Phillip Odden & Else Bigton
Norsk Wood Works, Odden's Rural Life Tours and Odden's Norwegian Fjord Horses
Wood Carvers, Tour Leaders, Horse Trainers
Else Bigton and Phillip Odden have worked as professional furniture makers and woodcarvers since 1978 under the business name Norsk Wood Works LTD.
Else was born and raised in the village of Spjelkavik near Ålesund, on the west coast of Norway where the deep water Fjords meet spectacular mountains. Phillip was born and raised on a dairy farm in northwestern Wisconsin. His Norwegian ancestors came from the Fåvang area of Gudbransdalen, Norway, and emigrated to Wisconsin in the early 1890’s to establish their family farm. It was while visiting these Gudbrandsdalen relatives on a trip to Norway in 1976 that Phillip learned of the Hjerleids carving school at Dovre. The couple met at the school where Else primarily studied furniture construction and Phillip studied carving under both Johan Amrud and Ivar Flatum.
Since 1978 they have made a living carving and building traditional Norwegian furniture, first in a small shop in the little town of Barronett, and then in 1990 moving shop and studio to their farm a few miles down the road from the original Odden farm.
From their studio they send their art all over the United States and internationally. Most of the furniture and carvings they do are one-of-a-kind and are produced on a commission basis. Their work is actively collected by private individuals as well as public institutions.
Their work is shown each year during the Nordic Fest at the Norwegian American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, and at the Norsk Høstfest in Minot, North Dakota. Several museum exhibitions have included their work: notably the Norway-in-America exhibit at Hamar in 1989; Norwegian Folk Art: The migration of a tradition at the Norsk Folkemuseum in the fall of 1997; and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. in 1998. They have also collaborated on large-scale projects like the Norwegian Pavilion at Walt Disney’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida, and the Gol Stave Church project at Minot, North Dakota.
Else and Phillip frequently travel back to Norway on study tours to see and learn more about their craft. In 1994 they spent six months as guest artists at the Rauland Academy with the goal of learning more about Norwegian carving, Norwegian carvers, and handcrafts in the Telemark area.
Phillip and Else share their passion both by teaching and by leading tours to Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. They teach wood carving classes two or three times a year in their studio on their farm near Barronett, Wisconsin. Most years they also teach select classes at the Norwegian American museum, Vesterheim, in Decorah, Iowa and at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota.
Odden’s Rural Life Tours
Else and Phil share their deep knowledge of Scandinavian culture by leading rural life study tours to Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. Their tours focus on folk-art, folk music, and other aspects of rural life in Scandinavia such as horse culture, especially Norwegian Fjord Horses and Icelandic Horses. Else and Phil also introduce travelers on these tours to friends have come to know over the years who share their interest in rural culture, folk-art, music, and horses. Together the travelers learn how people lived in Norway at the time of emigration as well as how people live in Scandinavia today.
Since 1997 Phil and Else have raised, trained and bred Norwegian Fjord Horses on their farm. Phil has studied Fjord Horse conformation with experts from across North America, Norway, and Denmark. Phil and Else use their horses for Combined Driving Events, pleasure driving shows, light draft work around the farm, trail riding, and as pack horses. Each year they compete their Fjords in carriage driving events around the country. They travel with their horses to spectacular areas in the mountain states to ride and camp in National Forests, national parks, and wilderness areas.
Phil also teaches horsemanship skills.