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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
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Ellen Angman
1994 awardee, Calumet (Houghton County), Finnish-American rag rug weaver

Rag-rug weaving is a popular pastime throughout the United States. However, Finnish immigrants brought to the Great Lakes region a constellation of traditional rag rug (what they call carpets) techniques, standards, and sense of aesthetics that have been maintained unbroken. Ellen Angman (1908-2002) participated in this tradition for more than six decades.

Ellen's love of weaving rag rugs began in 1936 when her neighbor taught Ellen to weave, and, ultimately, gave Ellen the loom on which she wove her entire life. Even at 92 years of age, Ellen approached rag-rug weaving with enthusiasm, dedication, and skill. Neighbors, friends, and family laud her perfection of technique and combination of colors. To all who knew her, Ellen was a true master of rag-rug weaving.

Throughout her life Ellen helped numerous local weavers with their weaving problems. She had the reputation of being able "to fix anything" and saved more than one frustrated individual from throwing away tangled warp. (1) Over the decades, Ellen nurtured rag weaving in four generations of her extended family. She was the recipient of Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship awards in 1992 and 1993. Two of her granddaughters have also received apprenticeships and have taught other friends and family and anticipate teaching their own grandchildren, the fifth generation. Ellen's unselfish sharing of knowledge has played a significant reinforcing role in the maintenance of Finnish-American rag-rug weaving tradition.

Weaving occupies Ellen summer and winter, and, indeed, her weaving is widely known. However, her traditional knowledge also extended to crocheting, knitting, quilting, sewing, gardening, and cooking. She was a superb traditional cook and valuable resource for traditional Finnish-American foodways. This, then, is her legacy to Finnish-American culture and to her family, including two daughters, ten grandchildren, fifty great-grandchildren, and, at last count, fourteen great-great grandchildren.

(1) Saari, Carol. Personal communication with Yvonne Lockwood. 1990.


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