photograph by Joan Brown
2015 awardee, Three Oaks (Berrien County), Lace maker and fiber artist
Ronald Ahrens (b. 1941) was born in Wisconsin and moved to Michigan later in life. Ronald first began to learn lacemaking from his grandmother at age five. Several members of his family practiced other fiber art techniques and Ronald was able to learn from them as well. He became proficient in knitting, crocheting, bobbin lacemaking, tatting, broderet, and filet netting.
Ronald has enthusiastically shared his skills and knowledge with his own family, friends, and community members and can often be found teaching fiber art techniques and doing demonstrations at community functions. As Joan Nelson, one of the individuals who nominated Ahrens for the award stated, “Adults and children alike are fascinated by watching and listening to Ron, and though few are willing to take on this intricate craft of lacemaking, they will long remember actually seeing this lace being made and will have a new respect for this craft.” As his daughter observed, Ronald has cultivated among many individuals a deep appreciation for the handmade, rather than machine made, mass-produced object. He has also stimulated interest among those he has taught to pass on the skills they have learned to others.
In addition to serving his community as a pastor of The Gathering, a Dutch Reformed Church in Three Oaks, Michigan, Ronald also supports his community through teaching his art and even giving gifts of his art to support local causes. One piece of filet net work he donated to an auction took him over sixty hours to make.
For his exceptional skill in the art of lacemaking, his willingness to freely share his skills and knowledge with others, and his example as an excellent, committed teacher of needlework arts, Ronald Ahrens is awarded the 2015 Michigan Heritage Award.
-- compiled by Micah Ling and Marsha MacDowell, 2015
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