If you own a cabin or lake home, your artwork there probably isn’t museum-quality. Nothing wrong with that. Your cabin is where you relax and unwind, free of pressure to color-coordinate — or demonstrate your refined taste.
“Your year-round home reflects the cultural group you’re part of and connects you to the larger community,” says architect Dale Mulfinger, Minnesota’s “cabinologist” and author of several books on the topic, including his latest, “The Family Cabin.”
Cabin artwork, on the other hand, tends to be more casual, idiosyncratic and proudly local. “Once you go to the cabin, your artwork tells your personal story. It might be Uncle Ben’s walleye,” Mulfinger says.
At his own cabin on Lake Vermilion, Mulfinger displays items from his collection of chain-saw carvings, which he says is an Upper Midwest thing. But animal motifs and historical nostalgia — vintage skis, beaver traps, fishing rods — seem to be universal cabin decor, whether it’s a cottage in Maine or a log house in Ely.
The trend toward modern lake houses, with expanses of glass to showcase views, makes artwork almost superfluous. “They don’t have a lot of wall space. Their art is looking outside,” says Mulfinger.
But for those with walls, consider work by local artists who specialize in pieces with Northern flavor.
Christy Johnson, founder of Golden Valley-based United Goods, has created breezy digital illustrations of 80-some Minnesota icons and landmarks, from Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan statue to the Grain Belt beer sign downtown.
“Paul Bunyan and Babe have ended up in lots of cabins,” she says.
Johnson’s designs are available in pine frames (handcrafted by her parents in their Maplewood garage) for $25, as well as on potholders, pouches and candles — “functional art,” she said. (Her designs include icons from many other states, including Wisconsin.)
For a refined yet rustic aesthetic, artist Jaana Mattson of Minneapolis creates felted wool landscapes of distinct Minnesota scenes. “Northern landscapes are in my blood,” she says.
Mattson works from photographs, using a barbed needle to pierce the wool, layering fibers and blending colors to create a painterly effect. Her textile creations are then mounted on slabs of reclaimed wood from a sawmill in Wisconsin.
Mattson has produced several series, such as her “Night Clouds,” featuring thunder clouds on whitewashed wood, yet each piece is one of a kind. Her landscapes start at about $250.
If you want to create your own cabin art, Mattson also offers workshops where she teaches her felting technique. “It’s gratifying,” she says. “It has a richness and vibrancy that was missing with other media.”