638 River St
Ontonagon, MI 49953
I first noticed the Nonesuch Gallery when I went into Ontonagon for breakfast at Syl's (it's right across the street). As I passed, I liked the look of the historic building and noticed its sign said the gallery was founded in 2001, the same year I found Inspiration and started RVing – so with that and such a name, I couldn't resist!
I was warmly welcomed by the owner, Edna, but upon entering I soon had a puzzled look on my face. I had just been in my car listening to the Ray Bonneville CD that I bought at the recent Porcupine Mountains Music Festival. But when I walked into her store and she was playing the very same song from the very same CD, I thought the odds of that were pretty phenomenal! We started talking about the festival and agreed that Ray had been our favorite performer. The festival had been one of my favorite things since I'd been in the Porkies, so with that much already in common, soon we were chatting like old friends.
The store is immediately sensed as a labor of love – it just has that kind of vibe to it. There are many examples of local artisans here – one-of-a-kind pieces representative of the wonders of the Upper Peninsula, including antler furniture, woodcarvings, pottery and jewelry.
The quilt at lower right is named "Song for the Earth" and she said it was created in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Earth Day and "designed as a valentine expressing my great love for our planet earth which is our lovely home."
I found my perfect picture frame for one of my Michigan photo souvenirs here, and I really enjoyed looking at all the other craftsmanship, but even with nothing else, it's worth a visit just to see Edna's quilts. Although I've appreciated the beauty of quilts before, I certainly wasn't an educated connoisseur, and I'd never even heard of "quilt art" before. But this work definitely deserves the title Art – I've never seen anything like it and it still blows my mind to think of the amount of work (and love) involved in the creations I saw here.
My favorite was this one called "Living a Dream." Edna explained this quilt was inspired by the dream she and her husband, Boe, shared. They had lived in the city and both had factory jobs, but constantly talked about "living up in the woods." That dream came true when they moved to a tiny log cabin deep in the woods of the U.P. in 1976.
Edna designed and made the quilt in 1992 for the All American Quilt Contest sponsored by Good Housekeeping and Land's End. There were over 4,000 quilts in competition, and Edna's was the winner from the state of Michigan. And it was also chosen to be documented in the All-American Quilt Collection in the Library of Congress!
Besides the sheer beauty and the enormous amount of work, I was really touched by what Edna wrote to tell the story of what inspired her:
Living A Dream – 1992
"This quilt is meant to encourage people to reach for their dreams, no matter how overwhelming they may seem. Step by step, one can accomplish even the biggest goals. This quilt was inspired by my husband and my dream of someday calling a log cabin we built one summer in the woods of the Upper Peninsula, our "home". Through hard work, perserverance, and trying again and again, we were able to accomplish it. We moved here for the third time in 1984 after going broke several times before. But we've been here ever since and though, our goals have changed to new ones, this quilt still remains my true expression of living a lifelong dream."
It was hard for me to imagine this entire piece being all handstitched. Edna said it took a whole year working on it every day at least 3 hours a day. When the deadline was closing in, she had to work 16 hours a day every day for 8 weeks to be ready! I was so intriqued, she shared more details about the center oval and corners:
Since they repeatedly stated their dream as "living up in the woods," she put the house up in the tree (up in the woods) – so perfect! She also depicted the putting down of their roots here, enjoying rivers, lakes and sunsets.
On each corner there are over 100 hand appliqued small pieces. She also pointed out the recurring paisley theme throughout. Edna says,
"At that time I loved that pattern… it reminded me of playful water droplets, floating…and I actually used that in my tree, too. Each section of tree is actually a paisley shape layered over each other. Which is probably kind of odd, but it just seemed like that was what I wanted to do…"
I told her this was my idea of the best kind of odd!
She said this quilt has traveled more than any other quilt she's ever made. After the All American, it was invited to the World's Fair of Quilts, and then traveled all over the country. It's retired now and I really liked her quote from one of the listings,
"Altho I sell small quilts and duplicate many of them, I have kept my original, one-of-a-kind art quilts for my own collection. They are so much a part of me, they are like a journal of my life."
I can certainly understand not parting with something that valuable for any amount of money!
I was so impressed and inspired by Edna and her stories. Even after Boe died way too young in 2004, she persevered, and with the help of friends, kept the store open. She is now remarried to a wonderful man who shares her vision and love of the U.P. I left her store with my favorite U.P. souvenirs and a feeling of being blessed to have met her.
Now meet Dar Fredrikson, another local artisan who sells some of her work here, including this white birch basket. I really enjoyed visiting with her, too, and got a kick out of her later comment on my blog post about Michigan Dreaming when she called herself the "birch bark queen."
That made me appreciate more what the DNR had to say about Dar when they were introducing her teaching the craft of making Lake Superior Sand Soap at the Porcupine Mountains Folk School:
"Fredrikson, who has a master's degree in Art Education and Art Therapy from Wayne State University, has an interest in sustainable living, which has motivated most of her creative processes. She enjoys the self-imposed challenge of finding functional forms for both reusable and found natural materials. Some of the materials she has chosen to investigate and use include cedar shingles, woolen fabrics, birch bark, spruce trunks and roots, sweet grass and local clays."
Here she is modeling the oh-so-fashionably-sensible-for-Yoopers Kromer cap with the ear flaps. Cute, eh?
The Friends of the Porkies revealed more of her talents:
"Her poetry, prose, and photographs have been published, and pen and ink illustrations copyrighted. Otherwise, many of her watercolor paintings and etchings are in private collections. With her husband Bob and English setter Gandhi, Dar enjoys summer and fall in Ontonagon County and winter near Detroit."
Another great example of the fabulous and fascinating people I met here every day – I experienced the best of the Porkies and the U.P. in every way!
Later, when I was reading "The Porcupine Mountains Companion," I learned the meaning of the name "Nonesuch." They explain, "In the vernacular of the 1800's, 'nonesuch' meant the greatest, most promiment, most eminent." You do the name proud, Edna!
I'd love to hear your own experiences about places I've been - and what you think are "must-sees" - and I really value any suggestions and feedback from readers, so please let me have your 2 cents in Comments below: