Posts Tagged: Northeast Iowa Studio Tour

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).

Self-Guided Art Tours: A Primer!

Text & Infographic by Aryn Henning Nichols

Fall in the Driftless Region should be called fall in love with the Driftless Region.

It’s beautiful not only for its scenic vistas and lovely (fingers crossed) weather, but also because of all the amazing art we can view through open studio tours. Artists welcome you into their workspaces for these nifty behind-the-scenes tours. If you’re at all interested in art, road trips, or even just people in general, it’s something you really should experience. We’ve shared a lot about these tours in the past, but not so much about what YOU should do to enjoy the events to the fullest. So! We decided to (what else?) put together an infographic!

ArtTourInfographic_Fall14Make sure to mark your calendar for these art tours this fall! 

Northeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour
Where: Decorah, Iowa, and 35-mile surrounding region
When: October 2-4, 2015
For more information: visit

Fresh Art Tour
Where: Lake Pepin and the Chippewa Valley of Wisconsin
When: October 2-4, 2015
For more information: visit

Sheep and Fiber Farm Tour
Where: Southeast Minnesota
When: October 10–11, 2015
For more information:
or (Facebook has the 2015 latest info!)

Fall Art Tour
Where: Southwest Wisconsin (Baraboo, Dodgeville, Mineral Point, and Spring Green)
When: October 16–18, 2015
For more information: visit

Coming up this spring:
Bluff Country Studio Art Tour
Where: Winona, Minnesota, extending into Northeast Iowa and Southwest Wisconsin
When: April 22–24, 2016
For more information: visit

Click on the infographic above for a closer look at some fun art-on-the-go road trip tips! Have fun!


  1. It’s okay not to buy anything! Don’t feel guilty, just enjoy the art and let the artist know that you’ve enjoyed it. But if you DO want to buy something, don’t hesitate! This art is the most “local” you’re ever going to get: You’re standing in the artist’s studio!
  1. PLEASE don’t be afraid to ask questions! You won’t look silly, we promise. In general, artists love to have folks interested in their work, processes, and studio. Everyone has a story, and – boy – stories are fun to hear (that’s why we started this magazine in the first place)!
  1. Printed material is expensive! If an artist has cards, publications, or pamphlets out and you’re not seriously interested in putting it on your fridge/giving it to a friend/calling for more information, just pass on taking them – you’ll be doing the artist a favor!
  1. Negotiations: In general, we don’t live in an area that encourages negotiations on pricing. That said, if you’re looking at a piece but can’t afford to pay the price, be up front about it. See if there are any options for payment plans or if the seller might be willing to budge a smidge on the price. You’ll know quickly enough if they will. If not, move on and know you tried everything you could to bring the piece home. Make sure you are clear that you meant no offense, quite the opposite: you loved their work!

Paula Brown – The Goods


By Kristine Jepsen • Originally published in the Fall 2015 Inspire(d)

If you spend any time in or around Decorah, you probably know the incurable creative behind The Goods by Paula Brown.

Paula works her main magic – amazing jewelry, purses, and knitted wear – out of an eclectic gallery/shop in her rural Decorah home, but you’ll also find her behind the bar at the Hotel Winneshiek in Decorah – her part-time gig – several nights a week.

Toward the holidays, you might catch her standing on a chair, styling the displays in the hotel lobby for the annual Gift of Art artisan craft show, an event she founded and sponsors.

PaulaBrownOr maybe you’ve seen her throw back her blonde head of hair and laugh, revealing a stack of hand-knitted scarves that fit together like bangles, or a riveting necklace of hand-selected turquoise. Ask for her card, and she’ll dig it out of a hand-knitted, felted, and dyed tote. Yup, of her own design.

“I make things,” the Dubuque native says with a shrug. “I don’t fit in a box creatively. It’s what people need or what people want,” – she often takes cues from the folks she meets tending bar. “I can get lost in the process” – for example, spending a whole day crafting a wallet of upcycled corduroy to match one of her purses – “how do you stop?”

Paula (pictured, right – photo courtesy Paula Brown) creates her own designs for goods, and then, even when something sells well at craft shows or in her shop, she’ll modify and remake the designs, turning always toward something new. “I want to make things accessible, whether that’s the value of small earrings or a shoulder bag,” she says. “People change. Their interests and tastes change. It gives me a chance to change and evolve, too.” Take the scarf bangles, “Nec Lux,” as she calls them. “I had customers asking me about different textures and colors of yarns, and I thought, ‘Why wear just one at a time?’” And so, the idea of mixing and matching the narrow bands was born.


It’s the same with her purses and tote bags, which she hand-knits or cuts from unique or vintage clothing scavenged from thrift stores. Each bag features a natural emblem – a tree, a bird, or a palette straight out of an Iowa sunset – but the sizes and shapes are unique. “I had moms ask me for a backpack purse – something unique but durable, that would stay put when you have a kid by the hand and bag full of water bottles and snacks.”

She’s big on this kind of function, noting that quality fasteners, clasps, zippers, and finish stitching mean her pieces will live up to living. “My work is meant to be worn. And washed. And worn again,” she says. Any problems? She’ll repair it.

And while running a shop from her country home might seem removed from mainstream commerce, it’s a deliberate step toward making a living from her artistic tendencies. (Below photo and bottom hat photo courtesy Paula Brown.)


Since starting at a flea market her first year of high school, Paula has traveled thousands of miles and hung thousands of handmade goods on her 10-foot-by-10-foot display at art shows across the region, even as her family grew to include her husband and two sons. She’s also built a website and shipped items to customers, but none of those outlets afforded the joy of watching art transform someone in person, she says, having them see right where it was made, amid her hand-drawn design sketches and scraps of fabric on her cutting table.

“I love seeing customers touch a fabric, or feel a smooth pendant or handmade button, or try something on – and then there it is – that joy,” she says. “That’s why I do it. It’s me saying, ‘I made this just for you.’”


Kristine Jepsen understands the compulsion to ‘make things,’ as evidenced by whole drawers in her home of light-gage wire, glitter, beads, fabric scraps, papers and, especially, writing instruments. She’s proud to call the Driftless home, where creatives are far from the exception.

Want to see more?

You can visit Paula Brown’s The Goods Studio Store Saturdays, 10am-3pm or by appointment.

The Goods is also a stop on the Northeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour October 2-4, 2015

The annual Gift of Art sale, organized by Paula and featuring six local artists, will be Saturday, December 5, 10 am – 7pm in the Hotel Winneshiek lobby. She also manages the local artwork on display throughout the hotel year-round, including a new collection of her own paintings. Visit The Goods Studio Store on Facebook for details.