The Norwegian Termite: Jock Holmen

Jock Holmen on a ladder, installing the post cover.
Jock Holmen (left) and a member of his woodcarving club install the carved post cover. Photo: Anna Bloomstrand

Jock Holmen generally isn’t a betting man. However, when he tells people to take a look at the carved wooden post in front of Ingebretsen’s, he is quite willing to put down a few dollars and gently challenge whoever says, “There isn’t a post in front of the door!” He fully understands that people come to the store with their minds filled with visions of Swedish sausage mix and Ekelund linens. However, it’s worth one’s while to pause before entering the store. There is, indeed, a post at the corner. It’s vital structurally and it’s also a piece of art. Look up and a tale (with a tail) unfolds before you.

You will need to walk around the pole to get the full effect. Start with the long, flowing tail and end at the dragon’s snout. This is Jock’s version of how Ingebretsen’s smokes the distinctive meats and cheese in the deli. It’s as good an explanation as any.   Julie Ingebretsen remembers the process of fine-tuning the design and looking at the drafts as the plan developed. The care that Jock, Julie, and Julie’s daughter, Anna Bloomstrand, took with the design paid off. Julie says of the finished product, “I love it. I love the protective symbology. I hope more people look up when they come to the store.”

Many drafts were drawn as the design was fine-tuned.

Continuing the tradition of acanthus carving

Jock has been a wood carver since high school, when his family lived in Chicago. He started with sculpture in art classes, and quickly found he liked wood carving even better.  His skills landed him a job with Baker Furniture in Holland, Michigan. There he produced hand carved sideboards and buffets, most with acanthus leaf decorations.

Learning acanthus carving was a skill that has held Jock in good stead.  Stylized leaves of the acanthus plant, acanthus spinosus, have been a mainstay in decorative carving since 500 BC. The Greeks began adding the curling, furling leaves of the plant, native to the Mediterranean, to the tops of marble columns and along friezes. The designs have been popular since and acanthus design made its way into German and Scandinavian decorative carving in the 1800s. People were traveling more and were exposed to new decorative influences, which they brought home with them. “There has barely been a decade when acanthus wasn’t popular since,” says Jock.

Acanthus leaves have been inspiring carvers across cultures since the Classical period

The Norwegian Termite  

Jock broadened his skills over the decades by working with a carver who did church interiors and furniture. He went onto cabinet making, and studying figure carving, including classes with Harley Refsal. During this time, Jock was told by an experienced carver, “Don’t die with what you know.” He took this advice to heart and since 2000, when Jock and his wife moved to Minnesota, he has been teaching and mentoring wood carvers.

When Jock started his own carving business in the 70s, he knew he needed a business name.  “Norwegian Termite‘ was better than something like Jock’s Woodworking,” he says.  He does realize that termites aren’t really a problem in Norway, and he has faith people will get the joke.  Besides classes in his Burnsville studio, Jock has taught at North House Folk School, the Vesterheim Museum, Community Education District 191, and leads several carving and drop-in clubs. Jock regularly demonstrates carving at Ingebretsen’s and at craft fairs. “I like to put the knife into people’s hands and to get them carving immediately. I’ve had kids have so much fun they didn’t want to give the knife back. That’s how you get new people interested in carving,” he says.

Just like a grade school book report, if you want to know how the story ends, you will have to read it yourself. (Besides, we’d love to see you this summer.)

Telling tales

The next time you come the store, please take a moment before you open the door. Look up to the top of the post and enjoy the details of the meat market dragon and how it helps us out.

If you are interested in learning more about woodcarving, see our carving books and tools on our website here. Keep an eye out for our October Sale Week, too, when we will have Woodcarvers Day, with Jock and others demonstrating their specialties.






2 thoughts on “The Norwegian Termite: Jock Holmen

  1. After being a fan of Ingebretsen’s for many years, I recently discovered your blogs…guess I’ve been in a fog! Just read about your local acanthus carver…wonderful! Thank you for all you do…I love Ingebretsens!

  2. After being a fan of Ingebretsen’s for many years, I recently discovered your blogs…guess I’ve been in a fog! Just read about your local acanthus carver…wonderful! Thank you for all you do…I love Ingebretsens!

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