Descended from Scandinavian farmers and raised on his grandfather’s farm in Ham Lake, Jim Sannerud spent hours making tree forts and go-karts out of wood to keep himself entertained. He remembers fashioning a bubble gum machine out of wood in 4-H.
As a teenager, he had an open pass to the woodshop at Blaine High School.
As the son of accountants Al and Betty Sannerud, he knew number-crunching was something he did not want to pursue after graduation.
So he worked in cabinet shops, and in his mid-30s, he dedicated himself to his art full time.
Today Sannerud, 49, owns two studios in Grand Marais and St. Paul.
“As an artist and craftsman, my work reminds me what it means to be human: working with my hands and expressing myself by finding new expressions of old ways,” he said in an artist’s statement.
Sannerud looked to the old ways for inspiration on a trip to his family’s ancestral home in Rauland, Norway, in 2015.
Some buildings on the farm date back to the 1300s, and Sannerud set aside a week to study centuries-old furniture that remains on the property.
Furniture making has always been his first love, he said.
A table and eight chairs Sannerud created using white pine and milk paint is at the center of a solo exhibition currently running at Norway House in Minneapolis.
After receiving a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board Clean Water Land & Legacy Fund in early 2016, Sannerud set to work on the furniture and other pieces that fill out the exhibit.
Staying with friends in Northern Europe, Sannerud experienced a mealtime that differed from those experienced in the United States. The meal wasn’t rushed, and conversation was really at the forefront, not food, he said.
“I decided to create a table and chairs in the tradition of brukskunst, art used in everyday life,” Sannerud said in exhibit notes. He chose white pine so that the table will show wear. Scratches are not blemishes; they are stories.
Community members have been encouraged to use the table in Grand Marais, as part of an exhibit at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and now within the Galleri at Norway House, 913 E. Franklin Ave. The table can be booked for gatherings of all kinds free of charge during Galleri hours. To reserve the table, contact Rachel Peterson at [email protected] or 612-423-9094.
“I want people to come and sit down and feel relaxed with this,” Sannerud said.
The table has been sold to a collector in Savannah, Georgia.
Many other pieces included in the exhibit feature everyday items Sannerud has given new power in sculpture: bowls he mixes paint in, tree hooks from his family’s farm, a collection of planes, bandsaw boxes and more.
The exhibit opened Jan. 21 and runs through Feb. 14.
Admission is free for Norway House members and costs $6 for adults, $5 for seniors over 65 and $4 for youth 2-18.
For more information about Sannerud and his work, visit www.jsannerudstudios.com.