day in class to draw the ugliest picture we could. And I couldn’t do it! This experience was important to me. As an artist, I had always tried so hard to make everything perfect – to please somebody else. That moment sticks with me to this day,” she says.

The residency at Gelzner Stoneware Designs further encouraged Maurland to think independently and develop her own style, although finding that niche didn’t come overnight.

“I didn’t really make anything artistically for about two years,” she said of to her time at Gelzner. “But then one day, I threw a few pots, and painted them – just with a few black flourishes and strokes of a paint brush. And it evolved from there.”

Incorporating animals into her designs also happened during her time in Wisconsin. “I lived in the middle of nowhere, and there were animals all around me. It came to me naturally. Animals are good vehicles to express emotion,” she says, pointing to a pot adorned with rabbits. “You can arrange them in different shapes, patterns, and designs, but when you’re done, they really still do look like rabbits. This gives me the opportunity to express really complex things.”


And just as all Maurland’s pottery pieces are unique, all artist’s methods – or venues – of inspiration are different. “It doesn’t just come from one time or place.” An artist’s inspirations cannot be manufactured, she says, and don’t necessarily come with maturity.

“I have a six year old daughter [2011] who has a lot ideas [when it comes to art]. Sometimes I ask her if it’s hard to come up with new ideas. She tells me ‘sometimes’. Other times I ask her where here ideas come from. She tells me she gets her ideas for her new designs from her old designs. And that is exactly how I work.”

No matter what, Maurland tries to approach her pieces with an open mind and attempts to simply “do”. She continues to create pottery, selling at art shows and through her studio, and has extended her designs into greeting cards and with plans for textiles in the future.

“New ideas come from creating and creating and creating. When I come up with a new design, I repeat it. Each time, it gets better.”

To learn more about Maurland and her pottery, cards, and process, visit or visit her during the Northeast Iowa Artist Studio Tour.


Susie Clark (most commonly known as Suz) is a 2010 graduate of Luther College, (Majors: Music, Communication studies, Flamenco dancing). When asked of her favorite animal, she promptly responds, “Oh, that’s easy: a Snipe”… (yes, they do exist).