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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of Adell Beatrice Raisanen with her loom
Photo by Mary Whalen

Photo of Adell Beatrice Raisanen and her husband talking about rugs
Photo courtesy of Sandye Scheel

Photo of Adell Beatrice Raisanen with two rugs

Adell Beatrice Raisanen
2002 awardee, Hartland (Livingston County), rag-rug weaver

Adell Raisanen, known as Bea, is a master rag weaver in the Finnish American tradition. She was born in 1917 and grew up in a Finnish American community in Minnesota where rag rugs were used in homes and weaving was a skill brought by immigrants from Finland. Bea's mother taught her to weave, but like most women of her generation, it was many years before she returned to this tradition. In the interim, Bea moved to Detroit where she held several jobs, including a position in an aircraft factory during World War II, and she raised a family. In 1958 she purchased her first rug loom, and since then she has been recycling old clothes, blankets, sheets, towels, etc., into beautiful, highly coveted rugs for her home, gifts, and occasional sales.

Bea's technical perfection and use of breathtaking colors are the result of many decades of weaving. Fellow weaver Doris Allen refers to Bea's loom as "the canvas of a great artist [and] There is no suggestion of randomness in her choice of materials; everything is integrated into a complete picture." (1) With her mother's instructions, occasional reference to books and other weavers, visits to Finland where rag weaving is also highly prized, and her husband, Arnold, who keeps her loom in top working order, Bea continues to excel in her art and to attract admiration and praise.

She has taught her weaving skills and techniques to apprentices through the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (1994, 1996, 1998-2000), infecting her apprentices with the love of weaving and reinforcing the tradition in the greater Detroit area. Bea is an active member of FinnWeavers, a group affiliated with the Finnish Center Association in Farmington Hills. She has also displayed her work at the national FinnFest, demonstrated weaving at the National Folk Festival, and has received awards from the Michigan League of Handweavers and at the Michigan State Fair. Despite all the attention, Bea continues to give generously of her time to help weavers with their problems and to teach her "tricks of the trade."

(1) Allen, Doris V. Letter of recommendation to panelists. November 2000.

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